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Digital Television

A policy framework for accessing e-government services
Contents
Preface 1

Executive Summary 2
Target Audience 2

DTV in the UK 2

Vision 3

Current Initiatives 3

Policies 3

Way Forward 4

1. Television in the Digital Age 5
Digital TV 5

How it Works 6

Interactivity 8

Information Views 9

Internet Access through DTV 9

Standards 10

2. e-Government DTV Initiatives 12
Current DTV Initiatives 12

Central Government – UK online interactive 12

Local Government Initaives 14

ODPM National Project 15

Health 16

3. Vision and Policy Framework 17
Vision 17

Policies to Deliver e-Government Services 18

4. Next Steps 22
Action Plan 22
DIGITAL TELEVISION A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESSING E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES 1

Preface
By Douglas Alexander Esq. MP, Minister for the Cabinet
Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Almost everybody has a television at home. Many have several. Through the
television screen, citizens potentially have a key to a digital world of new
experience, linking them to one another and to information and services.

Digital television is increasingly popular, with more than 45% of UK households
having DTV. The UK is the world leader in DTV take-up, and the Government
has a clear vision on how to develop its potential. Reaching out to people in
their homes, DTV presents a wealth of opportunities to improve the way
Government services are delivered and used. Consequently it alters the way
people interact with Government, allowing citizens to access what they want at
a time of their choosing.

It has the potential to allow many of those who have not so far been engaged by the digital revolution to
connect to information, entertainment and services in a new and exciting way.

There is already extensive activity in the area of DTV. In central government, several departments are engaged in
innovative digital television pilots to trial and better understand how best to use the medium in the delivery of
e-Government services. In particular the Department of Health, the Department for Education and Skills and the
Department of Work and Pensions are carrying out interesting and valuable work, together with last year’s
launch of the cross-governmental UK online interactive.

Local government is very much engaged in DTV, and a wide range of cutting edge pilots are being undertaken
across the country.

DTV is an essential element of the Office of the e-Envoy’s drive to deliver an integrated route to market for
Government via UK online interactive.

All these activities across Government need to be co-ordinated, which is why I have asked the Office of the
e-Envoy to publish a policy document on DTV. The document provides support and guidance in an effort to
ensure the public sector derives the maximum benefit from the work that has already been undertaken. It also
seeks to outline the way forward on the deployment of DTV as a channel for electronic service delivery.

Government will work in close partnership with industry, media and other leading bodies to ensure that DTV is
fulfilling its promise as a primary service delivery channel.

Interactivity through digital television presents us with a tremendous opportunity to bridge the digital divide and
to give all of us the chance to join the digital revolution from the comfort of our own home.
2 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Executive Summary

More than 98% of households possess at least one television set, making it one of the most pervasive, familiar
and accepted devices in the home. Already, more than 11 million households have DTV and use their TV to gain
access to a wide range of programming and a more engaging viewing experience. This makes the UK a world
leader on DTV take-up.

The challenge now is to build on this success. DTV potentially provides a means for Government to reach
virtually the whole population, giving people a new way of accessing government services, taking advantage of
all the features of DTV to blend rich information content with interactivity. It can help overcome social
exclusion, bringing e-government services to people who may currently be reluctant or unable to use them via a
PC. DTV is a channel which can support the Government objective of delivering all services electronically by
2005 and ensuring they achieve high take-up.

This policy framework describes the current state of DTV in the UK, outlines the Government’s vision and
sets out the policies for a co-ordinated way forward on e-government. It outlines the impact of UK online
interactive, which is building on lessons learnt to create a DTV destination delivering services to citizens
more effectively. UK online will provide an integrated route to market for Government, with DTV as an
essential element.

The paper also constitutes a task within the Digital Television Action Plan,1 which is to publish a policy
framework on the use of DTV.

Target Audience
The target audience for this policy framework is primarily strategic planners and communications professionals
in public sector organisations responsible for service delivery. In addition, the document aims to inform a wider
audience of industry stakeholders and citizens of the Government’s vision on the role of DTV in delivering
government services.

DTV in the UK
DTV in the UK is delivered in one of four ways; cable, satellite, terrestrial and DSL (digital subscriber line). Each
platform has given rise to different innovations and is helping to increase the penetration of DTV across the UK.
Government does not favour one platform over another, and the vision set out in this document applies equally
to all four platforms.

There are broadly three types of payment mechanisms viewers can use to access DTV services – free-to-view,
subscription and pay-per-view. Free-to-view services can be viewed by anybody with the appropriate equipment;
with subscription services, viewers pay a fixed fee to be able to access a wider range of channels; and with pay-
per-view, viewers pay a one-off fee to view a particular broadcast.

1
http://www.digitaltelevision.gov.uk
DIGITAL TELEVISION A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESSING E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES 3

There are three different types of interactive service that can be delivered through DTV subject to the individual
platform’s capabilities. These include stand alone information services, as typified by digital Teletext, enhanced
programming services such as the Electronic Programme Guides (EPG) and red button services. Finally there are
interactive services that rely on some form of return path (normally a telephone line), like voting and gambling.

Vision
It is the Government’s vision that DTV becomes a means to provide all citizens with access to
e-government services.

