Viewers' thumbs down to digital TV

Plans to force Britons to switch to digital television may be doomed to failure because most people do not want to watch or pay for more channels.

Plans to force Britons to switch to digital television may be doomed to failure because most people do not want to watch or pay for more channels.

New research by the Consumers' Association, to be published this week, will cast serious doubt on the Government's determination to shut down the present analogue television signal within five to 10 years.

The Association will tell the Government to either abandon its plans or else subsidise the purchase of millions of digital television sets.

"What we have found does not make very good reading for the Government," said Adam Scorer, the Consumers' Association's policy adviser, "We think it's time to stop talking about a switch-over."

The Consumers' Association surveyed 1,918 adults about their attitudes to and awareness of digital television. While about a quarter of the population has switched to digital, the rest have not - with one-third saying they never will and two-thirds saying they hadn't even thought about it.

"Apathy, a lack of awareness of digital TV, rejection of pay TV and more channels as well as resistance to cost will scupper the Government's plans for early analogue switch-off," concludes the report.

Resistance to digital is greatest among the elderly. The survey found half of retired people who were aware of digital would never switch over.

Sheila McKechnie, director of the Consumers' Association, will present the survey's findings on Thursday. She will conclude that the Government must now either postpone the shutdown of analogue signals or subsidise the switch-over by making it either "inexpensive or free" so that viewers have "no or negligible financial outlay".

Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary, believes digital television will launch Britain into "a new age in access to information and services". Digital television allows for not only multiple channels but also internet access.

He has refused to set a date for the switch-over but said it will be some time between 2006 and 2010. Before it happens everyone who currently receives free analogue channels must be able to receive them digitally and 95 per cent of consumers must have access to digital equipment that is "affordable to people on low and fixed incomes".

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