Digital switch controversy: Help Scheme responds

Digital switchover map
Digital switchover map

The Help Scheme that chose Sky to provide the over 75s and vulnerable with help for the digital switchover has insisted that the satellite broadcaster's free trial of Sky+ was within the guidelines set out by the government.

Accusations have been made that Sky offering Sky+ for two months (and then sending the eldery people it has helped a letter telling them they will lose extra functionality) is likely to confuse the people it's meant to help.

But a Help Scheme spokeswoman insisted to TechRadar that Sky conformed to their 'high standard of care and service' and offered the best value deal.

"Our sole focus is to make sure we deliver the best possible service to eligible elderly and disabled people, to make sure those most in need keep their TV at switchover .

"We have to operate the Help Scheme in a way that is both platform neutral and good value for money to the BBC licence fee payer.

Sky chosen

"Sky was chosen to supply the standard offer in the Border region because, firstly, Sky has committed to deliver the high standard of care and service that the Help Scheme requires for older and disabled eligible people, and only then, because it represented the best value for money to the Help Scheme.

"It's important to note that Help Scheme eligible people are given a choice of several different ways to go digital, including a Freeview box delivered for the same cost as the standard offer, or other options to convert one TV at slightly higher but still subsidised cost.

"We are now delivering the Help Scheme on the ground in the Scottish Borders, and, though it is early days, so far we are receiving the expected level of response with no indications of consumers having major issues, so that is encouraging.

"We are, of course, keeping a close eye on how our help is being received by eligible people."

Trial offer

The Help Scheme spokeswoman also responded to claims that Sky were in a unique position to offer the most fiscally viable service by offering trial periods that would require the person aided to then pay them money to keep their equipment operating to its full potential after the two-month trial ended.

"We operated a rigorously fair selection, weighing Sky against other potential suppliers of the standard offer, following the process outlined in the Scheme Agreement between the Government and the BBC," said the spokeswoman

"It's quite unwarranted to assert that eligible people will be exposed to 'heavy-handed marketing'.

"We explain their digital choices simply and clearly, and tell them at the start they do not have to pay a subscription for the service.

"Sky remains committed, as part of its agreement with the Help Scheme, to refrain from marketing directly to Help Scheme customers for 13 months after the last transmitted switches in their region."

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.