BBC wins licence to show 27 digital channels

UK broadcaster BBC is now firmly in charge of making sure that the conversion from analogue to digital television in Britain proceeds smoothly. It has been awarded the three licences which were left vacant after the collapse of ITV Digital.

Tenders were invited for the licences in March after ITV Digital was forced into administration due to losses which exceeded 1 billion.

As per the 12-year deal announced by the Independent Television Commission the consortium which is led by the BBC and BSkyB can start its new digital terrestrial service later in the year.

Viewers will now get a bonanza of 27 digital free-to-view channels. In addition they will also enjoy radio and interactive services, through an existing aerial. The only cost incurred is that of a set top box for around 100.

Reports indicate that the decision to give the licences to the BBC rather than a rival bid from ITV and Channel 4 gives a fresh start to digital terrestrial television.

The Governments aim to switch off the traditional analogue signal by 2010 can only materialise if 95 per cent of homes have access to digital.

Right now less than half the number have digital. Menawhile commercial broadcasters in Britain criticised the alliance between the BBC and BSkyB as being nothing more than "digital land-grab".

Under the BBC consortium, called Free To View, viewers will receive the five current analogue channels - BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 - plus several digital services including CNN, ITV2, BBC4, and the children's channels CBeebies and CBBC. 

They will also get three Sky channels: Sky News, Sky Sports News and Sky Travel. 

The corporation said it will spend 3.5 billion of licence fee payers' money on the new service over the next 12 years, including more than 5 million a year on marketing.

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