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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 16:17 GMT
Trust backs BBC's Freesat service
A satellite dish on the side of a house
Freesat would require the purchase of a dish but no monthly fees
A satellite version of Freeview would provide "significant public value", according to the BBC Trust, which has provisionally approved such a service.

The BBC's governing body said the non-subscription Freesat would benefit homes with poor terrestrial reception.

And it recommended a launch before analogue TV transmissions were switched off, a process which begins next year.

There will now be a 28-day consultation to gauge opinion on the BBC's proposals before they formally get the go-ahead.

It was hoped that as well as BBC channels, "a wide range of other services would also be accessible", the trust said, adding that other organisations could be involved as partners in the venture.

The BBC and ITV announced plans to launch Freesat in September 2005.

Switch-off

The ability for the service to handle high-definition (HDTV) broadcasts was important, the trust said.

This was to "future-proof" set-top boxes and dishes, and ensure that the equipment did not become quickly outdated.

Marketing and technical activities would be handled by a separate joint-venture company, with equipment manufactured by a third party, it added.

Approximately 27% of the UK population cannot receive Freeview, figures from regulator Ofcom have suggested.

The proportion is higher still in Northern Ireland and Wales, and although there are plans to boost the power of digital terrestrial transmissions, these cannot begin until analogue signals have been turned off.

The Border region will be the first to lose "traditional" analogue services, from some point next year, with the whole country expected to become digital-only by 2012.

The trust claimed that a failure to help people overcome poor reception would be "inconsistent" with the BBC's public interest duties.

And the launch of a BBC-backed service such as Freesat was preferable to viewers being "reliant" on commercial rivals to see the corporation's channels, it added.

The 28-day consultation period will end on 27 March, and a final decision will be made by the BBC Trust in April.


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