DCMS takes digital TV push to the public

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is this month set to launch the first stage of what will become a major consumer PR campaign to raise awareness of the impending switchover of UK TV signals from analogue to digital.

It has hired Harrison Cowley after a competitive pitch to begin the national and regional media relations drive. This is intended to target in particular people planning to buy a new TV in the run-up to Christmas, said HC deputy chief executive Loretta Tobin.

‘The whole country will eventually switch to digital. The process will be complicated but we will be distilling the message into short, simple soundbites. We don’t want to create a panic about it,’ she said.

The switchover will affect all viewers who can only receive the main terrestrial channels – BBC1, BBC2, ITV, C4/S4C and Channel 5, where available – through their TV aerial.

The five-month consumer PR campaign will pave the way for what is expected to be a major marketing drive aimed at ensuring the public is aware of the switchover.

Targeting the national and regional press, the key message HC has been charged with delivering is that all TVs will need to be converted to receive the digital signal either by the purchase of a set-top box or by buying an integrated digital TV with an in-built digital tuner.

All of the agency’s eight regional offices will work on the account.

To date, PR work by the DCMS and DTI press offices has been focused on raising industry awareness of digital TV. Retailers in particular have been encouraged to train their staff in the new technology.

HC will also have to overcome public misunderstanding and low levels of trust on the rationale behind the Government’s decision to switch to digital. These were identified as key concerns in research commissioned by Broadcasting Minister Andrew McIntosh.

There is also doubt about whether members of the public who might struggle

to pay for digital TV will be offered financial aid.

Ofcom has proposed that the region-by-region analogue switch-off should start in 2007 and be completed by 2012.

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