Analogue Television Switch-off

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:37 pm on 15th March 2005.

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Photo of Michael Moore Michael Moore Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 2:37 pm, 15th March 2005

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, not least because we are talking about an area in which Border Television, the ITV provider, has managed to split its signal, so that on the Scottish side of the border we can enjoy Scottish news opt-outs and different programmes from the south of the border. It would be a strange and backward step for people north of the border to be denied access to the Scottish version of the BBC.

I understand that in future people will able to dial up and plug into whichever variation of the BBC they wish to have, through the Freesat alternative. However, many will object to having to have a satellite dish installed in the first place, while there will be others who are not yet aware of the opportunity. The Government and other agencies, such as the BBC and Ofcom, still have a lot of ground to cover in getting awareness of that choice fixed in people's minds. There is serious anxiety that the reality of the digital switchover, particularly in its accelerated state, will mean that people will have no choice and will have to go for Sky or, in limited areas, Freeview.

Digital television is a major breakthrough, as other hon. Members have said. The hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East pointed that it affects not only television, but the whole range of digital services, which are exciting and for which the Government deserve credit on pushing forward. However, I am concerned that we run the risk of falling flat on our face if certain issues that have been raised today are not tackled quickly.

It is proposed that we in the Borders will switch over to digital exclusively in three years' time. Very few people in south-east Scotland now believe that that will be possible. Whether because of the feasibility or affordability, or because of the choice that they have been given, people believe that there are still serious questions to answer and they will take a lot of persuading. I hope that the Minister will give some of the assurances that we seek and ensure that the Government heed our warnings as they plan the roll-out over the next few years.