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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Last digital push 'to cost £572m'

TV viewers reluctant to move to digital television will cost £572m to convert when the analogue signal is switched off, TV watchdog Ofcom has said.

The government has confirmed the switch to digital will take place, region by region, between 2008-2012.

Ofcom estimates the number of digital "refuseniks" is 10% of all households.

It puts the cost of switching to digital at £132 per household. There will be government help for those 75 and over and those with disabilities.

But Ofcom added the £572m figure accounted for just 2% of UK consumer spending on home entertainment.

'Stressful'

Earlier on Tuesday, industry analysts expressed doubts over the government's plans to switch off the analogue signal.

"For a large fraction of the population, digital terrestrial television represents nothing of benefit whatsoever," independent analyst Chris Goodall told a House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee.

He said the switchover to digital would be "costly and extremely stressful".

"This will be the biggest single civil project in the history of this country," former Five boss David Elstein told MPs.

"But there seems to be no project management. Just telling people that all their TVs and videos are going to stop working is not managing things."

Awareness

Digital UK, an organisation set up to co-ordinate the changeover, will launch campaigns to target each region at a time, three years ahead of their digital switchover.

Last week a survey conducted by retailer You Me TV suggested only a third of viewers were aware of the digital switchover timetable, but Ofcom claimed awareness was higher.

At present 63% of UK households watch digital television, with 200,000 moving to digital each month, according to Ofcom.

Digital television can be accessed through Freeview set-top boxes, via digital satellite, digital cable and television over broadband services, where the set-top box can be provided for free or with other subscription costs.

Other costs of moving to digital as estimated by Ofcom include:

# Equipment costs per household, based on two television sets and one video recorder, for all-digital television is put at £132.

# Some 2% of roof-top aerials (for those who unwilling to change over) will cost £125 per installation. About half of set-top aerials will need replacing at a cost of £20-£40 each.

# VCR video recorders will still be able to record and playback digitally broadcast programmes and DVD players will not need to be replaced. But viewing one channel, while recording another could require a new hard-disk recorder, costing £80.

# By 2008 the average price of a television set-top box for Freeview digital television viewing would be about £26.

# Power consumption will cost households between £2 and £8 extra on their average annual household electricity bill.

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