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Sunday, August 30, 1998 Published at 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK

Digital TV makers plan cheaper packages

This is how Sky Digital sees your TV guide in future

BBC Media Correspondent Nick Higham reports from the Edinburgh Television Festival

[ image: BBC Media Correspondent Nick Higham in Edinburgh]
BBC Media Correspondent Nick Higham in Edinburgh
Effectively, the digital revolution will arrive on 1 October, when Sky launches around 150 channels of digital television.

The BBC is going to be part of that and in fact it will launch a new channel - BBC Choice - on 23 September, although not many people will be able to watch it because you won't be able to buy a digital receiver in the shops.

Rupert Carey introduces the digital TV age for BBC News24
The new technology makes possible many, many more channels, improved picture and sound quality - at least in theory - and at some point in the future, probably next year at the earliest, the possibility of interactive services.

These include using your TV a bit like you use a personal computer - to get information about programmes, get access to the Internet, buy things off your screen, and home banking.

But one of the things that came out of the debate on Sunday, which featured some very important people in the world of digital TV, is that nobody knows how quickly this is going to happen.

It was not apparent until the debate quite how important the digital broadcasters think it is to offer low priced services.

[ image: The £200 kit you will need to get Sky's digital service]
The £200 kit you will need to get Sky's digital service
Clearly, if you are going to buy 150 channels you are going to spend quite a lot of money because subscription TV is quite expensive, but there is a feeling abroad that the number of people taking pay TV now in the pre-digital era is not as great as it could be because it is too expensive.

Both the digital satellite broadcaster, Sky, and ONdigital, which can be watched by anyone with a digital decoder, are very keen to offer at least some channels for rather less money than you currently spend.

So it's not necessarily going to be expensive, though you will have to have a receiver costing around £200 initially.

Is more TV worse TV?

But will more television mean worse television? This is a perennial argument in the industry.

The enthusiasts for the new world now come from all sides of the TV industry, including the BBC and ITV as well as Sky Digital and ONdigital.

Sky in particular says when you have more competition you get an improvement in quality.

They say you don't go into a supermarket and just expect to buy three or four different sorts of products - you expect hundreds if not thousands.

There is no reason, they say, why the TV industry shouldn't be the same.

Where will the money come from?

The problem, obviously, is that TV programmes are quite expensive to make.

A lot of the programmes on the new channels will be recycled - hits from the past and films.

But if you are talking about creating lots of new TV programmes to fill all these additional channels you are going to have to find the money from some where.

It's still not clear where the money for this is going to come from.

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