Current Initiatives
Currently, a number of initiatives and pilots from central and local government are being carried out across the
country. This will help Government to experiment and shape e-government services for optimum delivery
through DTV. The many cutting-edge pilots in Local Government and the NHS are making a huge contribution
to this programme. At the centre of Government, UK online interactive was launched in 2002. This gives all of
Government a central platform through which their services can be accessed without duplicating costs.

Policies
The following policies are the results of consultation across central and local government, with industry and the
public. They form the framework that attempts to grasp the opportunity presented by DTV for e-government
service delivery.

1. Government at all levels, from central to local, should evaluate the benefits of DTV as a key
channel for e-government using the strengths of this medium to deliver richer services and
inclusiveness.

2. Government should work with broadcasters, programme makers and Internet Service
Providers to integrate links to e-government services with relevant programme content.

3. Government will develop its DTV presence with UK online interactive as the primary route to
market for Government and other public sector services on DTV.

4. The Office of the e-Envoy will work with and integrate DTV pilot initiatives, for example the
ODPM’s National Project and NHS Direct and share best practice across the public sector. The
Office of the e-Envoy will also publish DTV information and statistics relating to the delivery
of e-government services.

5. The Office of the e-Envoy will consult on and develop standards for accessibility and usability
of Government services on DTV. The Office of the e-Envoy will collaborate with the Digital
Television Project over the development of technical capabilities.
4 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Way Forward
We recognise that delivering the full potential of DTV will require commitment from all concerned. Government
will need to work across the public sector and with industry in an environment of innovation and flexibility.
And we must continue to be responsive to changes in technology, markets and the demands of citizens and
their representatives.

In acknowledgement of this fast-changing environment, we will update this policy document as required – and
as such it should be treated as a living document, including the progress on actions detailed in Section 4. The
latest version of this document will be found on www.govtalk.gov.uk
DIGITAL TELEVISION A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESSING E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES 5

1. Television in the Digital Age

This section outlines the current position of the DTV market in the UK. Take-up figures, how DTV works and is
delivered, content models, and issues of interactivity and standards are all examined. The purpose of this section
is to set the context for e-government service delivery through DTV.

Digital TV
DTV is concerned with the way that broadcast content is encoded for transmission. In many ways, the move
from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting parallels the move from vinyl LP records to CDs.

One of the main advantages of DTV is transmission efficiency – DTV typically supports up to six digital TV
channels in the same ‘bandwidth’ (broadcast spectrum or frequency) required for a single analogue channel.
This allows the delivery of many more channels and programme services. On top of the breadth of choice DTV
offers, the potentially improved quality in picture and sound is noteworthy.

The greatest strategic benefit DTV affords is interactivity. The convergence of the TV and the Information
Technology worlds turns broadcasting from a one-way ‘push’ channel into a medium that allows for two-way
traffic. Interactive communication can range from simple selection facilities, such as an electronic programme
guide or advanced text services, to programme related information (such as multilingual captioning or sports
statistics) and more advanced interactive services such as shopping or banking. These advanced interactive
services require a return path in order to allow a two-way flow of information. BSkyB, ntl and Telewest offer a
return path. Interactive DTV therefore offers a new way of enabling connectivity in the home – with the
potential for much broader penetration than the personal computer.

DTV arrives in the home via a cable connection, satellite dish, aerial or telephone connection. The signal is
digital, like the data on a computer disk, and is passed through a decoder. This can be a set-top box that selects
channels and sends the signals to the TV screen – which can be an ordinary, analogue television set, such as
most people have today. Alternatively the decoder can be built into integrated digital televisions (iDTV) that
already have the electronics inside to decode digital signals, thereby not requiring a set top box for most
interactive services.

Text-based services (Teletext) have already helped to change our attitude towards the TV being a source of
specific information. However, the relatively low bandwidth available on analogue services has resulted in a
limited service. Digital text services provide the opportunity to revolutionise home access to Government, useful
information and other electronic services. This is primarily achieved through improved navigation, content
presentation and access speeds (with caching and/or greater bandwidth).

DTV Take-up
The UK is a world leader in terms of uptake of DTV, ahead of Europe, USA and all the G8 countries. In the first
six months of 2003 the number of households with DTV increased from 43.9% to 45.5%, which indicates
that the popularity of DTV is growing rapidly. The majority of people receive DTV via a subscription (pay) model.
6 1. TELEVISION IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Of the three subscription models available, satellite is the most popular – as of September 2003, BSkyB has
reached almost 6.9 million households. DTV via Cable (ntl and Telewest) has a take-up of 2.1 million homes on
the digital service. In total, there are 9 million households paying for a DTV service and almost 1.8 million
receiving a free-to-view service.

By the end of 2003 more households are expected to have DTV than have internet access. At the moment, DTV
has a higher penetration in the homes of lower income groups than the internet (as shown in the figure
below). DTV promises much greater participation in the information society – with the attendant economic and
social benefits.

