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16/09/2005

Culture Secretary confirms five-year digital TV switchover timetable

The government has announced details of the five-year phased switchover to digital television across the ITV regions.
Announcing the switchover at the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention 2005, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said: “Digital television is no longer a probability, it is a certainty. And I believe it can leave us with a legacy of more choice, for more people, than anywhere else in the world.”
The digital switchover will happen gradually throughout the ITV regions between 2008 and 2012, with the Border region switching first in 2008 and the Meridian, Carlton/LWT, Tyne Tees and Ulster switching in 2012.
Nearly two-thirds of UK households already have digital television. The reason for the complete switchover to digital is because the current system of jointly broadcasting in analogue and digital is inefficient. Currently, only 73% of households can get access to the full range of digital TV services, while one fifth cannot access Five.
Access can only be increased by switching off the analogue signal.
Ms Jowell also announced a support scheme for the most vulnerable households, which would be funded by the BBC through the licence fee. Under the scheme, help in making the switchover will be provided for the over-75s, those with significant disabilities and those receiving benefits such as income support of jobseekers allowance.
The assistance will include the provision of necessary equipment to convert one TV set and the relevant support to install and use the equipment.
Households can access digital television in the UK through a satellite, cable, aerial or telephone line. In order to watch broadcast television services through an aerial after switchover viewers will need to convert their analogue TV sets and recording equipment or purchase a digital television set.
Digital switchover will be phased in between 2008 and 2012 by ITV region in the following order:
  • 2008 - Border
  • 2009 – West Country, HTV Wales, Granada
  • 2010 HTV West, Grampian, Scottish Television
  • 2011 Yorkshire, Anglia, Central
  • 2012 Meridian, Carlton/LWT (London), Tyne Tees, Ulster
After the switchover, viewers will be able to receive all the standard channels, as well as digital channels such as BBC3 and 4 and ITV 2 and 3. The coverage of Five will also be dramatically increased.
(KMcA/SP)
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