Local MP Mark Reckless has received reassurances from Ed Vaizey MP, the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, that residents in Rochester and Strood will not be left behind when the analogue signal is switched off in 2012.
Mark Reckless MP asked the Minister what steps his department planned to take to assist the elderly and people on low incomes with the planned transition from analogue to digital television and received the following response;
Mr Vaizey: The Government and the BBC have set up the Digital Switchover Help Scheme (DSHS) to offer those 75 or over, disabled and visually impaired people and care home residents practical help to make the switch to digital television on one of their sets.
We estimate that over 7 million households will be eligible for help through the switchover period.
By January 2011, DSHS had mailed nearly 4 million people and completed 430,000 installations and deliveries.
Participating in the scheme costs a subsidised £40. However, help is available free of charge where the eligible person is also in receipt of certain income related benefits.
The help scheme is rolled out in each TV region as switchover approaches and every eligible person in that region is contacted directly by post in the run up to switchover.
The help scheme will:
– provide easy-to-use equipment that suits a person’s needs;
– help with installing equipment;
– fit a new dish or aerial, where they can, if it is needed to make the new equipment work;
– give people an easy-to-understand demonstration of how everything works;
– provide a free telephone support service and a comprehensive network of trained and accredited installers that will be able to deal with any queries about installation or use; and
– develop links with local charities and voluntary groups to identify ways in which they can help support aspects of the Help Scheme.
The scheme is funded through £603 million ring-fenced within the BBC’s licence fee income over the period of switchover.
Mark also asked what steps will be taken to alleviate the difficulties which many households in Rochester and Strood currently experience with digital television reception ahead of the analogue switch off;
Mr Vaizey: In common with other areas of the UK yet to undergo digital switchover, it is the case that reliable coverage of digital terrestrial television (Freeview) signals is currently unlikely to be available in some parts of Rochester and Strood. The primary reason for this is that until digital switchover takes place, the power of the digital transmitters is necessarily restricted to relatively low levels in order to prevent interference being caused to the existing analogue signals. However, when switchover takes place, the power of the digital transmitters will be raised to, on average, 10 times their current levels which will significantly extend their coverage. By the time that the nationwide switchover process is complete, digital TV signals will reach the same number of households as the analogue signals they replace (approximately 98.5% of the UK population).
Viewers in Rochester and Strood can potentially receive signals from a number of TV regions. Viewers that receive Meridian and London ITV services will switch fully to digital in 2012; while any that receive Anglia ITV services will switch later this year.