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Analogue TV Switch-Off Date is Now “Unrealistic”, Says Government

News, 06 November 2001

The British government has backtracked on its earlier promise to complete by 2006 the compulsory shutdown of analogue TV services in favour of digital transmissions.

The phase-out was due to begin in 2004 with the government underwriting the cost of the necessary set-top boxes and recouping this via the sale of the analogue wireless spectrum to telecoms operators and other commercial users.

However, a costly cocktail of disparate factors – the terrorist ‘war’, the worsening economic climate, foot and mouth epidemic handouts to farmers – have tightened the government’s purse-strings.

Admits a senior government source: “It's going to be extremely tough to switch off by 2006.” The anonymous insider insisted, however, that the government remains committed a phased switch-off between 2006 and 2010.

This ambivalence is not what broadcasters had hoped to hear – in particular beleaguered ITV Digital which has lobbied long and hard for a firm date that would enable it to armlock non-digital viewers into opting for its terrestrial platform.

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