Four million homes in the West Country, Wales and the north-west of England have now been given the start dates for their switchover to digital TV.
The analogue signal will be switched off region by region between 2008 and 2012. Transmitters will cease broadcasting analogue television services and send digital signals instead.
The Cumbrian town of Whitehaven and its surrounding area will become the first place in the UK to switch to digital in October 2007. The switchover in the West Country and North-West (Granada) regions will start in 2009 and finish that year, while the switchover in Wales will begin in 2009 and be completed the following year.
To receive digital TV, viewers will need a Freeview box, or a Sky or cable service for each TV in their home.
A Which? Online survey in April found that 40 per cent of UK viewers were completely in the dark about the switch to digital television, while only 7 per cent knew when it was happening in their area.
In July, the Ofcom Consumer Panel, which represents consumer interests and acts as an independent advisor to media regulator Ofcom, expressed ‘strong concern’ about the switchover process. It warned that vulnerable and socially isolated people were in danger of being left behind.
Digital UK, the body leading the switchover in the UK, says it’s running information and assistance campaigns in the three years leading to switchover in each region. Information booklets are being delivered to every home, and there will be ads on TV and radio and in the regional press.
Ford Ennals, Chief Executive of Digital UK, said: ‘Today’s announcement of the timetable for transmitter switchover in the West Country, Wales and Granada TV regions is another milestone on the UK’s path to digital TV.
‘Nearer the time, we will announce the month and day of switchover. We intend to share information with the public as soon as possible, and to provide public information and practical assistance to the public throughout the process.’