Govt lands £55m cash-back from digital TV switch

The UK government is to get a £55 million refund on money it handed over to promote the switchover to digital television.

Digital UK, the not-for-profit organisation formed by British broadcasters to help consumers convert to digital TV, has revealed that it will be able to hand back the money by the time the project is completed in 2012.

The UK's previous Labour government granted Digital UK £201 million to help inform viewers of its planned 'Digital Switchover'. It now appears that the project has gone much more smoothly than expected, resulting in the current Government's £55 million windfall.

Digital UK found that rather than airing the long advertising campaigns originally envisaged, it was more effective to run shorter campaigns and work closely with local charities to educate consumers.

Speaking to the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper, Digital UK Chief Executive, David Scott, said that £26 million of the predicted savings could be released immediately.

The surplus comes in addition to the £250 million that's expected to be left over from the so-called "digital help scheme", a pot of money that the Government set aside to help poorer folk to pay to upgrade to digital TV.

It's expected that the remaining cash will be diverted into ensuring the roll-out of superfast fibre optic broadband services across the UK.

BT has already said it would welcome extra cash to assist in rolling out superfast broadband services, but said: "How these funds are raised is a matter for the Government."

The recently-elected coalition Government has pledged that surplus cash from the digital switchover would be used to, "support broadband in the UK". Other beneficiaries may include a project to prepare for digital radio switchover in 2015.