A lack of understanding of the digital TV switchover help scheme package for the elderly and disabled has been found in the official report into the first live UK digital switchover in Whitehaven in Cumbria.
The Whitehaven report (fastlink.headstar.com/copeland1) is published by Digital UK, the broadcaster-funded body charged with overseeing the switchover from analogue to digital TV signals across the UK between now and 2012.
It found that on the whole Whitehaven residents were well informed about switchover when it took place last November, with 95% of people in the area aware of the process a year before it happened.
However, while many were also aware of the existence of the help scheme which provides a digital set-top box and installation assistance, the system of charging for help was not well understood.
The help scheme is offered free to those on certain benefits and to other eligible TV users for a payment of 40 pounds. However many people did not realise that the 40 pound charge is subsidised, and provides a range of assistance worth far more than the charge including an accessible set-top box; installation and advice; and, where necessary, the installation of a new aerial (which alone can cost more than 80 pounds).
The misunderstanding of the scheme’s value could help explain an extremely low take-up of the subsidised scheme, which totalled just 14% of eligible households, the report finds. In contrast, take-up figures of 50% were reported among those on lower incomes who were eligible for completely free assistance under the scheme.
A programme of community engagement was undertaken to in Whitehaven spread the word about the switchover and sources of help. Digital UK opened four help centres, while the charity Age Concern organised over 100 small drop-in sessions in different community locations.