Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Ceisteanna (110)

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

114 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding getting an upgrade to the new Saorview service when paying a TV licence in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; if funding is available for those who are not in a position to pay for the new set top boxes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23223/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources)

I am very much aware of the challenges digital switchover brings, in particular for households that are reliant on the existing free to air analogue TV network. The necessary assistance and support for everyone but in particular for those households who need to make the switch to digital is being provided through a substantial national information campaign. In addition there is a community outreach programme aimed at providing local assistance to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in society. As I have stated in reply to previous questions, I do not propose to introduce grant schemes for this purpose.

Experience from other European countries indicates that the cost of set top boxes and other digital receivers reduces as the date for digital switchover approaches, and as competition increases in the market. There is clear evidence that this is now happening in Ireland with affordable set top boxes that meet the SAORVIEW standard on the market, as well as a wide range of suitable digital televisions. A small SAORVIEW TV costs approximately €120 and set top boxes are now retailing from €70 or less. Experience from other European countries however shows that the availability of accurate and reliable information and the provision of practical assistance is the most effective approach towards assisting people in making the switch to digital television.

In this regard, therefore, to overcome the challenges that digital switchover brings, I have undertaken to deliver a substantial information campaign providing households with information on the digital switchover, the 24 October date for analogue switch off and on their options for going digital. This information campaign commenced in quarter four 2011 and includes a dedicated telephone helpline, 1890 840 980, a website www.goingdigital.ie, information booklets, TV and radio ads and a PR campaign. An information booklet will also be delivered to every house in the country in the coming months.

In conjunction with this, my Department has been working to address the particular information and assistance needs of vulnerable households as they prepare to go digital. On January 10th 2012, I signed an agreement with a national voluntary organisation, the Wheel, to develop and operate a nationwide community outreach digital switchover programme (Outreach Programme).

The Wheel, in conjunction with other voluntary and community organisations throughout the country, has now begun to roll out the countrywide Outreach Programme through a network of recently appointed county-based local Champions. The aim of the Outreach Programme, which will provide additional assistance and advice at community level to those who may find the move to digital TV difficult, is to ensure that everybody is made aware of the switchover and that no TV viewers are left without a TV service once the national analogue TV service switches off in October.

A press release issued on the Outreach Programme and is available on the dedicated digital switchover website www.goingdigital.ie, as is the list of local champions referred to above. Please find attached the details in relation to the local champion for Wicklow.

Contact Details: Champions and Organisations

Community Outreach Digital Switchover Programme

County/Area

Champion

Mobile

Email

Organisation

Contact Person

Email

Phone

Wicklow

Eileen Byrnes

01 286 8266 086 036 6471

eileen@ brayareapartnership.ie

Bray Area Partnership Ltd, 4 Prince of Wales Terrace, Quinsboro Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow

Jennifer D’Arcy

jennifer@ brayareapartnership.ie

01 286 8266