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UK confused on digital

June 27, 2008

The government is confusing consumers and putting taxpayers’ money at risk with its plan to switch off the analogue television signal by 2012, a parliamentary committee has found. The report by the public accounts committee into preparations for the digital switchover prompted opposition MPs to accuse the government of financial mismanagement and of failing to ensure the project was accountable to parliament.

The committee criticised the departments for culture, media and sport and for business, enterprise and regulatory reform for handing over the £803 million (E1bn) budget for the project to the BBC, making it more difficult to keep track of spending.

“The government has decided to pay over £800m of ring-fenced licence fee money to the BBC to fund digital switchover, without either ensuring adequate accountability to parliament or spelling out exactly what it wants for the money,” said Edward Leigh, chair of the committee. It believes £250m could go unclaimed from the scheme to give all 75+ year olds a subsidised STB.

The report found that half of all sets sold in the first seven months of last year were analogue ones that would need an additional set-top box if they were to work following the switchover.

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