UK begins digital TV switchover

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UK begins digital TV switchover

Whitehaven and Copeland first area to lose analogue signal.

The first UK analogue television signal to be switched off will be in Whitehaven and the surrounding Copeland area of Cumbria, the body behind the changeover has announced.

Digital UK said that BBC2 would be the first channel to stop broadcasting in the area on 17 October 2007. The other three analogue channels will be switched off four weeks later on 14 November. 

The two-stage process will then be repeated across the UK until the switchover is completed in 2012.

A range of help will be provided for the 25,000 households in Whitehaven and the surrounding switchover area.

This includes sending letters to every household explaining the Digital Switchover Help Scheme, which will provide free digital equipment and installation to those aged 75 and over and those with certain disabilities.

Digital UK is also working with local charities and volunteers, led by Age Concern, to provide practical assistance to those who fall outside the scheme, such as pensioners under 75. 

A new TV and radio campaign has been set up, including sponsorship of Channel 4's Countdown quiz show, and a schools scheme providing primary teachers with a range of switchover-themed materials linked to the National Curriculum

"The digital switchover will end the unfairness of many of my constituents in not having access to digital TV through an aerial," said Jamie Reed, MP for Copeland and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Digital TV Switchover.

"All eyes will be on Whitehaven and Digital UK must continue its good work and make sure it gets the switchover right."

An Ofcom report from last year showed that 48.5 per cent of the UK's 60 million television sets are now connected to a digital device. This compared with 39 per cent at the end of 2005. 

The 48.5 per cent penetration is thanks to one million UK homes acquiring digital television for the first time, boosting the number of UK homes with digital TV to 77.2 per cent.

However, pressure group HDforAll, which includes TV manufacturers, retailers and public service broadcasters, claimed that more than nine million Freeview viewers will feel cheated when they are unable to watch programmes in high definition if Ofcom's plans go ahead. 

HDforAll has launched a campaign to persuade Ofcom to reserve spectrum for HD on Freeview and prevent the creation of a two-tier television service.

"Ofcom plans to sell off the publicly-owned spectrum required to show HD signals on Freeview to the highest bidder," said a statement from HDforAll.

"This means that Freeview viewers who have bought HD-ready TV sets will be forced to pay for a satellite or cable subscription if they want to watch HD television."
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