Ad Bosses Cast Doubt on UK Digital TV Switchover

08 April 2005

The prophets of doom and gloom are out in force over the British government's plans to switch off the analogue TV signal by 2012.

A report by media analysts MediaTel Insight says some advertising industry execs believe the proposed date is unrealistic and the finances of upgrading TV sets in time may become a political issue.

The schedule for a gradual change to a digital-only signal has been provisionally set by UK media regulator Ofcom. It will begin in the Scottish borders in 2008 and end with a final flick of the switch in the Channel Islands four years later.

Millions of households will have to upgrade to digital equipment to ensure that they can continue to watch TV.

Consumer groups argue that the most vulnerable members of the community will be affected as they can least afford the necessary hardware.

Steve Hobbs, media planning director at Carat, says the agency is "sceptical that the transition can be achieved within this period without a definitive statement of the government's financial commitment."

Latest figures from Ofcom show a near 60% penetration of digital TV in the UK [WAMN: 31-Mar-05] but that still leaves 10 million homes without it, adds Hobbs. He calculates around 17m TV sets will need to be upgraded at a cost of between £100 and £200 ($187-$375; €145-€291) each.

However, Hobbs' arithmetic is puzzling given that the cost of a digibox to convert from analogue to digital TV reception is now as low as £50.

Other ad bosses taking part in the survey are less pessimistic about the switchover. Says one: "Evidence suggests that digital adoption will show a sudden increase as a soon as the government commits to a switch-off date. It is therefore a self-fulfilling prophecy that switchover will happen when the government says it will."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff