In September 2005 the Government, after consultation with the broadcasting industry and Ofcom, announced a programme to replace analogue television broadcasts with digital television, region by region, between 2008 and 2012 (digital switchover). This report considers how this objective is being pursued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (the Departments), who have joint responsibility for delivering the policy objective. Switchover involves the conversion of more than a thousand television transmitter sites in order to ensure public service broadcasting is available to some 25 million households in digital instead of analogue form. Unless households have at least one television set capable of receiving digital television signals they will lose access to broadcast television after switchover. The Departments estimate it will cost the UK economy £4.6 billion, mostly borne by consumers through the cost of acquiring and installing digital receiving equipment. The Departments estimate the cost will be outweighed by benefits to consumers and business totalling £6.3 billion. The programme is progressing well, with main set conversion at 85 per cent and a successful switchover in the flagship area of Copeland. The complexity of the non-contractual delivery and governance arrangements poses inherent risks to the objectives. Public awareness of the switchover is high, though not in some sections of the population. The programme's communications and help scheme activities are funded through ring-fenced amounts within the licence fee spent by the BBC, and the BBC has started to set performance measures for the £800 million ring-fenced for switchover activities. Evidence from Copeland suggests that take-up of the help scheme might be significantly lower than that anticipated by the Departments in their cost model.
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