Today three members of the Panel attended a briefing session organised by Digital UK to report on the current state of the digital switchover programme. The headline message is that the programme announced in 2005 is on time and on budget. About a third of transmitters (around 500 out of 1,150) have been switched and around a fifth of households (around 5M out of 25M) have been switched.
New research has shown that 64% of those that did not take digital television until their region switched over have now said that they wish to try other digital technologies - 28% of them the Internet. A Panel member asked about the trial in the Granada region of the scope to use the switchover to digital TV to encourage those currently not online to become so. He was advised that the report on the trial has just been delivered to BIS and Ofcom and that it suggests that the model developed by Digital Outreach could be used to get more people online.
You can read the Digital UK Annual Report here.
On 20th November 2008, Scottish Borders became the second part of the UK to complete digital TV switchover, following Whitehaven the year before.
The Panel has supported the principle of switchover, but with the caveat that it must be handled in a way that does not leave anyone isolated and without support. We were pleased, therefore, to have the opportunity of a briefing from David Scott and Simon Crine of Digital UK (DUK) on progress with Digital Switchover (DSO) and in particular on the switchover of the Selkirk transmitter in the Scottish Borders.
DUK reported that people were well informed and well prepared and that everybody interviewed immediately before switchover were aware of it. The Panel was pleased to hear about this high level of preparedness but took the opportunity to underline 3 areas of concern that we would like to be closely monitored in this and future switchovers. These are:
The socially isolated - since 2004 we have been highlighting our research findings that switchover presents the biggest challenges for those who are socially isolated i.e. that those without an adequate network of support from friends, family, neighbours or carers would be particularly vulnerable and could have difficulty in finding out about switchover, understanding what it means, and taking effective steps to deal with it. This group does not map easily onto more traditional concepts of vulnerability and is unlikely to be picked up by standard outreach programmes. We have been concerned to hear anecdotal reports of health visitors finding a small number of people in their own homes being without television in the period immediately after switchover in the Borders.
We encourage Digital UK, the Help Scheme and the Digital Outreach programme to continue to speak to the relevant stakeholders in the Borders region that understand how to reach socially isolated people. We believe this will help to minimise the risk of repetition as switchover occurs across the UK.
Multiple Dwelling Units - our greatest concern here is that those tenants on benefits in private housing may not have the economic power to force private landlords to make the required changes to a communal aerial, or find they are powerless to stop landlords overcharging them for these changes. We therefore welcome Digital UK’s establishment of a dedicated housing team at national and regional levels to tackle these issues. We welcome also the provision of information to private (and public) landlords that sets out what the implications of switchover are for their properties, and the equipment options available to enable their tenants to receive digital television. However, we are not aware of any information provision for tenants and think this is an information gap Digital UK should remedy.
Consumer Information - easily accessible and available consumer information is essential to a successful switchover. We have previously recommended that ‘power questions’, which would inform consumers in straight-forward language what equipment is required to ‘go digital’, should be made available in retail outlets. The availability of ‘power questions’ will help consumers make the correct purchasing decisions for their needs, and help disseminate general information on the switchover process. We know these questions were written up in draft form by the Digital Switchover Consumer Expert Group but we understand these power questions are not to be found in retail outlets. We would like to recommended that Digital UK ensure provision of such information.