The UK government has committed itself to switching off analogue television when 95 per cent of the population has digital - which could be as early as 2010.
Chris Smith, media and sport secretary has confirmed that once the 95 per cent mark is reached he is "prepared to switch off the signal, provided the affordability has been met."
The government is keen to move viewers to digital as soon as possible so it can sell off the existing analogue frequencies to mobile communications companies. Proceeds from such sales could hit as high as £8 billion.
Smith has refused to outline an exact date for the switch over, but said it could start as early as 2006 and be completed by 2010.
Smith, however, told the Royal Television Society’s convention in Cambridge last week that when 70 per cent of the population get digital TV through either satellite, cable or terrestrial he will be able to come up with "a timetable."
The government is adamant that the digital signal should be as widely available as existing terrestrial transmission, which reaches approximately 99.4 per cent of the population. Digital TV was launched nearly 12 months ago and only around two million of the countries 22 million homes with TVs have switched across to date.
The government is also keen to move consumers across to digital television to so it can deliver Internet and email access to UK households via the medium.
Smith said the government now plans to review the digital changeover situation every two years from 2001 with the assistance of a viewer’s panel.
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