Fewer than a third of homes go digital

Fewer than one in three homes have digital television despite a major push to switch to the new system before the Government plans to switch off the analogue signal between 2006 and 2010.

Fewer than one in three homes have digital television despite a major push to switch to the new system before the Government plans to switch off the analogue signal between 2006 and 2010.

Before the switch can happen, the Government says 99.4 per cent of homes must be able to receive the digital signal and 95 per cent must have the equipment. The latest "encouraging" figures were unveiled yesterday and the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, said the take-up of digital technology was on schedule.

"So far, 30 per cent of households already have digital television and this figure could increase to 55 per cent over the next five years," she said. "These figures are encouraging. We want to see the benefits of greater choice and better quality television available to the widest number of people as quickly as it is practicable."

However, the industry said it was less optimistic that the targets can be met by 2010. Most homes with digital technology have been given it free, as part of cable and satellite packages. Insiders fear that digital take-up will level off at around 75 per cent and they believe they will have to give away the equipment, costing millions.

The Government has launched initiatives to encourage people to buy digital television sets, including a pilot scheme to provide some neighbourhoods with free conversion to digital. It has also introduced a labelling scheme to ensure customers know which equipment will be out of date when switch-off eventually occurs.

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