Whitehaven gets set to lead UK switchover

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007
Digital UK logo

The UK’s television switchover starts tomorrow (Oct 17) when thousands of homes in Whitehaven, Cumbria, receive digital channels for the first time.

The switch is the first step in a nationwide programme which will ensure free terrestrial digital television (Freeview) is available to virtually all UK households. Currently one-in-four homes across the country are not able to receive digital TV via an aerial.

The two-stage switchover starts at approximately 2am tomorrow morning when analogue BBC Two is replaced with the first group of digital services. Stage two takes place in four weeks’ time on November 14 when the remaining three analogue channels – BBC One, ITV1 and Channel 4 – are replaced with a further 15 digital channels. Homes in the area will then have access to 20 Freeview channels, including BBC Three and Four, BBC News 24, ITV digital channels, E4, More 4 and ten radio networks.

The same process will be followed region by region across the UK from 2008-2012, extending coverage of Freeview channels to 98.5% of households, up from 73% today.

Ford Ennals, Chief Executive of Digital UK, said Whitehaven was well prepared with four weeks still to go before the final analogue television signals are switched off.

Research carried out on the eve of the first stage of switchover indicates high levels of awareness and readiness among the local population. The GfK/NOP poll¹ indicates that with four weeks to go until the area goes fully digital, more than nine out of ten said they had already converted at least one television set to digital. The remainder said they were planning to get digital television by time switchover is complete.

Digital UK has mounted a wide-ranging campaign of communications and assistance since the dates for the UK’s first switchover were announced in March. All 25,000 households have been sent information booklets and details of the Digital Switchover Help Scheme². Reminder captions have also been broadcast on all analogue television channels. A Digital UK roadshow toured the area during the summer and more than 120 switchover drop-in events have been held with Age Concern Northwest Cumbria, providing advice and practical demonstrations. This is the same level of communications and support that will be provided in all parts of the UK as switchover happens around the country.

The Digital Switchover Help Scheme has so far received more than 2,000 requests from eligible households for subsidised or free digital television equipment. Installation and guidance on using new equipment is also provided under the scheme.

Ford Ennals said: “Tomorrow is the first step on the road to a fully digital UK. Whitehaven is well prepared to lead this process. Most households are ready to receive digital television and we expect those yet to prepare to do so over the next four weeks.

“The people of Whitehaven and surrounding communities can rightly feel proud of leading this important change, and of the work of local organisations such as Copeland Borough Council and Northwest Cumbria Age Concern who, along with the Digital Switchover Help Scheme, are supporting the community through this process.