Many customers have switched to DTV thanks to the lure of
sheer number of channels, exclusive sports rights, like
Premiership football, or movie channels showing latest
releases. Despite an initially slow take up of interactive
services, more recent evidence suggests that usage is
increasing. Some operators claim that the majority of people
now use interactive services. Yet most evidence suggests that
although the number of people using interactive services is
rising, we have some way to go before using a TV to perform
complex transactions becomes the norm.
Source: June 2003 MORI

How it Works
There are three elements to DTV services: the physical path that the signals take to get to the screen, the
service that assembles programme content and makes it available to users, and the interactive element (which
may include a ‘return path’ to send signals back from the user to the broadcaster). DTV signals are transmitted
in one of four ways: cable, satellite, digital terrestrial TV and telephone connection (DSL):

Cable
This platform has the capacity to offer up to 200 digital TV channels to the home. In addition, a dedicated
‘always on’ broadband digital cable modem is available for fast internet access, as well as a standard telephone
connection – it is this that is used for the return path. There are two principal cable suppliers in the UK, ntl and
Telewest. Under franchise arrangements overseen by the ITC, each company supplies services in different
geographical areas of the country. However, these franchises are non-exclusive and there can be more than one
supplier in any given area.

Satellite
This platform currently provides one-way digital transmission covering nearly the whole country, with capacity for
hundreds of channels. BSkyB is the principal supplier of access services in the UK, but homes with satellite dishes
can receive programming from other providers. While it is technically feasible for satellite to provide a two-way
broadcast path, this is unusual. At present, a telephone line (PSTN) is normally used for the return path.
DIGITAL TELEVISION A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESSING E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES 7

Digital Terrestrial TV
This platform provides one-way digital transmission through the land-based transmitter network, for reception
via a conventional UHF TV aerial.

Channels are grouped into multiplexes. The ITC defines a multiplex as a single digital transmission comprising
several programme services and sometimes additional data services.

The BBC has one multiplex granted under its charter. There are a further five multiplexes licenced under the
Broadcasting Act 1996: one for Digital 3 and 4 which carries ITV and Channel 4, one for BBC, two for Crown
Castle, and one for SDN which carries Channel 5 and S4C in Wales. Each terrestrial multiplex is typically able to
provide up to six channels of similar quality (however, if services are interactive this would likely be fewer). There
is no return path on DTT (in the broadcast stream). Responses to the interactive service can be made using any
appropriate telecommunications service.

Telephone Connection (DSL)
With additional equipment in the home and at the exchange, the bandwidth of a conventional telephone line
can be increased to carry TV signals. Using this technology, the signal for only one TV programme is actually
transmitted to the home. Although this is the personal choice of the viewer made from a wider menu offered
by the service provider, the perception of the viewer is of a wide channel selection. HomeChoice and Kingston
Interactive Television are examples of services that provide video on demand, utilising the above technology.

Charging Models
Many DTV services are available at no direct cost to the viewer beyond the TV licence fee – so-called
free-to-view.

There are two types of payment mechanisms for viewers to access DTV services:

Subscription

Pay-per-view

Free-to-view services can be viewed by anybody with the appropriate equipment – and typically consist of a
range of channels in addition to the current public service broadcast channels. With subscription services,
viewers pay a regular subscription to access a given range of channels. In pay-per-view, viewers pay a one-off
fee to view a particular broadcast such as a film or sporting event.

Interactive Service Types
There are three different types of interactive service that can be delivered through DTV:

Stand alone information services

Transactional services

Enhanced programming services
8 1. TELEVISION IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Consider a travel example. Here the viewer could access travel information
through a travel provider on an interactive menu (stand alone information
service), then book a holiday through the interactive menu (transactional service)
or get more information on a holiday destination featured on a travel program
during the program broadcast (enhanced programming service).

These services, or ‘content’ may be delivered in two ways via digital television:
Transmitted as TV channels and Video On Demand

Conventionally, scheduled programmes are transmitted as TV channels and sent to everyone. In some cases, the
same programme may be transmitted through different channels with staggered timing (eg at 15 minute
intervals) – known as Near Video On Demand (NVOD). This allows viewers a choice of start time, and
consequently provides more control over the viewing experience. Alternatively services such as HomeChoice
enable the viewer to choose the video content transmitted to them. This service gives true ‘video on demand’,
and requires a dedicated broadband digital connection to the TV. In a similar way the new generation of digital
personal video recorders (PVRs) will potentially enhance and change the way in which we watch and interact
with television by giving users greater control.

Interactivity
Interactivity is the critical function that changes the whole concept of the TV. Interactive DTV puts the viewer
much more in control. And with a return path from the TV and/or the ability to connect to the internet, the
television becomes a powerful channel of communication that is available to all sectors of society. Interactive TV
can engage with the individual on a personal basis and allows for a rich array of services to be delivered to the
home. Services can range from simple text information like Teletext to full transactional functionality.

With interactive digital television the TV becomes a means of gaining access to new kinds of information and
entertainment. The Department of Health pilots (see Section 2) have already shown that the provision of
e-health services via DTV reaches communities that are ‘information poor’ and groups such as young men that
are hard to reach by other means.

Viewers can also use interactive TV access for simple applications such as e-mail, home shopping, gambling
and games. Over time, it is anticipated these will move onto a range of other electronic applications and services.
This will require technology challenges to be overcome and users to become more comfortable with the medium.

