TV gets 2012 digital pledge

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has pledged to turn the UK digital by 2012, even though it means many millions of households having to pay to up to £250 to upgrade.

TV gets 2012 digital pledge

Speaking at the Royal Television Society in Cambridge, Jowell confirmed that the Border region would be the first to go entirely digital, in 2008, with four years for the remaining refusniks to get Freeview, Freesat, cable, or digital satellite, or be left without TV.

Some may be forced to buy new aerials for their homes, yet Jowell dismissed fears that viewers may be without access to TV come the 2012 London Olympics.

"I can assure you that I did not slog for two years to bring the Games here just to see Londoners reduced to huddling round the wireless to find out who won the hundred metres," she said.

"I am completely confident that our timetable is a sensible one that will ensure that digital services are delivered with no disruption to the viewing public during the Games themselves."

Digital TV is currently in 15.7 million, or 63% of households, according to Ofcom's latest estimate, leaving 9.2 million households without access.

With the only exceptions for the over-75s, the blind and the disabled, who will receive a free upgrade, the task of persuading the UK to go digital will fall to Digital UK, the new name for SwitchCo, the independent body supervising switchover.

Digital UK confirmed last week that it will launch a major direct mail and advertising blitz to push the government's plans.

PHD has been handed the initial media planning and buying work for the body, although a pitch involving other agencies is expected for the £10maccount.

Digital UK's chief executive, Ford Ennals, said: "The Government's confirmation of the timetable is great news as the public can look forward to digital television for all."

Meanwhile, private companies have already begun rolling out products to take advantage of the switchover plans. Bush last week launched the Idaptor, a £50 adaptor the size of a pack of cards, which transforms any TV set into a device capable of receiving the Freeview channels.

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