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Digital Switchover

Volume 448: debated on Monday 3 July 2006

Ofcom estimates that approximately a quarter of homes in the Lewes constituency currently receive digital terrestrial television, although the vast majority of homes can receive digital TV via satellite, with the right equipment. Proceeding with digital switchover will allow all those who currently receive a good analogue signal to receive digital TV via an aerial, ensuring that the vast majority of people have access to a digital platform.

Does the Minister understand the strong feelings of the bulk of my constituents who cannot receive much of the BBC’s television programme output because they have no access to a digital terrestrial set-top box that works in the constituency, and will not have until 2012? Do they not deserve a reduction in the BBC licence fee for the time being? What is the position of those of my constituents for whom, when switch-off occurs, a digital set-top box will still not work and who will therefore have to use a satellite dish, but may be prevented from doing so by planning rules because they live in a conservation area or a listed building?

Obviously we are aware of the problems experienced by the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. We are working towards ensuring maximum access for everybody while preserving the Government’s position of platform neutrality. I remind the hon. Gentleman that switching off the analogue signal in 2012 will automatically provide a major boost to the digital signal. Ofcom is working on how to deal with the small percentage of homes in his constituency that might still have problems. Our hope is that we will have solved that problem by the time of switchover.