Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Cowboys are Coming

This week’s Redbridge License applications included one from Ilford BID to place a trailer on the pedestrian precinct in Ilford Town Centre on 29th September 2011 from 10am - 4pm on behalf of BBC Switchover Help Scheme. The trailer will be manned by 2/3 staff giving face to face advice to the public about the switchover and inform them of what help is available.

So, I thought it would an opportune time to re-post the piece below from Knowsie which first appeared on Redbridge Eye.

ASO? Analogue Switch Off, part of the DSO - Digital Switch Over - process which happens in Redbridge next year.

As the ASO/DSO process has moved from area to area around the country, there is evidence to suggest that vast sums of money are being extorted from those most vulnerable - many, but by no means all, elderly - with the veiled threat that they will lose all TV reception if they do not do so.

This example of the kind of thing we can expect comes from Bill Wright, a long established aerial installer 'oop north' and acknowledged expert in the field:

In Yorkshire we have DSO in few months, so all the old people have had a fat and important looking envelope through the letter-box telling them about the help scheme. Although the thing is not worded to cause alarm, it is causing confusion and already the reports of outrageous rip-offs by aerial firms are coming in.

Snip. To see details click here.

The government's attitude has always been that rip-offs are 'collateral damage' and are unavoidable. Could you all spread the word about this, warning any vulnerable people you know? It isn't just the elderly; the adult mentally handicapped living independently are also targets.



There is a government help scheme for those aged over 75 but the government's own web site isn't exactly helpful with what must be the smallest print of any web page on the internet!

A 16 page leaflet from Help the Aged, now Age UK, who have recently released an 11 page updated version may still confuse many, who will become prime targets for anybody offering what appears to be an easy way out - at a (substantial) cost.

Nobody in this area who has reasonable reception of the analogue channels but has, so far, resisted the idea of upgrading to digital, should need to spend more than about £20 for a digital set top box and, despite what they might hear, There - Is - No - Such - Thing - As - A - Digital - Aerial, so they won't need one!

If you know any neighbours, friends or relatives who you think might fall into the vulnerable category, now might be the time to broach the subject - before the cowboys start rounding them up!


  1. The choice of picture to accompany this is interesting - though I suspect it was chosen completely at random from whatever was conveniently available ...

    To the left are two cheap 'contract' aerials. The only word that matters to the cowboys is 'cheap' - performance doesn't enter into it! The skimpy pressed plate at the back, known as a reflector, is the hallmark of these devices. Some have been found to be so small that, at the channels at the very bottom of the UHF band - which just happen to be used in this area! - the directional characteristics reverse!

    Close inspection of the lower one shows it to be much newer than the other, suggesting that cowboy who put it up hijacked a neighbour's mast ...

    The aerial to the right looks much better - though I suspect it is a wideband one. These are, of necessity, a compromise yet are rarely required - they certainly aren't needed in Redbridge!

    Now take a look at the masts. Hardly heavy duty, are they? We can't see the mounting arrangements at the bottom, so we can only guess at what money saving stunts have been pulled there! The mast on the left has been compromised anyway, by the extra loading of the second aerial (though it is a bit heftier than many in use) and the one on the right looks decidedly skinny.

    How are these going to stand up to high winds like we've had recently ...?

    The simple fact is that the majority of the cost of any aerial installation is labour. Scrimping on the hardware - aerial, mast, fixings and cable - saves very little on the overall cost so, if it falls down or disintegrates in a year or two, it's back to square one.

    Never mind, there are plenty more cowboys out there ready and willing to take money from the gullible ...

    You don't have to be an expert to spot the cowboys' handiwork - just keep your eyes on the rooftops round about and look at the aerials in a state of disintegration or pointing to the sky or ground and the cables that swing in mid air and chafe against sharp edges ...

    I've only scratched the surface here but, when you come across a good installation - all too few around here, unfortunately - you'll soon spot the difference ...

  2. Ah! So it is! But it could so easily have been a shot of the Barkingside roof line ...

    Cowboys rely heavily on the fact that few people ever look up (of course, it would also help if they knew what they were looking for!) though many of their bodges are hidden from view.

    Bill Wright has a wonderful collection of both visible and invisible bodges in his Rogues Gallery. Ignore the technical bits - you'll still pick up a good idea of what to look for. After all, if it looks bad on the outside, heaven alone knows what goes on inside!

    Of course, the enthusiastic amateur isn't immune from taking short cuts either ...

    Bill has an impressive customer list but I wouldn't bother asking him to put up an aerial for you - he's based near Rotherham, and his travelling costs would be a tad high ...


    If you see a ZEUZ LCD Colour Television on sale, avoid, avoid, avoid - unless, of course, you can understand the instructions ...

  4. Hmmmm. Here is the entry page of the site Knowsie links to. I had to look up BDSM to find out what it meant …

  5. Well, B21 - brings a whole new meaning to "lifelong learning"!

  6. Interesting ...

    I came across the link in where, after a few comments, the discussion wandered off onto the suitability, or otherwise, of scanned documents and PDFs to the blind when the point was raised by a regular blind contributor.

    One post quoted from the site's front page (about the site being closed for business) but didn't include the link - or any other comment - so, presumably, nobody else bothered to look either, including me!

  7. A rather "restrained" comment there Knowsie.