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Last Updated: Monday, 15 October 2007, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Why Whitehaven is going digital
By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Digital countdown clock in Whitehaven
A billboard with a digital countdown has been erected in the town

Television will never be the same again in Whitehaven after the analogue signal is switched off.

The west coast town, home to about 25,000 people, has been chosen to spearhead the digital TV switchover, which is eventually being rolled out across the rest of the UK.

Starting on 17 October, the analogue TV service which has served the local population for decades will be phased out.

In just four weeks, on 14 November, it will only be possible to watch TV on Freeview, satellite, cable or broadband.

But why has this quiet Georgian town, which is best known for being on the doorstep of the Sellafield nuclear plant, been picked to test one of the biggest broadcasting projects in TV history?

Jon Steele from Digital UK, the organisation in charge of the switch-off, explained how the decision was made.

Digital takeover

"Whitehaven was chosen primarily because it's a discrete area for broadcasting signals," he said.

"Changing the signals here to digital won't interfere with neighbouring areas.

"It was also an area where people currently aren't receiving digital TV through a terrestrial aerial so it was delivering something that this community has been deprived of," he added.

"This is a culmination of many years of planning and, locally, a couple of years of quite intense communication with the community."

Whitehaven has been put on the map and given recognition
Daniel Day, Whitehaven resident

"We think the area is very close to being ready. There are four weeks remaining and we expect that, in those four weeks, the remaining households will choose to get a digital TV because, ultimately, they won't want to be without reception," he added.

Alan Cleaver, deputy editor of local newspaper The Whitehaven News, has been following the changes in the town centre closely.

"I think the level of information has been very good. Digital UK have a very high profile around here and I think most people in Whitehaven are very well informed about what they need to do," he said.

He, too, can see the benefits to the area being chosen to trial the digital switchover.

"It was an ideal place to start," he said.

Resident Daniel Day, agrees that most locals are pleased the town has been chosen.

"I think there has been a welcome that Whitehaven has been given recognition," he said.

"We've been put on the map for something other than Sellafield."

TV aerials
The analogue system is being phased out across the UK

'Cost issue'

However, Chris Whiteside, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Copeland constituency, said some people have "expressed concern" over the cost of going digital.

"It's a fair bet there is a cost issue," he said.

"A lot of people will have to spend some money in order to continue watching television," he added.

Although Digital UK are confident the whole switchoff is going to go "smoothly", Mr Whiteside is apprehensive.

"To be completely honest with you, although there are some advantages from the point of view of the publicity the town gets, I think they might have been wiser to have started with an area where there were already better signals," he said.



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