Smith calls on digital to unite

Culture secretary Chris Smith has called on rival digital broadcasters – currently warring over access to sports rights – to launch a joint advertising campaign to explain digital TV to viewers.

Smith told TV executives at the weekend: “You have unparalleled access to the viewers of this country, and you need to work together in order to give them the information they need – and the enthusiasm they can have.”

So far the commercial digital TV providers have thrown millions of pounds into promoting their separate platforms. There have been bitter disputes between them over the compatibility of their different TV systems, the refusal of ITV to go on SkyDigital and most recently the availability of sports rights.

Smith told the Royal Television Society conference that viewers are “all too often simply confused” about what digital means, and that no one is promoting it as a whole.

But a Sky spokesman says: “It’s not something on our agenda at the moment.”

An ONdigital spokeswoman says the broadcaster would be prepared to support the idea in principle, but that there are no current plans.

Smith created headlines with his speech after he outlined proposals to switch off the analogue television signal between 2006 and 2010. He also announced that broadcasting regulation would be radically reassessed, including major legislation in the next Parliament, giving hope to ITV which is lobbying for more relaxed controls over the programming mix it is forced to show.

ITV argues this is essential for it to compete on the same terms as the rapidly-growing number of more loosely regulated commercial channels.

ITV chief executive Richard Eyre says: “You cannot regulate ITV with reference to the BBC.”

see Torin Douglas, {storyLink(“MW199909230074″,”Why more free-to-air channels could speed up the digital switch”)}

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