HC Deb 19 May 2004 vol 421 c53WS
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell)

The Government is continuing to work with the broadcasting industry and consumer representatives to facilitate the switch to digital television. Already over half of all households receive digital television services. In view of the progress to date switchover between 2006 and 2010 remains attainable. However it is apparent that more concerted action by broadcasters, retailers and manufacturers, supported by Government and Ofcom, is required if the full benefits of digital television are to be made available to the whole population within the desired period.

Completing the switch to digital will bring significant benefits to consumers, to broadcasters and to the UK economy as a whole: It will bring digital terrestrial television signals to the 25 per cent. of the population who live in areas that cannot currently receive them because of spectrum limitations; Increased quality and choice for viewers; Broadcasters will no longer have to incur the costs of transmitting signals in both formats, releasing resources for investment in programming and other services for consumers; and Spectrum will be released to allow the development of more television and other services for consumers.

The BBC and the commercial public service broadcasters have a lead role in achieving switchover. They have an established relationship with virtually all Britain's households and are therefore uniquely placed to ensure a smooth transition to digital broadcasting. They will also benefit from reduced costs and from the ability to offer consumers a wider range of services.

The Government have now written to the commercial terrestrial broadcasters and the BBC inviting them to engage with us and with Ofcom on how to achieve a complete switchover and to establish an appropriate timetable, in liaison with other stakeholders. The outcome of these discussions will be reflected in the digital licences which Ofcom will grant to ITV companies, Channel 4 and 5, and in the BBC's charter review.

Further stages in establishing the plan for switchover will be reported to the House in due course.

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