UK Regulator Urges Action on Digital Switchover in Television

31 March 2004

The Cheif Executive of Ofcom, the independent regulator for the UK communications industries, has said that Government and industry cannot rely on market forces alone to deliver near-universal switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting in television. In a speech to the Westminster Media Forum, Mr Stephen Carter revealed some of the key findings of Ofcom’s report to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on the prospects for digital switchover. Mr Carter said: “Digital television in Britain has been one of the most successful market-led technologies ever. Our assessment is that the market alone will deliver somewhere between 75-85% penetration. However, if unaided, it will then stall.”

The report concludes that switchover is both desirable and achievable, provided that Government is in a position to give greater certainty over the timing of switchover. Its key recommendations:

  • Greater progress towards cross-party political support for digital switchover.
  • The creation of a new autonomous body, a “SwitchCo” with representation from Government, industry and regulator but independent of all parties, with responsibility for achieving switchover by a specified date.
  • The BBC Charter Review process should be used as an opportunity to put the BBC’s formal commitment to digital switchover on the same footing as other terrestrial broadcasters.
  • The BBC’s commitment to digital switchover should be platform-neutral.
  • Access to free-to-view digital TV through satellite should be improved to encourage take-up of digital services prior to switchover.

Ofcom Website