The timetable proposed by the British government for the switchover from analogue to digital television was called into question yesterday by Kim Howells, the newly appointed parliamentary secretary for Culture, Media and Sport.

He admitted to being “sceptical” of the original schedule which calls for the phase-out of the analogue TV signal to start in 2006 with completion by 2010. It would, said Howells, be “crazy” to adhere to this if thousands of homes could not afford replacement equipment. He is reviewing “whether it achievable or not”.

His concern over the analogue switch-off timetable was echoed by BBC director-general Greg Dyke who opined last night: "Our digital channels are not going to be available in every home for at least another decade.” BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland, added that the government should "do more" to promote digital television.

Around 30% of the UK population currently receive digital transmissions.

Secretary Howells also hinted that while he endorsed the raising of TV broadcasting ownership limits, it should not be by a margin sufficient to permit the mooted merger between Britain’s top ITV duo, Granada Media and Carlton Communications.

News source: Financial Times