What Italy's digital TV switchover means for you

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What Italy's digital TV switchover means for you
All Italian TV channels will be switched to HD on December 21st and not all TV sets will support the new system. Photo by PJ Gal-Szabo via Unsplash

All Italian TV channels will be switched to HD by December 21st. Here's what that means and how to check if your TV set or decoder is compatible.


As Italy approaches the holiday season, Italian TV is set to undergo a major change and one that could make some residents reconsider their last-minute Christmas gifts. 

On Tuesday, December 20th, Italian TV will make the switch from the old coding system, known as MPEG-2, to the new-generation MPEG-4.

This means that, from Wednesday, December 21st, SD (standard definition) channels will no longer be available in Italy as they’ll be replaced by their HD (high definition) counterparts. 


So, for instance, the ‘SD version’ of channels like Rai1, Rai2 or Rai3 will soon be permanently switched off, with the HD format being the only available option for viewers. 

The same will be true for other popular channels, like Rete 4, Canale 5, Italia 1 and La7.

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Naturally, many residents are left wondering whether their current TV sets or decoders will be able to support the new HD channels. 

The good news here is that most new-generation TVs and decoders are already compatible with the MPEG-4 system and therefore with any given HD channel.

This means that most residents won’t have to do a single thing about the digital switchover aside from rescanning their TV channels on December 21st. 

TV remote

Most new-generation TVs and decoders are already compatible with HD. Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP

So how can you be sure that your TV or decoder is actually compatible with the new system?

Briefly put, if any of the channels between 1 and 10 is currently available in HD, then that means that your TV or decoder already supports MPEG-4. 

If, on the other hand, you can currently only see channels from 500 onwards (and you’ve already rescanned the channels), you’ll have to buy a new TV or decoder in order to be able to view the new HD broadcasts. 

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On this note, it’s worth pointing out that the December 21st switchover will only be the first step in a broader digital transition planned by the Italian government. 

Next year, Italian TV will switch to the DVB-T2 (Digital Video Broadcasting - Second Generation Terrestrial) system. 

Though we still have some way to go to this second switchover - the date hasn’t been announced yet - you can check whether your TVs or decoders will be able to support the new system. 

If your appliance handbook states that your TV or decoder is equipped with a ‘DVB-T2 tuner’, then they will support DVB-T2 transmissions. 


You can also tune in to either channel 100 or channel 200. If a blue card reading ‘Test HEVC Main 10’ appears on your screen on either channel, then your TV or decoder is compatible with DVB-T2.

For further information or guidance, you can contact the Ministry of Enterprise and Made in Italy’s support centre, which is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 6pm at 06 87 800 262.

Alternatively, you can send a Whatsapp text message to 340 1206348.


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