Stevenage residents' anger at virgin tv switch over

UTTERLY confused – this is how Stevenage residents feel after receiving mixed messages from Virgin Media about the analogue television switch-off in the town next month. The company has even been accused of being disingenuous. After negotiations with Stev

UTTERLY confused - this is how Stevenage residents feel after receiving mixed messages from Virgin Media about the analogue television switch-off in the town next month.

The company has even been accused of being disingenuous.

After negotiations with Stevenage Borough Council, Virgin Media agreed to continue providing analogue channels 1-5 to residents for a further three months after it cuts its analogue transmission to Stevenage customers on April 1.

But this is not the message it has been giving its residents.


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After receiving a number of calls from worried readers claiming they had been told by Virgin Media they will lose all analogue channels from April 1, The Comet decided to investigate.

Calling on behalf of a 91-year-old Stevenage customer, The Comet was told by Virgin Media she will lose all analogue channels from April 1 - up to two years ahead of the national digital switchover.

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At a meeting held for residents by Stevenage Borough Council and Stevenage Homes on Tuesday, Cllr Ann Webb accused Virgin Media of being disingenuous.

"Virgin Media still sent a letter out [after negotiations had been made] that was aimed at frightening people and getting them to sign up to digital," she said.

"I think it's a dreadful thing.

"The people it will upset most of all are vulnerable people.

"It's very worrying, particularly for people on low incomes."

She added: "Right up until it goes past April 1 I am very sceptical. I'm very worried they will just say 'oh well, we have changed our minds'."

Feelings among leaseholders also ran high at Tuesday's meeting.

The council and Stevenage Homes have agreed to install communal aerial systems in flat blocks and sheltered housing schemes so residents can continue watching the five analogue channels until the official digital switchover which begins in Stevenage in April next year.

Leaseholders are being forced to fork out up to �250 each for this service.

One leaseholder said: "We are not being given a choice by the council. We are being told that we have got to have it."

He added: "I will be questioning the cost - �250 each is �10,000 for Harrow Court. If it is costing this much then it isn't value for money."

Another leaseholder said: "It's grossly unfair that people who have Sky have to pay out again."

But Lorraine O'Brien, chief executive of Stevenage Homes, said: "It's the best we can make of the situation we currently find ourselves in.

"We don't want anybody to be disadvantaged who live in a block of flats. We are not going to not do anything just because one leaseholder has sorted themselves out."

A spokesman for Virgin Media said: "Unfortunately Virgin Media was not invited to the council meeting, otherwise we may have been able to address some of the issues raised.

"Nevertheless, we wish to reassure customers who are affected that they will still continue to receive their terrestrial channels 1-5 until July 1, the remaining analogue channels will cease from April 1.

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