Jowell unveils £600m switchover support

Tessa Jowell MP

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell yesterday unveiled a £600m digital switchover support package, assisting the over-75s and the disabled with the cost of converting one TV to digital. Jowell told the Commons she would ensure the "structure of the licence fee settlement" would allow several BBC departments to relocate to Salford, and said the licence fee settlement would be revealed "in the New Year".

Opening the second reading of the Digital Switchover (Disclosure of Information) Bill, Jowell told MPs the £600m target support scheme would be part of the BBC's overall settlement, and "ring-fenced to ensure that it cannot be used for purposes other than digital switchover". The cost of running the scheme would not have an impact on the BBC's programme budget, Jowell insisted.

Jowell said those qualifying under the targeted scheme would get help towards the cheapest option in converting their TVs for digital. "If anyone chooses a more expensive option—such as an integrated TV or a subscription cable or satellite service—the help scheme will make a contribution to their costs. It will be funded through the licence fee and the BBC will help to establish and run it."

The Bill—which received its second reading without a vote—will make it legal for the Department for Work and Pensions, its Northern Ireland equivalent, and the Veterans Agency, to share social security and war pensions details with the BBC during the 2008-2012 switchover programme.

Conservative culture spokesman Hugo Swire said it was "quite extraordinary" to be debating digital switchover before the BBC's licence fee settlement was known, and claimed that 10% of the UK population still did not know about switchover.

Lovelace Consulting  |  19.12.2006

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