Television

BBC, ITV to launch a free-to-view satellite proposition

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MUMBAI: UK pubcaster The BBC has been given approval by the BBC Trust to launch a free-to-view satellite proposition as a joint venture with ITV in the UK.

Freesat, as it is currently known, will provide a Standard and High Definition (SD and HD) enabled digital satellite proposition with launch anticipated for Spring 2008.

Consumers will be offered up to 200 channels plus full digital satellite interactivity and high definition capability, without the need to pay a subscription.

Consumers will also have a choice of equipment (including both SD and HD receivers, an HD personal video recorder and an integrated digital television), together with a range of installation options.

BBC DG Mark Thompson said, "The BBC's objective in launching Freesat is to support Digital Switchover by providing another way for licence payers to receive digital television channels and radio services, subscription free from the BBC and ITV. Its primary purpose is to drive digital take-up in analogue homes, particularly in those areas which are out of digital terrestrial coverage.

"Freesat also offers a trusted free-to-view digital upgrade path that gives licence payers all the benefits of digital television (notably high definition capability) guaranteed free of subscription."

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade said, "Freesat will build on the success of Freeview by offering viewers a simple and cost effective way of upgrading to digital TV. By filling in the current gaps in Freeview coverage, Freesat will ensure that a free-to-air, no strings attached option for accessing digital TV is available to the whole of the UK ahead of digital switchover. By offering HD capability we will future proof Freesat if, as expected, high definition television continues to capture the imagination of UK viewers."

The BBC and ITV have been working with selected manufacturers, retailers and installers to develop an innovative consumer proposition.

The proposal for a nationally available free satellite platform offered by the BBC working with other public service broadcasters was supported in the Government's White Paper on the BBC Charter.

It said: "The Government is keen to ensure that consumers have as wide a choice as possible of how they get digital TV. We welcome the plans being developed by the BBC and ITV for a free-to-view satellite service alongside Sky's offering and we hope that the other public service broadcasters will join them in this endeavour. This promises to enhance further both consumer choice and competition in the television market."

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