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Cut-price Freeview boxes to sell for £60

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The price of a Freeview digital terrestrial TV decoder is being slashed to £60, fuelling hopes it will become one of the most popular electronic gadgets in sitting rooms across the country.
The first cut-price adapters will hit the high street at the start of July, according to Welsh consumer electronics manufacturer Lidcom.

The boxes have retailed for £100 since the Freeview service launched last October and offer free access to eight BBC channels and 22 commercial services including ITV2, UK History and Sky News.

Freeview has already proved to be an unexpected hit following last year's ITV Digital fiasco, which many believed would put consumers off upgrading their TV sets.

The BBC has worked hard to promote Freeview as an upmarket service designed to appeal to the digital refusniks who do not want to pay for sports and movies but would like more choice.

An estimated 600,000 Freeview boxes have already been sold and a further 900,000 former ITV Digital subscribers watch the service using their old equipment.

Freeview insiders predict about 2 million boxes will have been sold by Christmas and recent figures from the independent television commission showed free-to-air digital TV was growing faster than pay-TV services for the first time.

Roger Geurand, the chief executive of Lidcom, said the company was on the verge of signing licensing deals with a number of brands that would sell the box under their own name.

"We are not a household name and do not intend to be. We are very flexible and adapt our design to our customers' needs," he said.

Industry experts have long predicted that once the price of Freeview adapters falls to below £50 it will boost the take-up of the technology significantly.

The success of Freeview is integral to the government's target of switching off the analogue broadcasting network by 2010.

Ministers haves said that at least 95% of the population must have digital TV before the signal can be switched off and, with many consumers unwilling or unable to pay for satellite or cable services, it is hoped Freeview will fill the gaps.

Mr Geurand added Lidcom was working on designing more advanced adapters that, like Sky Digital boxes, incorporate hard disk drives.