BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Business  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
E-Commerce
Economy
Market Data
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
BBC to offer 24 digital channels
Digital set-top box
Set-top boxes should cost less than 100
The BBC has promised a "fresh start" for digital television in the UK, after winning licences left by the collapse of ITV Digital.

The publicly-funded broadcaster will offer 24 free-to-air digital channels, including some from satellite broadcaster BSkyB, as well as interactive and digital radio services.

Channels include:
BBC One
BBC Two
BBC Choice
ITV1
ITV2
Channel 4
Channel 5
BBC News 24
Sky News
CNN
CBBC

"This is the best outcome for viewers," said BBC director general Greg Dyke.

The bid, made in conjunction with transmission company Crown Castle, beat off a rival offer from ITV and Channel 4, which also included a pay-TV operator called Freeview Plus.

Other bids came from Digital Television Broadcasting (DTB), which was backed by the venture capital firm Apax Partners, and from SDN, led by United Business Media and the cable television operator NTL.

The competition for the licences followed the failure of ITV Digital - a company owned by ITV firms Carlton and Granada that collapsed under the weight of an unprofitable contract to broadcast Nationwide League football.

Autumn launch

"The selling proposition is quite clear," Mr Dyke said.

"If you go up to a shop and buy your box for less than 100 - a one-off payment - you can have 24 television channels."

BBC Director General Greg Dyke (left) and Crown Castle's Peter Abery (right)
Greg Dyke and Crown Castle's Peter Abery celebrate victory

The package is set to contain all the BBC's digital channels, and also some channels from BSkyB including Sky News and Sky Sports News.

Viewers will be able to watch the channels by buying a digital adaptor, or through an integrated television set.

Consumers with ITV Digital set-top boxes will also be able to watch the new service, as long as liquidators of the company do not try to reclaim them.

The BBC/Crown Castle service will be launched in the autumn and hopes to overcome the technical problems that dogged ITV Digital.

"We're inheriting the system but we're changing the technology. We're doing a number of things that will make the signal much stronger," Mr Dyke said.

'Safe choice'

He added that he had some sympathy with Carlton and Granada, who he said were sold "a technological pup" for the ITV Digital system, with only 25% of the population able to receive the service without interference.

But he denied suggestions that the BBC's win would distort the commercial sector.


It will help the government push digital terrestrial television

Anthony de Larrinaga, media analyst

"All the BBC is going to put out on this service are the channels we're already putting out on Sky and cable television."

One analyst suggested the licence award would also suit the government.

"This is a safe choice," said Anthony de Larrinaga, media analyst at SG Securities.

"The BBC doesn't have to make a profit and it will help the government push digital terrestrial television then turn off the analogue signal."

Switchover

The Independent Television Commission, which awarded the licences, said the BBC/Crown Castle application was the "most likely to ensure the viability of digital terrestrial television".


We remain convinced that digital customers want the option of a pay-TV upgrade

ITV/Channel 4 consortium

"It will target those viewers who have not been so far attracted by digital TV and will help facilitate the move towards digital switchover," ITC chairman Sir Robin Biggam said.

The government is attempting to encourage the complete switchover to digital, with old-style analogue transmissions set to cease by 2010.

But the collapse of ITV Digital earlier this year was seen as a major blow to the government's plans.

This week a study commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport found that more than 40% of households now have digital TV.

Pay-TV 'lite'

ITV and Channel 4 said they still thought their joint bid was the best offer.

"We remain convinced that digital customers want the option of a pay-TV upgrade," a spokesman said.

"Our proposed combination of an extended free-to-air offering, including channels from all the UK's leading broadcasters, and a modestly priced, 'lite' pay-TV package represented the best chance of success for DTT (digital terrestrial television)."

But BSkyB welcomed the ITC's decision.

"By contributing three Sky channels to the DTT platform, we look forward to participating in a strong and diverse line-up of free-to-air services," a BSkyB spokesman said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"There will now be a big marketing campaign to persuade viewers to go digital"
Greg Dyke, BBC Director General
"Winning is one thing, we've still got to do it"
Peter Abrey, Crown Castle
"Consumers won't be disappointed"

Talking PointFORUM
BBC Digital
You asked an expert how it will affect you


ANALYSIS

FORUM

TALKING POINT

WEBSITES
See also:

02 Jul 02 | Entertainment
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes