Government to boost power of digital TV signals

The DTI has released a draft report that sets out a framework for the 2010 analogue switch-off deadline

The Department of Trade and Industry is to increase the number of transmitters for terrestrial digital TV to meet its deadline for the analogue switch-off in 2010.

In a consultative document published on Friday, e-commerce minister Douglas Alexander and Kim Howells, broadcasting minister, made a commitment to improve the reliability and coverage of Digital TV signals in the UK, in preparation for the switch-off.

The draft Digital TV Action Plan sets out plans to extend the geographical coverage of Digital TV signals so that 72 percent of households have the potential to access all channels by the second quarter of 2002. It also outlines a future target for 84 percent of British homes to have access to digital channels from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Before the analogue signal is switched-off, 99.4 percent of UK households must be able to receive free-to-air digital channels according to stipulations laid down by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports.

"The 2006 to 2010 [switch-off target] is a challenging timeframe -- we anticipate a successful alliance between the government, industry and consumers working within the framework, so that we can meet the criteria for switchover as laid out by Chris Smith in September 1999," said a DTI spokesman.

One in three British households already have access to digital TV. The DTI aims to provide 71 percent of UK homes with "core coverage" -- a BBC package that includes six digital multiplex channels -- by the end of this year.

The DTI proposals will now enter a draft consultation period, "to develop a plan that is more comprehensive in form," said the DTI spokesman. "The issue of analogue switch-off is very complex," he added.

The government also announced the launch of a new Web site on Friday located at www.digitaltv.culture.gov.uk, which will offer up-to-date information on digital TV, and provide advice on how to subscribe to digital services.

"These plans should help to increase the momentum in digital TV development both for the broadcasting industry and the viewers at home," said Kim Howells.

See the Consumer News Section for full coverage.

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