Interactive viewers will still use the TV mainly for passive, ‘lean-back’ viewing, but they will also become
accustomed to using the ‘lean forward’, interactive features. Enhanced TV in particular offers new potential for
interactivity through the television.

Enhanced TV
With enhanced TV different pictures and text can be transmitted simultaneously through a single channel. There
is no return path, but viewers can select different combinations of pictures and text to be displayed on their
screen using the remote control. The ability of enhanced TV to tie together content, context and convenience
provides significant potential for the provision of interactive services.

An interesting use of enhanced services was the BBC’s coverage of the FA Cup Final in May 2003. Viewers
could switch between the live match, highlights from earlier in the game, statistics, players’ profiles and news
DIGITAL TELEVISION A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESSING E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES 9

reports. The exact depth of functionality depends on the platform used to deliver the content. Further examples
include the ‘active’ digital news channels. Here text can be displayed next to a choice of smaller video windows.

Interaction with the Enhanced TV can be taken a stage further by passing a signal from the viewer back to the
broadcaster using a telephone line or cable connection.

For example, consider an enhanced TV broadcast of a football match where a return path is in place. Here, as in
the FA Cup example, the viewer can choose different camera angles and pull up statistics onto the screen
(which does not require a return path). However, the presence of a return path means the football fan can also
now shrink the picture and whilst still watching the game use transaction services such as placing a bet and
ordering a pizza for home delivery.

The offer of enhanced TV contributes to a subtle culture shift involving increased participation in the TV
experience.

Information Views
As well as offering the potential for a vast number of channels and interactivity, DTV provides information to
the viewer in a number of exciting ways.

At its most simple, this involves text services – built on the same principle as current offerings on analogue
television. The next level of complexity is information specifically tailored to the broadcast being viewed – such
as sports statistics or more in-depth news items. Another facility is the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG),
which is a text-based service providing programme and schedule information to the viewer.

Finally, viewers are able to access a range of sites provided by the platform provider, which are specifically
designed for DTV. These include information services, home banking, gambling, games and shopping (involving
interactivity). By controlling the range of sites the provider can assure functionality, quality of service and
suitability. This type of service is called a ‘walled garden’. Walled gardens also provide an opportunity for
platform owners to generate revenue by charging for ‘plots’ in the walled garden. This approach has its
advantages to users (such as allowing viewers confidence that the content they are viewing is likely to be of a
suitable nature for the whole family) and platform owners (providing a potential revenue stream).

Internet Access through DTV
There are also clear benefits to be gained from connectivity to the internet
both in terms of e-mail and access to the World Wide Web. Satellite and
cable platforms are already supplying the viewer with the option to access
the internet (walled garden and/or full internet access), either as a stand-
alone option or bundled with their DTV offering. The DTT platform is
currently focused on the delivery of the more basic Freeview proposition.
There are, however, set top boxes for the DTT platform (for example the
Netgem box) which give full internet access. This type of box comprises a
bundled offering of digital television (it is a DTT receiver) and internet access,
and clearly offers the potential to increase internet usage and DTV take-up.
A bundled DTV/internet offering is expected to be most attractive to the
proportion of the population that does not have a personal computer with
which to gain internet access.
10 1. TELEVISION IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Moreover the proposition is also attractive to those local
authorities looking for a way to deliver services through
TV, as they would be able to simultaneously move people
over from analogue to digital television in advance of the
switchover, as well as providing useful services (see
Section 2, the ODPM National Project).

Opportunities for increasing internet usage amongst
existing internet users lie in the television’s position of
prominence in the home living room. For existing internet
users, internet access through the TV would most likely
complement rather than replace other internet access
channels. However, it also has to be recognised that some people may not want to use their TV for non-
broadcast viewing purposes.

Though televisions and PCs both have screens, they were designed for different purposes. Web pages have
primarily been designed to be viewed on a PC monitor where the user can interact with the content using a
mouse and keyboard, whilst sitting close to the equipment. A computer screen is typically viewed from about
half a metre distance and is designed to show text and images. On the other hand, a TV screen, although
larger, has a much lower resolution and is seen from much further away at a smaller viewing angle. Text needs
to be much larger on TV. Computer monitors and TVs display their pictures differently. With TV the screen uses
an interlaced display, designed to show moving images, but this can cause fine detail and horizontal lines in
static screens to flicker.

The usual means of interacting with a TV is using a remote control, with limited functionality, although some
DTV keyboards are now available, similar to those available for a PC. Viewing web content on a TV is probably
not going to be a compelling experience unless the content is designed specifically with the restrictions of TV
taken into consideration.

As with PCs, there are also some concerns around full internet access leading to exposure to potentially
unsuitable content. Platform owners are rightly working on how to provide the appropriate level of control
without adding undue complexity or constraining legitimate use.

The facilities provided by DTV give an opportunity for the integration of traditional broadcasting content with
interactive information services. This will bring opportunities for partnering between the suppliers of these
services. There will be new opportunities across the spectrum from design through to management. For
example, an educational programme could provide links to access additional resources or to purchase the
relevant textbook. The convergence of TV and IT also provides equipment manufacturers with an opportunity to
produce new types of integrated devices.

