Annual report 2010

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Overview

Headlines from the year to 31 March 2011

Barry Cox

Barry Cox, Chairman, Digital UK

By the end of March 2011, more than a quarter of UK homes had successfully gone through digital television switchover. The programme now has real momentum and a clear sense of the challenge which lies ahead. While the vast majority of viewers are now watching digital TV, a quarter of the UK’s 60 million sets are still analogue and three-out-of-four viewers have to retune at least one set when their area switches over.

'We are grateful for the local support available through the many different charities we have involved in switchover.'

David Scott and his team deserve credit for managing so successfully the technical and consumer issues thrown up by TV switchover.  It is pleasing to note that this project by the UK’s main broadcasters –  once considered fraught with risks – is proceeding smoothly and on schedule. At the time of writing, we are in the process of switching some of the UK’s biggest towns and cities across the Midlands and central Scotland while the engineering programme is entering its final phase with work underway on the transmitter sites switching in 2012.

The coming year will undoubtedly stretch Digital UK and its partners. With nearly 11 million homes going through switchover, 2011 will be a test of our ability to plan, manage, and co-ordinate multiple events, often on a very large scale. We are grateful for the local support available through the many different charities we have involved in switchover.

There are thousands of third sector staff and volunteers who run events, advice points, and generally look out for those who may struggle and provide a vital safety net. These unsung heroes are proving crucial to the overall success of the programme and we thank them for their continued support.

David Scott, Chief Executive, Digital UK

David Scott

I am pleased to report that the 12 switchovers which took place in the year to 31 March 2011, affecting around 2.5 million homes, were completed on time and with minimal disruption to viewers. After switching the West region in April, the main focus for the year was switchovers in STV North and the Channel Islands.  Many parts of these regions had low or no digital terrestrial TV coverage before switchover so the arrival of Freeview services provided a welcome improvement to viewer choice.

It is in just such communities that our regional teams and local partner organisations come into their own. As our Chairman Barry Cox points out, above, switchover is very much about local engagement and community involvement. This was particularly the case in some of the Highlands and Islands where individuals and organisations, including retailers, charities and local councils, all lent their support. Together we took the switchover message to some of the remotest corners of the UK where viewers in turn responded very positively to the switchover campaign. From joining in the Up Helly Aa celebrations on the Shetland Isles to setting up an advice point on Sark, this was the year we went the extra mile.

'Together we took the switchover message to some of the remotest corners of the UK.'

I would also like to pay tribute to our London-based team which continues to provide vital central co-ordination for the wider programme. The public information campaign followed the successful format used elsewhere but remained sufficiently flexible to respond to local conditions and the peaks in demand that we see at switchover. Experience to date has enabled us to forecast how the public reacts to switchover, to anticipate the most frequently asked questions, and how to tailor our services accordingly. During the course of the year, more than 2.6 million people used our website and 320,000 called our advice line.

Work also continued on the technical programme which underpins switchover. Arqiva, the owner of the transmitter masts, is doing an excellent job in managing the complex re-engineering of the network, with minimal disruption to current services. This last year was significant because we began integrating revised Government plans to clear TV services from broadcast channels 61 and 62, which will maximise the ‘digital dividend’ from switchover, paving the way for the next generation of mobile broadband services.

Planning ahead was an important part of our past year. During 2011, around 40 per cent of the UK – the Scottish central belt and the Central, Anglia and Yorkshire TV regions – will go through switchover. A further 1.5 million homes will need to retune as technical changes are made to their local transmitter.  Our programme office, central teams and colleagues at the Switchover Help Scheme have all devoted considerable time and energy to ensuring we are ready for this challenge and those which lie beyond as we look towards the end of the programme and the UK being fully digital at the end of 2012.



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