Page last updated at 12:38 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 13:38 UK

Region's 100-day digital countdown

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Digit Al
The Scottish Borders will go digital later this year

Something big is on the televisual horizon for about 52,000 homes in the south of Scotland.

In 100 days the Scottish Borders will become the first full region in the UK to switch off analogue signals and move to digital television.

Last year Whitehaven in Cumbria led the way as the first town to make the move into the new broadcasting era.

Now the process in Scotland is entering what Digital UK has described as a "crucial stage".

Reaching this point has not come without criticism.

It has been claimed that because of the number of relay transmitters in the region there will effectively be a "two-tier" service.

Increasing the numbers of people who know their switchover dates will be one of our top priorities over the coming months
John Askew
Digital UK

Put simply, anybody whose home is served by a main transmitter will receive more channels than those whose home is not.

However, Digital UK, which is overseeing the process, claims this is missing the point.

It says that to continue with the current analogue system where most homes get only four channels would be even more unfair.

After the switchover they will all get about 20, while those on main transmitters will receive significantly more.

In many ways, it appears a classic argument over whether the glass is half-empty or half-full.

One thing which is not in doubt is that work remains to be done.

Children watching television
Many people are still unaware of when the switchover is taking place

With a little over three months to go, only about half of the people in the Borders surveyed by Digital UK are aware of when the switchover will take place.

Regional manager John Askew said: "This, of course, also means half are still unclear on the timing.

"Increasing the numbers of people who know their switchover dates will be one of our top priorities over the coming months."

For those who are still unaware, the process takes place in two stages on 6 November and 20 November.

However, while there may be uncertainty over the dates it appears the region is a bit more technologically prepared.

More than 80% of households already have digital on their main television set while more than half have converted all their televisions.

Those figures paint a picture which has only partially reassured those with concerns about the process.

Borders MP Michael Moore has been one of the most regular critics of the scheme.

Best value

He has voiced concerns about the service being offered and the decision to award a help scheme contract to Sky.

Mr Moore said it awarded the satellite firm an unprecedented marketing opportunity.

However, the head of the scheme insisted it offered the best value for money.

There is still time to address many of the concerns which have been raised.

A large number of organisations are involved in attempting to ensure the whole process moves as smoothly as possible.

They have promised as much help, information and assistance as they can to television viewers in the Borders.

And they have exactly 100 days to make sure they get it right.


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