Across the UK, and indeed the world, there is a rush to digitisation – running services online. The push towards IP television – that is, television that is accessed solely rather the internet, is no exception.
But whilst for many this offers a world of on-demand content, for those experiencing digital poverty, broadcast services are essential.
Today’s new report, backed by the Broadcast 2040+ Campaign, serves to highlight the incredible lifeline that broadcast TV and radio services provide for millions.
As well as the infrastructure changes needed to support a smooth experience, and the obvious costs for those who would need new television sets, the monthly costs of internet access mean that universal access to television and radio services would likely be lost if broadcast signals were switched off.
Millions still live in digital poverty within the UK. The myth of shared experiences during the pandemic, or that digital inequalities were somehow ended during the peak Covid years, can lead policy makers to believe that digital access is everywhere.
With 1 in 5 older people in extreme digital poverty (Deloitte, 2023), lack of access to online services remains a massive issue for older people who can neither afford connectivity nor have the skills to get online.
The cost of connectivity is also a barrier for young people. 1 in 2 people on low incomes also experience digital poverty due to the affordability of not just kit, but the monthly costs of broadband or data.
CAB research in 2023 found that 1 million households in 2022 had turned off their broadband connection due to the cost of living crisis. This mirrored our own research in December 2022, via YouGov, that found 36% of adults had cut back spending on digital access due to cost.
Today’s report doesn’t suggest an improving picture. UK take-up by 2040 for high speed internet shows nearly 1 in 5 would remain without that service across the whole of the UK, for a number of reasons – including cost.
Those that face this barrier mustn’t be forgotten in the rush to perceived progress.
At the Digital Poverty Alliance, we are focused on protecting the people that would be at risk of greater exclusion if online only television became the prevalent form of consumption.
The principle of universality must be protected, and until affordability concerns are addressed and sufficient speeds provided, the current hybrid system must remain in place.
This is the only way every household will have access news, education and entertainment and we guarantee no one is left behind.