The British government has at long last committed itself to a date for switching off the nation's analogue television network in favour of multiplex digital broadcasting.

A phased regional changeover starting 2008 and completing 2012 was buried amongst the small print in the 128-page New Labour election manifesto published last week.

Insofar as any commitment in an electioneering document can be taken seriously, it means that UK consumers, willing or otherwise, have up to seven years in which to convert their existing TV equipment to digital signals - or risk total TV deprivation.

Two months ago media regulator Ofcom published a provisional timetable for switchover, the rollout beginning in 2008 in the Scottish borders region and ending in the Channel Islands in 2012.

The watchdog, however, qualified these dates saying they required government confirmation - apparently signified in last week's manifesto.

It was also announced last week that SwitchCo, the pan-industry body charged with overseeing the dTV changeover, had appointed Channel 4's Barry Cox as chairman, with high profile marketer Ford Ennals as chief executive [WAMN: 15-Apr-05].

In the run-up to the 2012 deadline there will be a massive campaign of persuasion to convince the British public of the benefits of going digital. It is expected to be a tough assignment as the enthusiasts - around sixty per cent of all UK homes - have already taken the plunge.

Of the remaining 40% many, perhaps half, will be waverers; the remainder diehard oppositionists. Cox and Ennals can expect an uphill struggle.

Warns Allan Williams, senior policy adviser at consumer lobby group Which: "Consumers may see the benefits of digital television but they don't necessarily see the benefits of switchover. There are still concerns about affordability, availability and viability."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff