The transfer of Britain’s television broadcasts from analogue to digital could last 25 years and cost £25 billion ($41.8bn; €35.8bn) unless the government changes tack.

So warned David Elstein, former ceo of the nation’s smallest terrestrial station Five. Speaking at the Institute of Economic Affairs broadcasting conference, he rubbished ministers’ target of analogue switch-off by 2010.

“The 2006 to 2010 target is not only unachievable but counter productive,” he blasted. “If the government doesn’t change its attitude, switch-over becomes a serious contender … for the biggest waste of money of all time.”

Elstein believes the government’s faith in new BBC-backed digital terrestrial platform Freeview – whose set-top boxes have been selling at a rate of 100,000 a month – is misplaced. “Eight to 10 million analogue sets are being sold every year,” he pointed out, “adding to the analogue mountain in which Freeview is barely making a dent.”

Elstein argues that remote areas need to be reached by satellite, a scheme the government needs to begin planning for now. Even then, 2010 would be unrealistic.

“It would not make any practical sense to switch off the biggest [analogue] transmitters until 2012,” he continued. “That process would still take at least seven years, giving us 2019 as a likely end date.”

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff