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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 November 2006, 16:37 GMT
BBC to help pensioners go digital
People shop for a television set
The government will hand over social security and pension details
The BBC is to be given the details of millions of pensioners and disabled people, so that it can help them convert their televisions to digital.

The move is part of the government's Digital Switchover Bill, which featured in the Queen's speech on Wednesday.

Under the bill, eligible households will get help with buying, installing and using the equipment needed to receive digital television signals.

Whitehaven will be the first place to lose the analogue signal, next autumn.

"The Government wants everyone to enjoy the benefits of digital television," said broadcasting minister Shaun Woodward.

"That's why we're going to give extra help to people over the age of 75 and those with significant disabilities."

Pension details

Under the legislation, the BBC would be handed the social security and war pensions information for an estimated seven million people.

The corporation would then provide and install the equipment to convert one television set per household to Freeview.

Instructions on how to use the equipment would also be given.

"It would cut the level of administration needed to run the scheme and encourage people to take up the offer of help by making the process more simple," said Mr Woodward.

The help will be free of charge to eligible households in receipt of pension credit, income support or income-related jobseekers allowance.

Others will be expected to pay a "modest" fee.

If householders choose to use cable or satellite services instead of Freeview, the scheme will only make a contribution towards their costs.

The Digital Switchover Bill was published on Thursday.

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