Standards
The key technical challenge of delivering content across DTV platforms is that they each use a different
middleware: cable uses a system called Liberate; satellite uses Open TV and terrestrial employs the open
MHEG-5 standard.

While common standards apply for the basic TV picture and sound, the different proprietary systems above
have become established for the application programming interface (API). The API controls text, data delivery
DIGITAL TELEVISION A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESSING E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES 11

and the return path – the interactive elements of DTV. But there are moves towards standardisation. The Digital
Video Broadcasting Project (DVB), founded in September 1993, is a consortium of currently around 300
companies that came together to establish common international standards for the move from analogue to
digital broadcasting. They have recently completed a suite of specifications called Multimedia Home Platform
(MHP). The DVB specifications for satellite, cable and terrestrial transmission are designed to enable content to
be moved from one platform to another. These transmission specifications have been standardised by the
European Telecommunications Standards Institute. The first receivers with MHP functionality reached the
European market in 2002. The UK Government remains committed to open standards. It is tracking MHP
developments closely and anticipating a move towards it.

Mandating MHP now however, would have
considerable negative consequences for the UK as a
pioneering DTV market. There is a substantial legacy
issue as the UK has the highest take up of DTV in
the world.

The issue of industry standards for DTV is being
addressed through the Digital Television Action Plan.
The plan calls for a single Government approach to
DTV and aims to co-ordinate and harmonise individual
departmental initiatives.
12 2. E-GOVERNMENT DTV INITIATIVES

2. e-Government DTV Initiatives

This section gives a summary of the most significant e-government DTV initiatives across the public sector. It is
not an exhaustive list but provides an overview which demonstrates the breadth and richness of Government’s
engagement on DTV. It also highlights the need for effective co-ordination and capture so that the whole of the
public sector can benefit from the lessons learned and become aligned to the overall vision for e-government
on DTV.

Current DTV Initiatives
Central and local government have run a number of pilot projects on
DTV in recent times. Local government has been experimenting with
a host of services and council offerings, from transport to council tax
payment methods, from education to employment.

Although the potential to deliver e-government services on DTV is
still at an experimental stage, a good sense of what value DTV offers
is being harvested from these initiatives, and used to develop
UK online interactive.

Central Government – UK online interactive
The UK online interactive service, launched by the Office of
the e-Envoy in April 2002, is the key central government
presence on DTV. Currently provided over the BSkyB
satellite platform, work is in progress to extend the service
across all available DTV platforms.

UK online interactive is currently in discussion with ntl and
Telewest about extending the service to their platforms.

UK online interactive is a ‘thin portal’ solution, giving the
public a single access point for all Government services –
not necessarily the only access point.

As a thin portal solution UK online interactive currently offers an easy entry point into government services.

The development of UK online interactive will build on this to provide a primary route to market for
government with DTV a key element of the strategy.

UK online interactive provides information based on key topics and themes. Content is regularly updated. There
is also a searchable database where users can find the nearest internet access point, and an e-mail feedback
facility for comments and suggestions.
DIGITAL TELEVISION A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESSING E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES 13

DTV Pathfinder project

Viewers are able to access the Suffolk County council service through UK online interactive and then from a
Local Selection on the UK online interactive home page. The first phase includes the following features:

• Tell the council about – complaints or suggestions about a variety of subjects eg street cleaning needs,
collection of rubbish, faulty street lights, abandoned cars etc;

• council services – information about council services including descriptions of service and facilities,
images, contact details, opening hours, addresses etc;

• multiple access methods to services eg a-z, key word search by use of district selection or post code
input; and

• navigation and data entry aimed at remote control services, although a free text area is also provided.

Department of Work and Pensions
Whilst the UK Online is providing the central portal function, some departments are advanced in their plans to
utilise DTV for reaching their customers. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launched an interactive
digital pilot service in spring 2002. Largely information based, the service has been available on cable via ntl and
Telewest since May 2002, via BSkyB satellite platform on Sky Active since October 2002, and via UK online
interactive since November 2002.

The service has some interactive elements. Cable and satellite customers can request pension related
leaflets, complete an online survey and calculate their state pension age. Cable customers can also ask a
question or report certain changes of circumstances. These interactive elements will shortly be available to
BSkyB subscribers.
14 2. E-GOVERNMENT DTV INITIATIVES

Local Government Initiatives
Local authorities play a crucial role in the delivery of public
One of the key services offered on the
services. Getting local authorities onto DTV is therefore vital if
Knowsley DTV site is an interactive
Government is to deliver public services (and in particular local
payments facility for a number of
public services) to citizens through the medium.
council services including council tax,
housing rent, business rates and
Local authorities are in many ways pioneering the use of DTV as
sundry debtors.
a service delivery channel. There are many cutting-edge
initiatives in progress across all platforms: in Kirklees, Knowsley,
Newcastle, Birmingham, Suffolk, Somerset, Basildon and
Hillingdon to name but a few.

Suffolk and Somerset are delivered through the UK online
interactive service. These projects are being funded by the
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) as Pathfinder
Projects. Both projects will provide information about a wide
range of local services, as well as a means to allow people to
contact the council. For example, the service could be used to report faulty street lights, non-collection of
rubbish or abandoned cars.

