Analogue TV switch-off will be 'stressful' for public

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The Independent Online

Plans to switch off the analogue television signal by 2012 could be extremely stressful for millions of viewers, broadcasting experts have told MPs.

Between 2008 and 2012, every household in the UK will be required to switch to digital television. But analysts giving evidence to the Commons Culture and Media Select Committee said the project was costly and premature and could leave millions of people without access to television.

Chris Goodall, an independent analyst, told MPs that up to 5 per cent of the population could lose television reception at the point of switchover, which is being rolled out region by region, beginning with the Borders in 2008. Mr Goodall said: "For the old and vulnerable, this will be costly and extremely stressful. The word trauma has been used.

"For many of the old who have never used computers, the imposition of digital television is going to be something of no benefit and significant cost."

The Government has outlined plans for financial and practical assistance to help the elderly and disabled switch to digital.

Jeremy Klein of Scientific Generics said that the issue of affordability was being ignored. The Government's position is that with set-top boxes now on the market for under £30, most households can afford the cost of switchover. "We mustn't forget that for some people £25 is a lot of money," said Mr Klein.

David Elstein, former chief executive of channel Five, branded the timetable for analogue switch-off "horrendously premature".

He compared the digital switchover to the process of retuning videos to receive Five, which went three times over budget and took three times as long as expected. "The analogue switch-off is 100 times more difficult in terms of scope, scale and cost," he said.

The media regulator Ofcom said research showed that one in 10 households will be reluctant to move to digital voluntarily, or will find it difficult to do so.