Digital switchover support to cost £600 millionAimed at helping older and disabled people

19 December 2006

A remote control pointed at a television screen.

Ministers have confirmed that it will cost around £600 million to help older and disabled people with the switch to digital television.

The help scheme, which will provide support to install and use the equipment to convert one television set to digital, will be free to older and disabled people who receive income-related benefits.

Older and disabled people who do not receive income related benefits will pay a subsidised fee of £40.

In our latest round up of Freeview set top boxes.  There were five models at or below £40.

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.

Licence fee

The help scheme will be funded by the BBC licence fee and the announcement was made on the day the Digital Switchover (Disclosure of Information) Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons.

A key feature of the legislation is that it enables social security information to be shared with the BBC.

The information will then be used to identify people who are eligible for support under the digital switchover help scheme.

Extra help switching to digital television will go to all households with one person aged 75 or over, all households where one person has a significant disability and to households where one person is registered blind or registered partially sighted.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said: ‘The public have told us that the BBC should be at the forefront of digital broadcasting, helping people adapt to new technologies. That's why we set it the task of building a digital Britain and ensuring no-one is left behind in the switch to digital television. This money will enable it to deliver this.’

Digital switchover

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.