The Suffolk and Somerset projects are still at the early stages of development. By publishing under UK online
interactive they benefit from the prominent position the portal enjoys on BSkyB’s menu system.

Council Services
Knowsley, Newcastle and Kirklees councils are making their services available via cable DTV.

Knowsley Council has since July 2000 provided a DTV service offering a range of council services via the
Telewest cable network to 7,000 homes in the area. Services
offered include: interactive payments facility for a number of A content management system has
council services including housing rent, council tax, sundry been developed for the Newcastle City
debtor accounts and information on job vacancies, training and Council DTV service that allows
childcare facilities, maps of local walks, local history editorial staff within the Council to
information, consumer advice with the facility to request publish information directly to
additional information, and e-mail facility to provide feedback intranet, internet, digital television,
on Knowsley services and requests for assistance. The Knowsley and information kiosks through a
DTV site continues to grow with the addition of a golf booking single template.
system – a pilot with potential for use in many other areas.
Future plans include expanding the service as a tool for
community engagement and including non-council information
and services.

Newcastle City Council introduced an interactive digital
television service via the Telewest cable platform in October
2000. In the two years since, the council has experimented with
the medium to learn about the technology as well as
attempting to understand who would use the services and what
might make them attractive to use.
DIGITAL TELEVISION A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESSING E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES 15

Features of the Newcastle City Council service include allowing
The Kirklees Council DTV project,
customers to ask the council to clear bulky refuse from their
INtouch Kirklees, offers a range of
property or to request job application forms. The opportunity to
services including: A-Z service guides;
make comments for improving council services is also available.
Have Your Say – interactive on line
consultation; on line job vacancies;
Newcastle City Council’s future plans for its DTV service include
community stories; local health
widening the service into a regional offering and extending the
information; Where and What – local
service to include other information sources and delivery
information guide. The INtouch Kirklees
platforms.
site received approximately 1,300
visitors in the first month while statistics
The Kirklees Council DTV project was initially funded by the
also show users spending an average of
HM Treasury’s Invest to Save Budget. The objective of the project
27 minutes per visit to the site.
is to explore and evaluate the attitudes of Kirklees residents to
accessing public information and local services using DTV.

The project, called INtouch Kirklees aims to create an interactive
television site run over the ntl cable platform that contains
information about council services and local health services.
The site went live in July 2002 as a pilot that targeted socially
excluded communities within six areas. It included 523
households. Since then, 14,500 households have been offered
further electronic access channels. Data shows that users spend
an average of 18 minutes on the site with an average of 19 pages viewed.

ODPM National Project
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) is the central government department responsible for local
authorities.

Helping local authorities to get on to DTV has been identified as one of the 10 key National Projects set out in
the Local Government Online strategy.

The ODPM National Project on DTV (known as DigiTV) is using the knowledge gained from the local authority
projects on DTV and building on it. The project addresses the emerging issues around using DTV as a service
delivery channel. It is seeking to answer the question ‘How can DTV be used in the context of delivering local
authority services?’

The answers to the question will result in the development of a viable business case for DTV investment around
the provision of real services to real people.

DigiTV includes the development of a ‘Starter Kit’ – an entry-level product giving a local authority a presence on
all three (pay) DTV platforms, with initially limited but extensible functionality.

DigiTV is led by Kirklees Metropolitan Council and supported by Suffolk County Council, Somerset Online,
Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council and the London Borough of Hillingdon, the ODPM and the Office
of the e-Envoy.
16 2. E-GOVERNMENT DTV INITIATIVES

An important element of DigiTV will be the trial of the Netgem set top box that combines the DTT proposition
(Freeview) with a modem, allowing internet access.

London Borough of Hillingdon is looking to use the Netgem box as a means of delivering e-services to a specific
customer segment – in this case, local authority housing tenants.

Hillingdon Council knows where and who these customers are, and equally it knows what services they use and
when. If it can deliver these services, from the customer’s point of view more conveniently, and from the local
authority’s point of view more cost effectively – without sacrificing quality – Hillingdon will have gone some way
down the road of proving the business case for service delivery via DTV.

Using this type of set top box, the council will have converted a dwelling to DTV in advance of the switchover
from analogue to digital and have the means to deliver services to that dwelling via the internet. This requires
some re-purposing of the local authority’s website, in order to deliver the user an optimal experience. A degree
of expectation management is also necessary, in terms of explaining the set top box to the tenant. It is a means
of accessing local government services – rather than a substitute for a PC.

Health
One of the most important areas for citizens in public service delivery is that of health. DTV has much to offer
in its ability to reach potentially all strata of society. The Department of Health has conducted a number of DTV
pilots. These include the Living Health, Channel Health and Communicopia projects.

The Living Health project involved piloting a range of digital TV health applications to an audience of 50,000
in the Birmingham area via the Telewest cable network. During this pilot, users were able to view 21,000 pages
of NHS accredited health information and advice, use interactive health tools, book an appointment with their
GP, access a local services directory for surgeries and pharmacies etc. The project also included NHS Direct
inVision, a service that allows callers to view a NHS Direct Nurse on-screen. The nurse was able to show videos
and images to help identify medical conditions and advise on the best course of action.

