Nine years after the first official digital terrestrial signals were transmitted in the UK, the Cumbrian town of Whitehaven last night began the country’s analogue switch off. At 02.00 BST the analogue signals of BBC Two were switched off to be followed at 02.37 by the launch of a new high power digital multiplex. The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden and Finland have already completed the digital switchover process.
“We are pleased to confirm that the first stage of the project for Digital Switch Over in the UK has been a technical success“, said Peter Heslop, DSO programme director at transmission company Arqiva. The high-power signal is now being transmitted from three relay sites at Whitehaven, Eskdale Green and Gosforth. “What we are doing at Arqiva forms a crucial part of the DSO project and will ensure that almost all of the UK will be able to receive free digital terrestrial television through a roof-top aerial.”
The next few days and weeks will see as to whether the campaign run by Digital UK has persuaded viewers to upgrade their equipment. The switchover body quoted GfK/NOP figures indicating nine out of ten viewers had purchased new digital TVs or set top boxes for their main TV set. The challenge will be the second sets and aging domestic TV aerials.
Whitehaven’s three remaining analogue channels – BBC One, ITV1 and Channel 4 – will be switched off on November 14. The process will continue next year in the rest of the Border Television region and run through until 2012. During the course of the switchover, availability of DTT and the so-called Freeview platform will be extended to 98.5% of UK households from the current 73%.