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Digital Switchover

Volume 468: debated on Wednesday 28 November 2007

5. When he last met Ofcom to discuss digital switchover in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. (167460)

I speak regularly to Digital UK’s national manager for Scotland about switchover, and I also speak to Ofcom in relation to a number of issues, including switchover. Preparatory work is proceeding apace.

I thank the Minister for his answer. However, 20 per cent. of my constituents do not, and will not, receive digital transmissions, and we will not get the digital changeover until 2010. Surely, as the BBC offers a universal service, we are entitled to a rebate until that changeover takes place.

I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend’s point, but he must consider this: if we were to take money out of the BBC’s budget as he suggests, it would be difficult for it to meet the challenging timetable that we have for digital switchover. I cannot therefore offer him any comfort in that regard. What matters is that we proceed as quickly as we can with switchover, as is happening throughout the rest of the world. We need particularly to ensure that older and more vulnerable people are given the help and support that they need—I know that he has been campaigning on this issue—and that remains the Government’s top priority.

My constituents in the Girvan area are in the first tranche for digital switchover in Scotland, but are currently subject to a postcode lottery for both analogue and digital, whereby some people get Ulster TV, some people get Border, and others get access to STV. Now that the digital switchover is happening, can the Minister guarantee that everyone will be able to access STV as their default ITV channel?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the work that she has been doing on this issue. I know that she is due to meet Ivan Kennedy, the community liaison executive from Digital UK, in the coming week. I have alerted Digital UK to the fact that that is the issue that she wants resolved, so I hope that when she has that meeting it will be able to provide her with the answer. In the meantime, I understand that there is a website that people can visit, and if they put in their postcode they will be able to find out exactly which channels they will receive.

As the Minister will be aware, these are tense times for the new Gaelic television channel. The political expectation from me—and from him, I hope—is that it will come into existence in the springtime. When does he hope that it will be available on digital terrestrial television?

The hon. Gentleman is correct. The Government have been firmly supporting that service. He will know from the article that I wrote—in Gaelic—in Scotland on Sunday how committed we are to it. It is our expectation that the service will be up and running this financial year. I understand that it cannot go on Freeview until the switchover, but will be available on other platforms in the meantime. We are committed to ensuring that it happens.