Switch to dTV Could Cost UK Viewers £1bn

11 November 2004

Freeview, the highly successful BBC digital TV platform - set up at the government's request to accelerate public switchover to dTV - will likely cost its consumer converts £1 billion ($1.86bn; €1.44bn).

This is around 33% more than originally envisaged, sparked by the larger than expected number of households that need to upgrade their TV antenna to receive an acceptable digital signal. This cost is in addition to that of a set-top digibox - now around £50.

The draft Digital TV Project - sponsored by broadcasters, TV equipment manufacturers and the government's departments of Trade and Culture, Media and Sport - had estimated that around 10% of the population would need to upgrade their antenna.

But following a survey of one thousand homes in August and September by TNS Research, that figure is 29%. Says a Freeview spokesperson: "This figure is significant because it implies that converting to digital is not going to be as straightforward or as cheap as the government thought."

But whenever unpalatable facts put an adverse spin on government policy, there is always a politician on hand to demonstrate the art of political prestidigitation by diverting attention elsewhere.

One such performer is Lord Andrew McIntosh of Haringey, minister for the oxymoronic departments of Media and Heritage, who on Tuesday told a New Media Markets conference in London: "The net benefit of digital switchover will be higher than we said last year and importantly we think that if you delay digital switchover [this benefit] could fall."

On being questioned, His Lordship was unable (or unwilling) to quantify the new benefit figure.

Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff