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MORE than 80,000 Londoners will be invited to join the digital television revolution in a ground-breaking plan to bring council tenants into the digital age.
The Boroughs of Enfield and Newham are linking up with BSkyB, the UK’s leading digital broadcasters, to provide access to more than 200 digital channels, as well as interactive services such as email, local information and home shopping – all through the television set.
Over the next three years, Sky will assist the two local authorities in replacing old-fashioned communal aerials in blocks of flats and sheltered housing units with Integrated Reception Systems (IRS) built into the fabric of the properties. Because the new systems include both a satellite dish and a modern aerial, residents themselves will then be able to choose whether they wish to receive digital satellite television or digital terrestrial broadcasts. Enfield and Newham are the first London boroughs to announce that tenants with communal aerials will be able to make this choice of how they receive television in the future.
With more than 30 television channels available free of charge on digital satellite, there is no obligation on residents in properties equipped with IRS to subscribe to pay-TV services. Sky are offering a free set-top decoder worth several hundred pounds to all UK households, with residents paying only a one-off installation fee.
Tim Wright, Head of BSkyB’s Sky Homes division, said: “Sky are committed to bringing the benefits of digital satellite television to all sections of the community. Because three million homes receive television via shared aerials, a significant part of the population would be disadvantaged if they were denied access to the huge choice available on digital satellite, including numerous services aimed at the UK’s ethnic communities.”
The Government have said that they aim to end conventional analogue broadcasts and predict that the switchover to digital-only services could begin as soon as 2006. Because many existing communal aerial systems cannot deliver digital signals, the initiatives announced today ensure that council tenants will not miss out on the new wave of digital television services.
A single satellite dish will serve all flats in each digital-ready block, meaning tenants will not need to install their own dishes to receive satellite services such as Sky digital. Equally, the upgrade will allow tenants who are already Sky customers to remove any unauthorised dishes.
A total of 21,000 homes in Newham and 10,000 homes in Enfield will benefit from the upgrade projects.
Installation work in Newham will be carried out by Blick, one of the UK’s leading providers of TV reception systems, while Enfield will announce the winner of their installation contract shortly. (CD)
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