‘Digital switchover’ is the term used to convey to the public the compulsory abolition of the conventional analogue television system, to which every household became accustomed in the twentieth century, and its replacement by digital television. It sounds a more positive term than the harsher alternative ‘analogue switch-off’. As the policy bites, with implications for all consumers, this account explains why we are all being compelled to switch. It is a story with a cast of politicians and media barons and a good plot with plenty of twists – and is matched by similar experiences in other countries.
The decision-making around switching off the old-style analogue television and converting all television viewing to digital in the UK – and in other nations too – provides an illuminating case study of the interplay between politics and the market. Through a combination of exhortation and regulatory intervention politicians aimed to secure what they wanted from business leaders, and, through a combination of lobbying and commercial action, business leaders endeavoured to achieve their own institutional goals. Both parties knew that at any point the viewing public, as consumers or as voters, could rebel and that consumer persuasion was critical to success.
Keywords: public policy and the market, digital terrestrial television, politics and responsibilities