We’ve got no television signal.
We moved into our current flat about four years ago. The block was served by NTL (now Virgin Media), and we are not allowed to install satellite dishes, or I would have gone with Sky. I didn’t want to purchase a cable service… I’m happy with BT for the phone line with ADSL, especially since we live within metres of the local exchange, and I know that various colleagues have had issues with VPN over cable.
Here’s the problem: there’s no standard aerial connection into the flat. There is an existing NTL socket on the wall, with FM and TV outputs labelled on the bottom.
A friend who lived up the road said that I could buy a cable-to-coaxial connector / converter, attach it to the TV output from the NTL socket, just plug the TV into that, and I’d get the standard 5 terrestrial channels. He was right. It’s an analogue signal, so we’ve not had Freeview or anything, but we don’t watch TV a huge amount, so it has been enough.
Unfortunately, as of last Thursday, the signal went dead. Nothing on the TV. Just a blue screen (i.e. no signal being received). It comes through the VCR, so I tried retuning that, retuning the set, connecting the cable directly to the TV instead and retuning, dismantling the outlet to check that nothing had come loose… nothing.
I arrived at one of several conclusions:
- Problems with our equipment? The TV and VCR are 5+ years old – but that shouldn’t make a difference. DVDs still work fine.
- Someone else in the block has had cable attached or fiddled with, and the communal router (which I assume exists) has been reset such that we no longer get a signal.
- Virgin have cynically withdrawn our ability to get a free terrestrial analogue signal through their network in an attempt to get us to sign up.
I phoned Virgin Media TV support, and explained the problem – I’m not a customer, but wondered whether anything changed on the network recently to prevent me from getting a signal from this socket? They wanted my customer number. I explained, again, that I’m not a customer. Oh, in that case, perhaps I would like to speak to the sales department?
Not really. I see from the Virgin Media website that their “M” package is offered for free… so long as I take Virgin Phone, which I emphatically do not want. I also assume that they will want me on a minimum 12 month contract, and we don’t expect to be there for that long.
So what are my options?
- Find out why we don’t have a coax socket to the communal aerial for the block. Apparently some of our neighbours do have connections to that aerial (but most of them take cable anyway). I can’t see a coax connection anywhere. Pretty sure that’s why I ended up connecting to the cable socket in the first place. The cynic in me suspects that NTL removed it when they plumbed in cable for the previous occupants. Don’t know where to start in trying to find out about this one.
- Buy an indoor aerial. I figure that this will suck. We live opposite an airport and near to various defence research sites, so reception in our area is notoriously poor.
- Sign up for the known-to-be-awful Virgin Media service, if it is possible to get it without the phone, and take a hit when we move.
Any other thoughts from my helpful readers?
In the meantime, we’ve been watching DVDs, and I’ve been using the Mac to see what is available online. Streaming BBC News 24 helps, but it gets a bit same-y. Ultimately, we’d like something we can watch on the TV, and not huddled over a laptop. I never did get around to building the Linux-based Media Server I’ve always wanted to own.
Oh yeah, and to add the domestic woes, we’ve had no hot water for three weeks, thanks to a boiler problem. Hopefully that will be fixed on Friday. Oh, and I broke the kitchen extractor fan and need to replace that. Fun fun fun.