Is it really that difficult?

There’s been another round of updates and refreshes to the digital TV services here in Blighty. New channels have arrived, old channels have gone, and others have been shifted about. It seems the Freeview HD services have had a shuffle about; it seems the standard definition and FreeSat services are unchanged. As ever, I got the phone call from my neighbour to help her sort it out.

That got me thinking. Why should anyone need help to sort out tuning on their TV?

The answer, really, is quite simple: the manufacturers make it too complex.

Between us we have around five digital receivers of one kind or another. As things happen, they’re almost all from different manufacturers. Consequently, although they’re all aimed at the British market and designed to receive British free-to-air digital transmissions, they all have completely different and generally incompatible user interfaces.

Most people aren’t geeky. They buy a telly, plug it in, step through the initial set-up (which is usually painless these days—at least some things are getting better) and never bother to change anything ever again. When they get messages similar to the one above, it might as well be in Mandarin. I spent a good 20 minutes with my neighbour, stepping through two utterly different menu systems on her TVs in order to retune them. I don’t mind admitting on one of the systems even I was confused about where the tuning menus were. To make it worse, we haven’t seen the messages because we don’t have a Freeview HD receiver.

Would it be difficult for the manufacturers to come to some kind of agreement about making things easier? Why can’t tellies just pop up a message that says something like “I’ve detected some changes to the TV channels I receive. Would you like me to retune and set them up for you now? [Yes] [No]“. One message, one button to push. No hunting around the fiddly remotes to work out where the designer hid the Menu button this time, no fumbling around a software engineer’s idea of how a user interface is supposed to work, no confusing the bejeezus out of the elderly.

In the immortal words of Jeremy Clarkson “How hard can it be?”

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