Fears mount that traditional TV could be „switched off“ within 10 years | Politics | News

Campaigners have heaped pressure on the next government to commit to safeguarding the future of traditional broadcast TV and radio until the 2040s.

They are urging all parties to protect families’ access to cherished terrestrial television.

It comes amid warnings that channels may soon be received through the internet rather than via aerial.

Ofcom has said broadcasters have told them “for the first time” they are expecting to axe channels from digital terrestrial television.

But campaigners say they are concerned by the findings amid fears of “TV exclusion” for older viewers.

In a report written for the Government about the future of TV distribution, Ofcom said about 5.3 million households solely access television over the internet, with most audiences – 17.9 million households – described as “hybrid viewers” using traditional TV and online services.

But it added there were 3.9 million households that “solely rely” on digital terrestrial television (DTT) and its satellite equivalent Freesat.

Under current government policy, terrestrial television is only guaranteed until the early 2030s.

The Broadcast 2040+ campaign – a coalition of voices calling for long-term protection for terrestrial TV – has written to the party leaders, calling on them to protect the future of terrestrial TV and radio services until 2040 and beyond.

With polls predicting a Labour government, the group is seeking a commitment from Sir Keir Starmer to reject proposals that would see terrestrial TV turned off and millions of vulnerable people being cut off from access to TV.

The Labour party is due to unveil its manifesto on Thursday.

Broadcast 2040+ says that without universal, free-to-air terrestrial TV, vulnerable viewers could be forced to pay for costly high speed fixed broadband connections and potentially invest in expensive technology upgrades, or else face TV exclusion.

It could also risk saddling taxpayers with new cost burdens to support a transition to online only TV.

The UK would also lose out on the communications resilience we currently enjoy through the national broadcast network.

Elizabeth Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of the Digital Poverty Alliance, said: “The General Election is a key opportunity for party leaders to protect essential services like terrestrial TV and radio.

“Terrestrial TV remains vital for millions of people across the UK, including many of the most vulnerable people in society. For older people, those living with a disability, rural communities or families facing financial pressure, terrestrial TV is a lifeline. Switching it off would worsen the digital divide across our nation.

“We urge political leaders to commit to safeguarding them until 2040 and beyond.”

The Labour party has been approached for a comment.

Previously the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has said that terrestrial TV and radio will remain accessible „for the foreseeable future“.

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