Channel Health involved piloting a series of broadcast TV
Over 45% of Telewest customers in
programmes on maternity to a national audience of more than
Birmingham used the Living Health
5 million, with linked interactive information services via the
service at least once during the pilot
BSkyB satellite system. The Communicopia project involved
and up to 50 customers a week also
piloting a version of NHS Direct Online on digital TV in East
requested a live consultation with an
Yorkshire via Kingston Interactive’s ADSL network and in
NHS Direct nurse via their TV with the
London via VNL’s Homechoice service.
NHS Direct inVision service.

The NHS recently announced plans to begin building a cross
platform NHS Direct DTV solution. This will initially be an
information service, but will draw on the expertise and learning
from the three pilots, to eventually deliver a fully interactive
service with a wide range of transactions.
DIGITAL TELEVISION A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESSING E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES 17

3. Vision and Policy Framework

The previous sections have described the environment and issues related to deploying DTV as a channel for
e-government. This section outlines the Government’s vision and the policies that have been developed to realise
it. These policies are a result of extensive work and consultation across Government, central and local,
and industry.

The DTV environment is moving fast. To harvest its potential, Government will need to ensure it remains flexible
and open to innovation whilst providing co-ordination and direction to pull together strategies across the
public sector.

Vision
It is the Government’s vision that DTV becomes a means to provide all citizens with access to e-government
services. It offers citizens the opportunity to engage with government in a new way, through a device they
already trust and feel comfortable with – their television.

The overriding premise when setting out the vision is the fact that once the analogue signal is switched off, all
television will be digital. Consequently after switchover, all people watching television will also be able to access
information and services on it. As 98% of households today have at least one TV, DTV is and will be the most
pervasive Government-to-citizen channel.

One of the main drivers behind Government developing a set of policies for DTV is the expectation that DTV
can help overcome the digital divide – the idea that society comprises the – ‘information-haves and have-nots’.
At the moment, DTV has a higher penetration than the internet in the homes of lower income groups. This is a
good indication that DTV can reach those groups who do not have a PC or who have difficulties using one.
DTV has the potential to deliver much greater participation in the information society – with the attendant
economic and social benefits.

DTV offers the opportunity for consumers to enjoy a much more stimulating viewing experience than that
which they know today. Digital transmission enables TV to move from a broadcast experience directed to large
audiences, towards personalisation where specific information and services are selected by the viewer. The
potential of DTV to mix broadband, text services, audio visual content, and the internet will transform the way
people use television.

DTV potentially affords all households connectivity to a world of information, entertainment and interactivity.

Government would like to see its services offered on all platforms, harnessing the strengths of each to best
effect. The work being carried out on UK online interactive will create a common entry and access point to
Government information and services on DTV. For users, a key benefit lies in being able to access all
Government services by going to one place.
18 3. VISION AND POLICY FRAMEWORK

Government has a vision for DTV as a channel for increasing take-up of e-government services. The prospect of
accessing services from the comfort of the living room, through a medium people are familiar with, could
encourage people who have so far been reluctant to use electronic services to start doing so. The use of DTV as
one of several channels for delivering electronic services is discussed in the Office of the e-Envoy’s Channels
Framework: delivering Government services in the new economy, published in September 2002.2

Policies to Deliver e-Government Services
Building on the pilot projects and experiences described in Section 2, the following section introduces our policy
framework for developing the role of DTV in delivering Government services. The policy framework integrates
the thinking of the vision and the policy objective and builds on the feedback received through consultations
across local and central Government, the private sector and the public.

1. Government at all levels, from central to local, should evaluate the benefits of DTV as a key
channel for e-government using the strengths of this medium to deliver richer services and
inclusiveness.

DTV presents a unique opportunity for Government to deliver its services right into the homes of citizens.
Although it is one of a number of channels that can be used for e-government, DTV has particular strengths.
These include: the position that TV has gained in most people’s homes as a trusted and familiar medium, its
rich, multimedia capabilities and its ability to address people across nearly all social, ethnic and cultural divides.
There are, though, issues around the extent to which people want to use their televisions for services other
than entertainment.

Recognising that DTV falls within a wider strategy for how Government services are delivered, many
organisations are already exploiting the medium to offer a new means of interacting with the public. The use of
DTV via the UK online interactive should be considered as part of each department’s channel strategy for service
delivery to customers. This in turn should form an integral part of their business strategies and support
Government policies on universal access, transforming Government and social inclusion. The use of any
particular channel will be dependent on the costs and benefits involved.

As Digital TV is a medium still in its early days, promoting awareness of its potential is an important task. The
Office of the e-Envoy will work to communicate these benefits to central and local government departments.

2. Government should work with broadcasters, programme makers and Internet
Service Providers to integrate links to e-government services with relevant
programme content.

