The uptake of digital television in the UK is due to receive a shot in the arm from a new government-supported scheme providing free set-top boxes in selected neighbourhoods.

The initiative, led by the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Television Commission, is also backed by nineteen TV companies including ITV, BSkyB and ONdigital.

The government move has been triggered by its pledge not to disconnect the analogue television service until 95% of the UK population has switched to dTV. Currently, digital uptake has reached a plateau of around 26% but appears unlikely to hit the magic 95% within the target time frame of 2006-2010.

The set-top box giveaway aims to reactivate consumer demand for dTV, which the government believes is also the key to universal use of the internet in Britain – an objective to which it is resolutely committed. Cash for the state subsidy is likely to be raised from the sale of the redundant analogue spectrum to other broadcasters and communications companies.

The first neighbourhood eligible for the free digital giveaway is set to be announced within 8-10 weeks with digital services and equipment made available within six months.

News Source: CampaignLive (UK)