UK MPs have warned that the government may have “massively overestimated” the number of people requiring financial help to make the switch to digital television, as a National Audit Office report claimed up to £250 million (E355m) in licence fee cash could be left over from the scheme.
The “targeted help” scheme is funded by the BBC through the licence fee, with £603 million ringfenced to help pay for elderly and disabled consumers to make the switch. Those over 75 or on disability allowance are eligible for practical and financial help in installing new equipment and upgrading their aerials, but only those in receipt of pension credit or income support escape a £40 fee.
The NAO said the charge may have contributed to a lower-than-expected number of consumers taking up the offer of help in Copeland, Cumbria, the first area in the UK to make the switch last year. While warning that it was too early to make definitive predictions, the NAO calculated that if this pattern was repeated on a national scale, £250 million would be left over from the £603 million ringfenced for the switchover scheme.