First Digital switchover trial in Wales



The UK Government is taking its first, cautious, steps towards trialling digital switchover. Residents in two Welsh villages are being polled to see if they are willing to take part in a switchover trial.

If they agree, residents of the two Carmarthenshire villages Ferryside and Llansteffan, who depend on the Ferryside transmitter, will be given free digital boxes. They they will become the first communities in Britain to make the total switch over to digital television.

All homes in the area not yet receiving digital television will get Freeview boxes - with access to 20 digital channels including ITV and BBC channels. Families may then have the choice to top up their box with popular subscription channels like E4.

Broadcasting Minister Andrew McIntosh told the Western Mail that the area was chosen because it is enclosed, relatively small and all 350 homes receive an analogue signal from a single transmitter.

He said:

"We are starting consultation with residents this week. We will kit them up with set-top boxes for all of their televisions and provide them with converters for the video.

"Then the three-month trial will begin in November and, at the end of that time and if everyone agrees, we will switch off the analogue signal for good. This will be a benefit for all the residents so I cannot see there will be many problems but we would work very hard to overcome any objections."

Lord McIntosh said all homes would be able to receive S4C and Channel 4 - after campaigns by Welsh MPs to get both available on digital.

The pilot comes ahead of the planned ending of all analogue broadcasts by 2010. Although ministers hope the majority of homes will receive digital by that time, they have to prepare for the enforced switch over for thousands of families refusing to make the change.

Currently 56 per cent of homes in Wales receive digital television via satellite or the set-top box.