Annual report 2010

Quick Links

About Switchover

Learn about digital TV switchover and what it means for viewers

Interviews

Show transcript

Well, when I became Chairman of the Committee in 2005, it was the first enquiry we undertook and clearly even then it was clear this would be an immense project which would affect virtually every household in the country and there was a potential that quite a lot could go wrong. I think we fairly rapidly were persuaded that there were benefits, both to consumers in terms of the huge increase in choice of television channels which would result and also obviously to the Exchequer in freeing up that spectrum but at the same time there were a lot of concerns about the procedure, about whether or not there might be some parts of the country served by obscure transmitters who would suddenly find that screens were blacked out and also the sheer logistics of making sure that everybody knew what was going to happen, was ready for it and weren’t suddenly taken by surprise when the transmitter switched off.

I think the perception is that it’s gone remarkably smoothly. MPs judge these things by the volume of complaints in our post bag and I have to say there have been very, very few. I mean I would like to think that some of the concerns flagged up by the Select Committee four or five years ago were then acted on and as a result we managed to avoid some of those problems but I think the project has gone remarkably well, particularly given the scale of it and the immensity of the task. Obviously we’re not finished yet but I think most of us felt that if the first big region went through without a problem then that would suggest that the rest of the country should follow.

Switchover will make digital TV available via an aerial to virtually all UK households, including these channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five. S4C is also available in Wales. Switchover will make digital TV available via an aerial to virtually all UK households, including these channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five. S4C is also available in Wales.

About switchover

Switchover is the process of fully converting the UK’s terrestrial television system to digital. Analogue channels broadcast from more than a thousand transmitter sites are being be switched off, region by region, and digital terrestrial TV signals boosted to match analogue TV coverage by the end of 2012. Switchover has been successfully completed in the Border, West Country, Wales, Granada and West TV regions.

Why is it happening?

Millions of households in the UK are currently unable to receive digital television through an aerial. Switching off the existing analogue system will free up airwaves, making it possible to extend coverage. Digital broadcasting is also more efficient, creating capacity for new services such as ultra-fast wireless broadband, and will ensure the UK keeps pace with the other countries which are switching to all-digital broadcasting.

'...more than 40 free-to-air terrestrial TV channels will be available to nine-out-of-ten UK households.'

What does it mean for viewers?

To continue receiving TV after switchover, analogue sets will need to be converted to digital. Virtually any TV, even a black and white one, can be converted with a digital box. Digital TV services are available via an aerial, satellite, cable or broadband. Viewers can check the options where they live using a postcode checker at digitaluk.co.uk, or by calling the Digital UK switchover advice line on 08456 50 50 50.

After switchover, more than 40 free-to-air terrestrial TV channels will be available to nine-out-of-10 UK households. Around 15 TV channels will be available elsewhere.