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BBC, ITV to launch subscription-free digital satellite service


2 May, 2007: BBC is launching a free-to-view, digital satellite service in a joint venture with ITV.

The proposed service, named Freesat and which would be available all over the United Kingdom, is planned to start functioning in the spring of 2008. It will include HD programming.

BBC currently sends out all its channels via satellite in an unencrypted form.

Satellite broadcaster Sky offers over a hundred other channels free of charge, but requires customers to buy its set-top box to decode them.

Once Freesat starts stars telecasting, television consumers will be able to access up to 200 channels, in addition to full digital satellite interactivity and high-definition capability without having to pay subscription.

The consumers also will be able to choose from an array of equipment ranging from standard-definition and high-definition receivers, a high-definition PVR, and integrated digital television as well as a several installation options.

Mark Thompson, director-general of BBC, says BBCís aim in launching Freesat is to support digital switchover in the United Kingdom by providing another way for licence payers to receive digital television channels and radio services, free of subscription, from BBC and ITV. Freesatís primary objective, adds Mark Thompson, is to drive digital take-up in analogue homes, particularly in those areas which are out of digital, terrestrial coverage.

According to Michael Grade, ITVís executive chairman, Freesat would build on the success of Freeview by offering viewers a simple and cost-effective way of upgrading to digital television. Freesat, by filling in the gaps in Freeview coverage, will ensure that a free-to-air, no-strings-attached option for accessing digital TV is available to the whole of the United Kingdom ahead of digital switchover.

Freeview is at present inaccessible in some areas of the United Kingdom because the signal is too weak to reach those places. The satellite service proposed to be launched is seen by BBC and ITV as a way to bring free-to-air digital television to viewers in these areas, too.




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