digital-al2Whitehaven will become the first English town to have entirely digital TV on November 14, 2007. The Cumbrian town of 25,000 homes will swap analogue BBC2 for its first digital multiplex on October 17, with analogue BBC1, ITV1 and Channel 4 going off four weeks later.
The switch is being coordinated by Digital UK, and will be a test of its campaign to raise awareness and the government’s measures to help elderly and vulnerable viewers make the digital switch. Viewers nationally are being targeted through promotions on the BBC and commercial TV, including a sponsorship deal with Channel 4 quiz show, Countdown.

Six months before switch in each region, every home will receive two letters to advise them how to go digital, there will be campaigns in the local press and radio, and every home will also receive a letter about the help scheme. Onscreen captions will appear between programmes encouraging people to prepare for the switch, and in July, Five will be available in digital – the first time it’s been on air in Whitehaven. There’s also an education programme to teach primary-school children in each region about Digital Switch – presumably to maximise the pester power for parents to get CBBC and CBeebies.

The change in Whitehaven will take place at around 2am on October 17, when analogue BBC2 will be replaced by a digital multiplex comprising BBC1, BBC2, BBC Three, BBC News 24 and CBBC. Four weeks later, on November 14, the analogue signals for BBC1, ITV1 and Channel 4 will be switched off, and the remaining digital multiplexes will go live.

At the end of this year, Digital UK will announce a switch date for Selkirk in Border, the first major region to go digital, soon to be followed by dates for Caldbeck in Border, and the HTV West transmitters. Britain’s first digital switch experiment took place two years ago, in the villages of Ferryside and Llansteffen in South Wales.

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By Expat