Ireland can learn from UK digital switchover

19 Sep 2008

Ensuring Irish citizens are fully aware, not only about digital terrestrial television (DTT) but also about analogue switch-off and digital switchover, is one of the big challenges facing the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI), its chairman Conor Maguire said today.

It’s 20 years since the enactment of the Radio and Television Act, heralding the birth of independent broadcasting in Ireland. There has been huge change and growth in the sector since then, and the BCI has extended its remit to include television licensing, the Broadcasting Funding Scheme and the digital terrestrial television (DTT) licensing policy.

Alex Pumfrey, programme director, Digital UK, talked about the UK’s digital switchover experience to date at the BCI’s National Broadcasting Conference, where Maguire was also speaking.

“Digital switchover is off to a successful start in the UK, where Copeland and Cumbria switched late last year. Over 87pc of UK homes are already enjoying the extra choice that digital TV brings, but we’ve got a way to go, with 14 switchovers next year and another 58 through to 2012, when the UK will be fully digital,” he said.

“I know Ireland is making rapid progress towards the rollout of DTT and digital switchover, and I believe the UK has some useful lessons to share. High-quality and competitive digital TV offers from all platforms, a firm timetable and an effective communications campaign have all proved critical ingredients for successful switchover to digital TV.”

The blurring of the lines between media will be a major challenge for future regulation and the emphasis has to stay on content, according to Maguire.

“Technologies will always continue to evolve and change, but it’s important our approach to content regulation is appropriate and in line with regulatory principles of flexibility, consistency and fairness,” he said.

By Sorcha Corcoran