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27/04/2004

BBC publishes first report on digital TV switchover

The BBC has published its first report on the proposed switchover to digital television.
The report, ‘Progress Towards Achieving Digital Switchover’, submitted to Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Tessa Jowell, states that digital switchover is challenging but achievable within the Government's timetable, given continued consumer enthusiasm and the right policy framework.
Key recommendations set out in the report indicate what the BBC believes to be essential if the UK is to achieve switchover from analogue to digital television. Foremost, switchover can be achieved within the Government's timetable if it makes a clear commitment including establishing an appropriate regional switchover sequence. Once this has been achieved, the BBC is also proposing the creation of a dedicated and properly staffed organisation to manage the switchover programme.
Additionally, significant investment must be secured to support the marketing and communications campaigns that will be key to ensuring that the audience is able to make the transition to the fully digital world.
The final part of the digital jigsaw identified in the report is the development of a viewer-friendly, non-subscription digital satellite option. On this, the Corporation welcomes the opportunity to work with other organisations as quickly as possible to begin to make a non-subscription digital satellite option a reality.
"The BBC fully recognises that digital switchover has the potential to bring great economic, social and cultural value to Britain," commented Andy Duncan, Director, Marketing, Communications and Audiences, BBC. "Most importantly we are focused on our audiences and are aware of the danger of a deeper digital divide.
"By working with like-minded partners we would like to see an additional route to digital access - free-to-air digital satellite - become a viable and attractively simple option. This will ensure all our audiences can have access to the BBC's comprehensive portfolio of digital services and the fully digital world."
The growth in the UK's digital television market has been a great success to date, with digital television available in over 54% of homes with a significant contribution from the BBC/Sky Freeview system.
The BBC's investment in its digital channels and subsequent promotions has also played a pivotal role in exciting consumer interest in digital, tackling their initial confusion and assuaging their fears.
Moving forward, however, the BBC said that there was a need for the Government to recognise the risks of switchover for the industry and work to underwrite the costs of any delays.
Tessa Jowell underlined the Government's commitment to digital switchover as she welcomed the report into the issue.
She said: "This Government is absolutely committed to working with the industry to achieve digital switchover. The potential rewards, including more choice for consumers and more space for new services, are too great for us not to be.
"The fact that half of homes in the UK now have access to digital TV shows there is a considerable appetite for the product out there. This provides a solid foundation for continuing the drive towards full switchover.
"Of course there are obstacles along the way, many of which are highlighted in this report. We are already considering what interventions are needed from Government and industry to overcome these in the journey to switchover. This report will help us focus on the challenges ahead."
Switchover is being managed through the Digital Television project, a collaboration between Government, Ofcom, broadcasters, industry and other stakeholders.
Its task is to develop a comprehensive framework and strategy for switchover.
(GB)
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