Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Digital refuseniks to halve by 2012, claims report

By Kate Bulkley

The Guardian

Wednesday October 5, 2005

Fewer than 10% of UK homes will still have analogue TV sets in 2012, the ultimate switchover date for the change to digital-only TV, according to a report by Ofcom.

The report, commissioned by the media regulator from Scientific Generics and not yet released, extrapolates the current take-up of digital TV to come up with the figure. Tessa Jowell, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, set the switchover timetable a fortnight ago.

According to Ford Ennals, the chief executive of Digital UK, which is charged with co-ordinating the government's switchover plans, only 9% (or about 2.3 million) of UK homes will not have changed to digital TV by switchover, which is half the number of digital "refuseniks" predicted just two years ago.

The government is keen to get as many people as possible to voluntarily take up digital TV, but it says it will provide financial assistance to the elderly and disabled.

"In the last year, 2.5 million more people in the UK have gone digital with an 18% increase in the second quarter of this year," said Mr Ennals.

"The steady rise has been encouraged by the behaviour of the broadcasters. It's hard not to watch terrestrial TV these days and not wish you had ITV2 or increasingly ITV3 or to hear about seeing the next episode of Lost on E4 right after you watched this week's episode on Channel 4 and the BBC is increasingly cross-promoting and previewing shows on its digital channels as well."

Ofcom refused to verify the figure in the report, but said it expected to publish the report in its entirety in the next couple of weeks.

This week Digital UK took control of the Digital Tick campaign, which encourages all retailers to display the Digital Tick logo on digital TVs, LCD screens and set-top boxes so consumers know when they are buying a digital product.

Digital UK was also heartened by a significant increase in awareness of digital TV after it ran its first national print advertisements in the week following the government's announcement on September 15 of the digital switchover timetable.

According to a weekly poll conducted by BMRB for UK Digital, awareness of switchover jumped from 50% of the country to 68% in the week following the announcement.

"It's a step change," said Mr Ennals. "I don't want to underestimate the size of the challenge ahead, but it is going to work."


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