2
http://www.govtalk.gov.uk
DIGITAL TELEVISION A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESSING E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES 19

One of the most exciting opportunities offered
by DTV is the ability to mix traditional broadcast
content with interactive services. Already
broadcasters frequently work with Government
to develop public information services, while
maintaining their own independence. One
example is the collaboration between the Police
and the BBC Crimewatch programme (see box
right) which has resulted in linking television
content and a website. Interactive DTV provides
a further opportunity to enhance viewer
participation. Entertainment programmes have
also grasped the opportunities for increased The BBC Crimewatch series is an example of
viewer participation and revenue generation collaboration between a broadcaster and the
through promoting interaction via the remote Police – the programme refers viewers to a
control, SMS text messaging and enabling website for up-to-date and more in-depth
viewers to express their views on the information, the site also provides the
programme content by voting. opportunity to interact.

3. Government will develop its DTV presence with UK online interactive as the primary route to
market for Government and other public sector services on DTV.

The development of UK online interactive will enable Government to provide its services in a more convenient
and accessible way on DTV.

The Office of the e-Envoy will work with departments and the COI to develop the use of the red-button facility
for Government advertising campaigns.

The Office of the e-Envoy will continue to work with local and central Government to support their needs in the
delivery of Government services. This will include developing greater personalisation and localisation and search
together with providing the capability to handle forms and transactions.

A number of Government organisations have already expressed an interest in using DTV to deliver their services.
This is a new and complex area, in which expertise within Government is still developing. Furthermore, the
potential costs to individual organisations for development and carriage can be considerable. By integrating
with UK online interactive, organisations will be able to benefit from experience already gained, share
knowledge and avoid duplicating resource, effort and cost. This also simplifies the relationship between
Government and platform owners, who won’t have to deal with a large number of separate entities within
Government. Furthermore any changes in platform specification will only have to be addressed once, rather
than for each individual organisation.
20 3. VISION AND POLICY FRAMEWORK

It will benefit users in presenting them with a single point of access for government services and information on
DTV. It will also promote common navigation between each service.

To support this policy, the Office of the e-Envoy will consult on and develop detailed guidance for those
organisations seeking to implement services on DTV. Organisations seeking guidance can contact the Office of
the e-Envoy UK online interactive project team by e-mail at ditv@e-envoy.gsi.gov.uk

4. The Office of the e-Envoy will work with and integrate DTV pilot initiatives, for example the
ODPM’s National Project and NHS Direct and share best practice across the public sector. The
Office of the e-Envoy will also publish DTV information and statistics relating to the delivery
of e-government services.

Local authority DTV Pathfinder Projects funded by the ODPM and the same department’s national DTV project,
DigiTV, headed by Kirklees Metropolitan Council are providing exciting and pioneering solutions for using DTV
to deliver e-government services. As a consequence of the innovative nature of these projects the experiences
that are being gained need to be given wider visibility, especially to other public sector bodies that could
develop the ideas and concepts to deliver their own services. The Office of the e-Envoy, as a partner in the
project, is engaging in initiatives focused at sharing experience from the projects and assisting in the
development of best practice. These projects have an important role in helping to shape UK online interactive.

Already departments have made progress in evaluating Pathfinder projects. The focus of these evaluations
should include: patterns of customer usage (eg which customer groups use the service, how they use it, how
often and why); service impact (eg use of traditional services, perception of providers); users experience (eg
trust, usability, perceived value and satisfaction).

To assist with the dissemination of best practice, the Office of the e-Envoy will publish DTV information and
statistics relating to the delivery of e-government services.

5. The Office of the e-Envoy will consult on and develop standards for accessibility and usability
of Government services on DTV. The Office of the e-Envoy will collaborate with the Digital
Television Project over the development of technical capabilities.

People need to be able to find and identify Government information easily on whatever channel they are using.
Clear and consistent navigation is as important for DTV as it is for the World Wide Web. Government’s
presence on DTV needs to become as recognisable to users as a commercial brand. There is considerable work
involved in preparing interactive content, but common templates and design frameworks will be developed to
achieve economies of scale, as well as develop a common ‘look and feel’ for e-government services on DTV.

Different platforms will also need different common templates and design frameworks. The Office of the
e-Envoy will consult on and develop standards on navigation and style for e-government services on DTV.
DIGITAL TELEVISION A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR ACCESSING E-GOVERNMENT SERVICES 21

The Office of the e-Envoy will collaborate with the Government and industry stakeholders engaged in the
Digital Television Project on the application of technical standards to the provision of services. Through this the
aim is to keep abreast of developments and to seek the appropriate way forward for e-government services in
the light of the technical capabilities of each platform.

Government is committed to offering high-calibre public information and services on DTV. Following
consultation with DTV content providers in departments and local government, the Office of the e-Envoy will
publish broad guidelines on usability and accessibility issues relevant to delivery of e-government services.
This action plan is maintained on GovTalk (www.govtalk.gov.uk). Please go to the website to check progress
and links to other information.

We would like to maintain a dialogue with interested parties and stimulate debate. There are two methods to
respond to this policy framework and to engage in discussion. Responses to the Office of the e-Envoy may be
made in writing to:

The Assistant Director, Channels
Office of the e-Envoy
3rd Floor Stockley House
130 Wilton Road
London SW1V 1LQ

By email: jason.burg@e-envoy.gsi.gov.uk

If you would like to make a comment for public consumption, please post discussion points on GovTalk,
www.govtalk.gov.uk
© Crown Copyright December 2003

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