More than 32,000 households in the Westcountry face television interference from new mobile networks, with remote areas at risk of losing pictures altogether.
Two million homes nationally are likely to need filters installed to make sure their favourite programmes are not ruined by the launch of 4G services next year.
The Government has set aside £180 million to help homes that suffer from flickering screens or a loss of channels because of their close proximity to masts.
But in the House of Lords last week, one peer said she was “not a complete idiot” but had to pay a BT engineer £130 to fit a filter to ease the problem.
The worst affected areas, likely to be in rural parts of the country, will need to be transferred to other technology, such as satellite and cable.
Of 700,000 homes in the West broadcasting region, 32,000 can expect some form of interference, according to regulator Ofcom’s figures.
The new 4G networks, which are already common in other countries, will allow home broadband speeds to be delivered to mobile phones and are seen as vital to boosting the economy, especially in the countryside.
But the Government has been warned the number affected is a “gross underestimate”, while broadcasters say the £180 million help fund is not enough.
Torbay Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders – who sits on the cross-party culture, media and sport select committee – said: “We have to find a way around this so that on the one hand it does not delay 4G but also does not cost households money for the equipment they will have to buy in order for their reception not to be interrupted.”
Spectrum freed up by switching off the analogue television signal is highly sought after by mobile phone companies.
Ofcom is currently preparing to auction off the spectrum, which is expected to raise significant sums for the Government.
Help will be provided for the elderly or disabled. In extreme cases, which are expected to be very rare, the fund will spend up to £10,000 per household to find a solution.
Homes close to transmitter towers will automatically have a filter issued. The filter, which is fitted to a digital television box, blocks out unwanted noise from the 4G signal.
The fund has been set up to collect the money from mobile companies who are bidding for 4G mobile spectrum.
As the 4G spectrum will sit next to that used by the free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DTT), there could be a problem for homes that use set-top boxes.
Around 24 million households watch television through a DTT box. Of these around half use the system as their sole television platform, according to Freeview.
The company claims the majority of those affected will require an aerial installer to complete the installation. It says the total cost will rise to £400 million.
In the House of Lords, Conservative peer Baroness O’Cathain claimed fitting the filters “is not easy”.
She said: “I am not a complete idiot, but I had to pay £130 to get my filter fitted by a BT engineer.
“The reality is that there are lots of people around who are not going to be able to do it.
“I truly believe that two million is a gross underestimate of the number of people who are going to have problems with this.”
But speaking for the Government, Baroness Garden of Frognal said the final figures are expected to be “very much lower than the two million being suggested”.
She said: “In many households the interference will be negligible and easily remedied, and in those cases the filters will be provided free.
“The actual fitting should not prove as much of a problem, but contingency funds will be available if it is.”
Other posts from this source: Western Morning News