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U.K. audiences blacked out

Set-top boxes conk out after signal upgrade

“The screen just went dead, Mum.”

That was the scream from a quarter of a million U.K. living rooms last week as some older-model set-top boxes conked out.

The mass blackout was a result of a signal upgrade beamed out by digital terrestrial TV service Freeview, which rendered early set-top boxes from Daewoo, Labgear, Triax and Bush obsolete overnight. The old boxes couldn’t cope with the increased signal.

“We appreciate the frustration of viewers; it’s a minority who have been affected by these enhancements,” Freeview said in a statement.

Disgruntled customers will still have to fork out for a new box, though.

It’s estimated that just 1% of the 23 million Freeview set-top boxes went dead from the new signal, which boosted Freeview’s offerings to 48 channels from 30. But try telling that to parents in that 1% who were forced to read to their kids rather than plop them in front of cartoons over the weekend.

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