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Broadcasting: Digital Switchover

Volume 704: debated on Tuesday 14 October 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Digital switchover is the process by which the UK’s analogue television signals are switched off and replaced by digital television signals. Switchover will take place ITV region by ITV region. The next region to switch will be Border in November 2008.

In order to help those who may otherwise have difficulty in switching to digital, the Government, with the BBC, have established the digital switchover help scheme which provides digital equipment, installation and after-care support to those who:

are aged 75 or over;

have a significant disability; or

are blind or partially sighted.

The help scheme is funded by the BBC (£603 million of licence fee income has been ring-fenced for this purpose).

The scheme costs a subsidised £40 fee for those who are eligible, but is free to those who are eligible and also on some form of income-related support.

After further consideration, I have concluded that it would be reasonable to take the view that anyone resident in a care home is likely to have difficulty in making the switch to digital TV, and therefore should be eligible for help under the scheme. I therefore propose to extend the scheme eligibility criteria so as to include everyone normally resident in a care home. For the purposes of the help scheme, someone will be considered normally resident if they have been in a care home for six months or more, or if a care home manager expects them to have been resident for more than six months by the end of the eligibility period.

It is not possible to estimate accurately the number of additional people who will now be eligible for the help scheme as there are no centrally held figures on care home residents across the UK. However, a large number of those in care homes will already qualify under the existing eligibility criteria and our estimate is that the proposed change will bring about 100,000 new people within the help scheme.