Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Wednesday, 17 October 2007 13:02 UK

Town wakes up to digital future

By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Digital switchover countdown poster

The town of Whitehaven in Cumbria has become the first place in the UK to undergo the official switchover from analogue to digital TV.

BBC Two's signal was switched off at 0200 BST on Wednesday, with digital channels replacing it shortly after.

The other signals will go from 14 November, when 25,000 households will need Freeview, satellite, cable or broadband in order to watch television.

Analogue TV will be switched off in the rest of the UK by the end of 2012.

Any local residents who stayed up to watch the switchover would have been watching BBC Two's Learning Zone before the screen went blank.

Engineers spent 37 minutes switching off the analogue signal on BBC Two and switching on digital versions of BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, CBBC, BBC News 24 and Five.

Other digital channels will follow when analogue BBC One, ITV1 and Channel 4 are switched off next month.

Industry body Digital UK has been overseeing the country's switchover from analogue.

Whitehaven town crier Rob Romano
In all honesty, there has been a degree of uncertainty
Rob Romano
Whitehaven town crier

Chief executive Ford Ennals said it was "a landmark day for British broadcasting history".

Mr Ennals said he believed more than 92% of Whitehaven households had already converted to digital.

"We know that conversion is continuing," he added. "We were monitoring sales in the area yesterday and we saw many hundreds of equipment sales in retailers.

"We're very confident that in the next couple of weeks the remaining households will convert. Everyone we talked to said they actually intended to. No one wants to lose TV."

Asked if there was a sense of relief that the transition had occurred without any technical hitches, Mr Ennals said: "We're very pleased with the way it's gone.

Whitehaven map
17 October - Whitehaven
  • BBC Two's analogue signal switched off
  • First group of Freeview channels become available (all BBC channels)
    14 November - Whitehaven
  • Remaining analogue channels switched off
  • Every home will be able to receive at least 18 Freeview channels
    2008-2012 - Rest of UK
  • Analogue signal turned off one transmitter at a time
  • "The key thing was to make sure people understood what the switchover was, understood what to do and understood when it was happening, and that campaign seemed to have gone very well."

    About 84% of households across the rest of the UK have already installed digital equipment, according to media watchdog Ofcom.

    Local town crier Rob Romano said there had been a "mixed reaction" from residents about the transition.

    "In all honesty, there has been a degree of uncertainty," he told the BBC News website.

    "The people who are already digital are not bothered, but people like my father-in-law who has a 30-year-old television are a little bit uncertain."

    The people of Whitehaven and the surrounding borough of Copeland have been the subject of a major campaign in recent months to make sure they are clear about what equipment they will need.

    Four help centres are assisting anyone who is still unsure of the equipment they need to install.

    Local residents told the BBC News website they were well prepared.

    Whitehaven resident Joan Hartley
    It's costly isn't it? I've spent 80 now
    Joan Hartley
    Whitehaven resident

    "We've already got Sky so we're OK," said Katrina Shields, 40. "We don't need to change anything over. We're getting digi boxes for the two bedrooms."

    Joan Hartley, 70, said: "I'm in the process of buying one of these disk drives that you can record everything on.

    "It's costly isn't it? I've spent 80 now because I've got one main television in the lounge and one in each bedroom."

    "I'm quite annoyed about the cost," agreed Brian O'Hare, 48. "I had to buy four digiboxes. It's quite a bit of money to spend at 25 each."

    Fellow Whitehaven resident Elaine Mathers said the cost was "not so bad" but said she "hadn't a clue" how to install her newly purchased equipment.

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    The moment analogue BBC2 was switched off


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