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Digital Switchover Help Scheme

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what account has been taken of the continuing development of the (a) technology and (b) options available in relation to digital switchover in decisions over the form of assistance on offer. (149753)

In order to take into account the continuing development of the technology, an emerging technologies group will be established. This group will consider such developments and, where appropriate, will make recommendations to the BBC and DCMS to amend the help scheme’s core receiver requirements accordingly.

The scheme will be platform-neutral and will therefore allow those eligible to choose from the range of options where they are available. Those opting for cable, satellite or digital TV via a phone line, will have to pay any difference in cost.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement on Government support for pensioners and vulnerable groups preparing for digital switchover. (150004)

The digital switchover help scheme will be available to households where at least one person is 75 years or over, severely disabled or is registered as blind or partially sighted during the eligibility period, which starts eight months before switchover in their region. The scheme will provide equipment to convert one TV set to the most cost-effective digital platform in the relevant area. Where necessary, there will also be an in-home service to help with the installation and use of equipment, or the upgrading of an aerial. Those eligible for the scheme will also be able to opt for an integrated digital television or personal video recorder. It will also be possible to opt for a different digital platform (broadband, cable, satellite or terrestrial) from the one proposed by the scheme. The scheme will make a financial contribution towards these alternative options, but the eligible household would need to meet the cost of any shortfall or continuing subscription.

Where the eligible household opts for the digital terrestrial platform, the scheme will provide a set top converter box which meets the scheme’s core receiver requirement. This incorporates a number of features, such as audio description, which are intended to be beneficial to the targeted groups.

There will be a £40 charge for the help scheme, but where the qualifying person is also in receipt of certain benefits, the assistance will be provided free of charge. Eligibility for the scheme will be based on Department for Work and Pensions data, which enables the scheme to target communications thus avoiding complex application forms and the need for complex and costly verification procedures.