Blair says digital switch is 'right for Britain'

Prime minister Tony Blair told a Downing Street summit of digital television executives that "digital switchover is the right policy for Britain and we are delighted that it has the support of the industry".

Hosting the summit alongside culture secretary Tessa Jowell, who on Monday said media regulator Ofcom would shortly publish data showing 70% of UK households had taken up digital TV, Blair said a "great deal of progress has been made so far". Blair stressed it was "vital that we continue to work together" towards analogue switchover between 2008 and 2012.

Blair told executives—who included BBC chairman Michael Grade, ITV chief executive Charles Allen, BSkyB chief executive James Murdoch, Channel 4 CEO Andy Duncan and Channel Five CEO Jane Lighting as well as representatives from the retail and consumer electronics sectors—that the communications strategy for switchover had to be "very clear".

Digital UK, the industry-funded group charged with coordinating the Government's 2008-2012 region-by-region timetable, reportedly told the summit that awareness of digital switchover was increasing.

A spokesman told the BBC News web site that 66% of UK adults were now aware of switchover, up from 61% in November.

According to Digital UK, a million of the 7.5m homes that have yet to make the transition to digital TV intend to do so in the build-up to the World Cup in June. A further 1m intend to go digital in the following year.

The BBC News web site reported that Digital UK expects digital penetration to rise to 80% by this time next year.

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