BBC, ITV To Launch Free Digital Satellite TV Network

The BBC Trust has granted the broadcaster permission to roll-out a digital satellite TV service that will be free to consumers, it announced. Codenamed “Freesat” and mandated to be a joint venture, the platform would give viewers access to some 300 TV and radio channels. The corporation is partnering with UK commercial TV leader ITV on the project, Independent reports. The BBC was compelled by the government, in its recent charter review, to help viewers migrate toward digital platforms after the analogue terrestrial TV spectrum is shut off starting next year. Although 48.5 percent of UK homes now receive some kind of digital TV (over half of them over an aerial), with one year to go the majority are still on analog and the Freeview digital terrestrial platform, in which the BBC is also a stakeholder, can be patchy in some regions. The BBC Trust gave the proposal the green light after overwhelming support shown in a public consultation.

Somewhat ironically given it has three ongoing investigations against it currently, BSkyB’s interests might be piqued on competition concerns, however – it already operates a free satellite TV service, also called Freesat but rarely marketed, for a £150 ($300) one-off payment and widespread availability of a rival with the BBC’s might could threaten not just its own version, which is intended to eventually push adopters into its pay-for services, but also its own subscription services.