It’s the end of the line for analogue TVs

Posted on: 07 July 2010 by Mark O'haire

The last traditional TV set has finally been sold on the UK's high streets as we gear up for digital Britain nearly 85 years after inventor John Logie Baird put the first on display.

The death of the analogue television set has officially been confirmed, nearly 85 years after John Logie Baird held his first public display of the capabilities of the box in the corner of the living room that has transformed our lives.

All the major high street electronics retailers have now stopped selling analogue sets after quietly running down their stocks in recent months, in preparation for the switch to digital terrestrial television (DTT) by 2012.

Last month, for the first time, there were no sales of analogue TV sets in the UK, according to figures published by the organisation responsible for helping viewers switch, Digital UK.

With 5 million homes now transferred to a DTT-only signal and 11 million more due to switch by the end of 2011, new analogue TV sets are of little use to viewers.

And even though the process of turning off the analogue terrestrial television signal region by region across the UK will continue for two more years, in practice switchover has already nearly been achieved.

Out of 26.8 million UK TV homes, 23.8 already have digital – via DTT (Freeview), satellite (Sky, Freesat), or cable (Virgin Media) – according to figures from TV ratings body Barb.

The phasing out of analogue television began in 2005 after the government announced the country would switch to digital, region by region, by 2012.

About 20% of the country has already been converted – the Border region, the West Country, Wales, the north west and west of England.

The north of Scotland is currently being switched, with central Scotland and the Channel Islands following later this year. But next year will be even busier with 11 million homes converting in Yorkshire, the West Midlands and the east of England.

London, the south east, Tynes Tees and Ulster will be the last regions to switch in 2012.

There have only been a couple of glitches – some viewers have struggled to retune their set-top boxes and in some parts of the north west, viewers got Welsh television when their region's analogue transmitter was switched off.

With the switch going more smoothly than expected and by working closely with local charities to let vulnerable viewers know what was happening, rather than running long expensive national advertising campaigns, Digital UK has a projected £55m surplus from its budget that will be handed back to the government in 2012.

In 2005, it was allocated £201m to fund nationwide switchover communications campaigns telling people when their region was being switched from analogue to digital and how to deal with it.

Digital UK's surplus is in addition to the £250m expected to be left over from the 'Switchover Help Scheme', a pot of money set aside from the BBC licence fee to pay for the most vulnerable in society to get digital TV.

Digital UK also said research showed that when over-65s switched to digital TV, it gave them the confidence to try out other new technologies.

Around 64% of late converters to digital TV said they now want to try other gadgets.

Personal video recorders such as Sky+ were the most popular digital devices the over-65s were keen to try (36%), with the internet in third place on 28%.

Most of them also said they would rather give up having a mobile phone or going to the cinema than lose their digital television.

Need help switching?

Some older and disabled viewers are actually able to benefit from an official scheme to help them with the digital switchover. The Switchover Help Scheme, run by the BBC, offers everyone aged 75 and over and eligible disabled people everything they need to switch one TV to digital. That includes anyone who is a resident in a care home.

For £40 the Help Scheme offers equipment, installation if needed, a demonstration of how it all works and aftercare for a year - including advice about retuning. People who are eligible and also on certain income related benefits can get this help for free.

The Switchover Help Scheme has already helped well over 350,000 older and disabled people in areas that have switched to digital so far.

Readers can find out more about the help available, and if they're eligible, at www.helpscheme.co.uk.

Who's eligible?

People are eligible for support if:

  • They are aged 75 or over, or
  • They have lived in a care home for six months or more, or
  • They get (or could get) Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Constant Attendance Allowance or mobility supplement, or
  • They are registered blind or partially sighted

The eligibility criteria was set by Government. People are eligible from eight months before the first switchover in their ITV region until one month after the final transmitter switchover in that region.

How do people get help?

The Switchover Help Scheme write to all eligible people in the run up to switchover. The recipients simply need to respond to get the help required.

What help do they get?

  • A choice of easy-to-use digital equipment
  • Someone to install it and demonstrate how to use it in their homes
  • A new dish or aerial where we can, if needed
  • Free aftercare for 12 months, including help with retuning

How much does it cost?

Support from the Help Scheme costs £40 for the standard offer. It's free to eligible people who are also on these income-related benefits: pension credit, income support, income-based jobseekers allowance or income-related employment and support allowance.

Have you been switched over?

Are you ready to tune in to digital TV? Find out with our guide here.

TV memories

Do you remember your first ever television you owned? How old were you when you bought it and how did it change your life? Do you still find the TV an essential part of home life?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below or sharing your views with other readers in the 50connect forums.

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