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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 22:56 GMT
UK leads world in interactive TV
Chris Smith, Culture Secretary
Chris Smith: the digitial TV explosion "will touch the lives of us all"
TV viewers are proving more tech-friendly than forecast, with one-in-five households having switched to digital television, UK Culture Secretary Chris Smith has said.

The faster-than-expected take up of digital TV technology since its launch two years ago showed the 2006-10 target date for scrapping traditional analogue masts was realistic, Mr Smith said on Tuesday.

The government has championed digital transmission for its ability to carry a greater channel capacity than analogue set-ups, and to allow access to the internet and interactive services, such as home tutoring and armchair shopping.

Mr Smith's announcement comes as researchers at IDC have named Britain as the world leader in introducing interactive television.

'Touch us all'

"The information and entertainment explosion that [digital] is triggering will touch the lives of us all," Mr Smith told the Royal Television Society.

Britain had made "astonishing progress" in encouraging viewers to switch to digital, either through buying a new set or converting their existing analogue set through a set-top box, he said.

Researchers at IDC said 3.9 million UK households expected to access interactive television services by the end of 2000.

And the take-up of digital is set to be accelerated by the launch this month of so-called digital video recording (DVR) technology, which allows viewers to record and manage TV programming.

Threat to advertisers

DVR, by enhancing the ability of viewers to fast-forward over unwanted sections of broadcasts, poses threats to advertisers, ICD analyst Jason Armitage said.

The history of the take up of digital television in the UK reveals the importance of providing high-quality services, Mr Armitage said.

"The most successful service providers have realised the key to recruiting a user base is to offer compelling programming content," he said.

Information campaign

Mr Smith, in his speech, announced a joint government and business campaign to explain the benefits of digital television to viewers who have yet to switch.

He reaffirmed that viewers currently able to receive the main 'free' channels, such as BBC1 and Channel 4, will still be able to do so without further charge following the switch-over.

The government has pledged that analogue masts will not be scrapped until the roll-out of digital has extended sufficient to cover all viewers currently served by analogue transmissions.

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See also:

26 Sep 00 | Business
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