U.K. Sets Hard Date for Ending Analog TV

It’s now the U.K.’s turn to bring the curtain down on analog television broadcasting, which has existed there in form or another for nearly 80 years. The digital transmission makeover began in 2008, with a formal end for analog now set for Oct. 24, 2012.

Unlike the transition in the United States, the U.K. elected to do a region-by-region switchover. The date for turning off the last analog transmitter was announced on Oct. 14 by David Scott, the chief executive of Digital UK, an organization set up by U.K. broadcasters to coordinate the migration to DTV broadcasting. In making the announcement, Scott, noted that the event would the beginning of a new age in television for the country.

“The analog era was a defining period for TV but the fully digital age will be even better, with a greater choice of channels for viewers everywhere,” said Scott. “I’m looking forward to October next year when we will have brought the benefits of digital to every corner of the country.”

The U.K.’s digital transition program celebrated its midpoint a few weeks ago, with the announcement that more than half the nation’s homes had access to digital transmissions and had made the all-digital move.

The Digital Television Group was established in the U.K. early in the DTV transition to coordinate technology and establish standards for transmission and receiving equipment. Another organization, DTV Services, run by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky Television, and the nation’s television transmitter operating company, Arqiva, is responsible for providing the free off-air multichannel programming tiers that are known collectively as “Freeview.”

Just as in the United States, a DTV “converter” assistance program has been established to help off-air television viewers make the change; however, it is not as far reaching as the U.S. program. The U.K. assistance effort, officially known as “Help Scheme,” is operated by the BBC and is available only for 75 or older, disabled, or living in a “care home.” Help Scheme provides “everything needed” to make the switch, including installation services, and comes with a £40 (about $63 U.S.) price tag. The charge is waived for some individuals on limited incomes.

The final four U.K. regions slated for DTV cutovers include metropolitan London, areas in the south and northeast portions of England, and Northern Ireland.