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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 13:42 GMT
Town completes digital switchover
Digital TV mascot outside Whitehaven

The town of Whitehaven in Cumbria has become the first place in the UK to turn off the analogue signal as part of the official switchover to digital TV.

Last month BBC Two's analogue signal was turned off, and the rest of the terrestrial channels followed in the early hours of Wednesday.

Around 25,000 households now 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.

Helping the elderly

The switchover process in Whitehaven started at 0200 GMT. Then at 0327 GMT, 20 Freeview channels and 10 radio stations began broadcasting.

Ford Ennals, chief executive of Digital UK, the organisation overseeing digital switchover, said: "This is a big day for the area and for television in the UK."

A Digital UK spokesman added: "The technical aspect has gone exactly to plan, and we are also staying in Whitehaven for a while to provide help to anyone who needs it."

The organisation's call centre had been quiet on Wednesday morning, he said.

"I think we take that as a fairly good sign, which means that our advice has got through."

HOW SWITCHOVER WILL WORK
Whitehaven's Television Transmitter
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
  • Age Concern had been working closely with Digital UK to prevent confusion among older viewers.

    The charity's Claire Dobson said people had found the whole experience "positive".

    "It was shown after the October switchover that very few people had any major issues about what was going on," she said.

    She said one 95-year-old man who had sought advice had later told Age Concern that he thought re-tuning was "a doddle".

    There will still be help for those who are not so confident. The Digital Switchover Help Scheme has been set up for people who are over the age of 75 or registered disabled.

    Out of 9,000 people who are eligible in the area, more than 2,500 have opted for assistance.

    Meanwhile, sales of digital TVs, set-top boxes and scart leads have continued to soar in the town.

    However David Sinclair, head of policy at Help the Aged, thinks more needs to be done to ensure the switchover runs smoothly across the rest of the UK.

    "There are still analogue products on the market and we believe there should be mandatory labelling of analogue products and products which won't work after switchover without an adaptation," he said.

    "At the moment there are people still going into shops and buying products which may not work in a year's time," he added.

    Meanwhile, Digital UK played down reports that France's digital switchover scheme, which is scheduled to end in November 2011, might interfere with the digital terrestrial signal in parts of southern England.

    A spokesman said: "Both countries are committed to co-ordinating their digital switchover programmes to ensure that neither UK nor French consumers are adversely affected.

    "Negotiations are ongoing and we remain confident that a solution can be found which will ensure UK consumers are fully protected."

    Media regulator Ofcom said it was looking into the issue.



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