Digital switch fearsConsumer group warns viewers will be left behind

13 July 2006

Man watching a widescreen TV

Our experts think there is little thought put into designing less well-known electronic products.

More needs to be done to ensure viewers are not left behind by the switchover to digital television.

That’s the message from a group which advises the the broadcast regulator. The Ofcom Consumer Panel fears vulnerable and socially isolated people are in danger of being left behind when the analogue signal is switched off region by region between 2008 and 2012.

The panel, which represents consumer interests and acts as an independent advisor to media regulator Ofcom, expressed ‘strong concern’ about the switchover process.

Chairman Colette Bowe said: ‘We believe that the needs of socially isolated households are in danger of not being met. We are calling on the government to rethink its programme of support for vulnerable households, which is poorly targeted and inadequate in scope.’

The report said that Digital UK, the body set up to oversee the switchover process, doesn't have enough funding to do the job successfully.

Forced conversion

In April, a Which? Online survey found that four in ten UK viewers are completely in the dark about the switch to digital television. Less than one in ten know when it's happening in their region.

We believe that Digital UK needs to act now to give viewers the information they need to make a smooth transition.

Which? Online also found that the forced conversion to digital television is unpopular. Sixty per cent of viewers said they thought it was wrong that there was no choice in the matter and 9 per cent even claimed they'd rather give up television completely than be forced into going digital.

Half the people we surveyed didn't realise that to carry on watching TV as they do now, they'll need a Freeview box, or Sky or cable for each TV in their home.

Ofcom estimates it will cost each household around GBP 132 to prepare for the analogue switch-off, but Which? Online says it's likely to be more, especially for those who will need a new aerial.