A town in Cumbria has become the first to have one of its analogue television channels switched off. At around 2am this morning, BBC Two disappeared from 25,000 households in Whitehaven and the surrounding area of Copeland. The other analogue channels will follow over the next month; 14 November is the final cut-off point.

Whitehaven and the surrounding Copeland area was chosen to lead the UK's switchover because it's an area that has clearly defined coverage. The switchover will make Freeview available for the first time.

Freeview signal boosted

"There is the biggest benefit for Whitehaven because they haven't been able to get digital television," enthused Digital UK chief Ford Ennals. "As of today, for the first time, they'll be getting a digital signal." Digital UK is the body set up by the government to promote digital television.

"They'll be getting a set of digital channels and they'll be able to get Channel Five which they haven't historically got. So the people here are very excited about it and they've got real benefits," said Ennals.

By turning off the analogue signal it will be possible to boost the digital terrestrial or Freeview signal to reach all parts of the UK, including the 6.8m UK homes which cannot receive it now. The signals will be replaced by full power digital broadcasts with 18 channels over Freeview.

Digital UK says local awareness of the switchover had reached 97 per cent by March 2007 due to an 18-month public information programme.

The rest of the UK will switch to digital TV between now and 2012, depending on ITV region.