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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
BBC digital TV: Is this the best deal for consumers?
The Independent Television Commission has awarded the digital television licences left by the collapse of broadcaster ITV Digital TV to the BBC and transmission company Crown Castle.
The BBC offer includes 24 free-to air TV channels, including some from satellite broadcaster BSkyB, as well as interactive and digital radio services.
The BBC said its offer to broadcast 24 channels would allow for better quality reception than the previous 36-channel service provided by ITV Digital.
Viewers will be able to watch the channels by buying a digital adaptor for under £100.
Is this the best deal for consumers? What does this mean for the future of digital TV?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I was hoping that the BBC would take over DTT, but the involvement of Sky in this deal is extremely disheartening and means I am still unwilling to switch to digital.
Joe Jones, UK
I couldn't care less about who won the digital licencies, just so long as ITV did not win them. After their absolutely disgraceful behaviour towards the football league, it would have been a joke for them to get their licences back to destroy another thing that millions of people cherish.
Is it not ironic that the increasing technical sophistication and increased variety of choice offered by digital TV comes at precisely the same time as dwindling public interest in television as a whole?
I would urge the new administration to consider the options for pay TV. I only subscribed to ITV Digital for the opportunity to watch live Premiership football. Living in a block of flats, I am unable to install Sky Digital due to lease restrictions, and once bitten twice shy, I am very reluctant to turn to a troubled cable company.
Alan Head, UK
Congratulations to the BBC and Sky on making DTT available without subscription. This is a great moment in broadcasting history as it makes 24 channels available to virtually everyone at the cost of a simple box that is already only £100 and will undoubtedly get cheaper over time.
The initial line up of channels doesn't look that interesting, but we'll soon have BBC3 and I'm sure others will appear now that there's a route for them to reach the viewing public.
Making ITV digital a paid service was always doomed to failure. It was a third rate service that you had to pay for. How many people do you think really wanted that ?
Now DTT has been saved viewers will get up to 24 channels. That's almost 5 times as many as you can get today (without paying a subscription).
Philip, London, England
I am extremely upset by Greg Dyke's comments that "The BBC scheme would work because those wanting pay-TV channels could go to Sky Digital" I was an ITV Digital subscriber because I wanted the pay-TV channels as I live in a flat and the lease states we are not allowed to have satellite dishes erected on the buildings. I would like to hear his thoughts on this. Most flatowners have the same problem.
The quality of the BBC's channel line-up for free DTT could be its downfall. With limited bandwidth there are too many news and kids channels, and does the BBC really have to bore the whole nation by wasting space on irrelevant Welsh channels? (I had enough of that when I was a kid).
The BBC / Castle / Sky bid was the only one that offered what was necessary in order to effect a mass transition to digital television, namely buckets of non-subscription channels for a low investment by the viewer.
I recently bought a Pace box. The picture quality is quite superb, even on my tired old TV.
Well done ITC, BBC and partners.
Claire Martin, England
I think this is a great deal for the viewing public because with other digital services in order to recieve such channels as Sky Sports News you have to pay up to £47 per month, This will certainly win favour for the public and make the 2010 analogue swith off date not so far fetched as first thought.
I subscribed to ITV digital for Sky Sports, Sky Premier and UK Gold, and because I did not want a dish on the side of my house... what have I got? Four news channels (why so many?!) and great educational channels such as QVC, TV Travel and the soundalike Sky Travel!! I was hoping E4 would at least be back, but what do we get instead? Two Welsh language channels available to the whole of the UK (sorry I do not want to upset any Welsh people, but what is the point of S4C across the whole country?) Please re-consider and get some decent subscriber services on this platform, replacing at least two of the news channels, and in my opinion all three shopping channels.
Do they really think people are going to go out and get a box for £100 so that they can have a choice of BBC News 24, Sky News and ITN or a choice of Sky Travel and TV TravelShop? The box does not have a unique selling point. It would if there was the oportunity to add a pay channel, channel by channel, giving the viewer choice. When the Autumn arrives, I predict sales of Sky Digiboxes will increase.
My area wasn't covered by On-Digital or ITV Digital. I have no cable service locally and because I am surrounded by trees I can't get Sky Digital. So this is all rather academic to me. I live between Reading and Wokingham where one could expect to get a signal!! On reflection its probably okay because there is so much tripe pumped out these days its not worth watching. I am sure everyone will enjoy QVC!!
I wouldn't pay monthly for these channels but I will pay a one-off fee for the set top box. Well done the BBC!
I can't think of a better realistic outcome; high quality BBC services available free-to-air. Those that are complaining about a lack of plans for film services should be prepared to pay for a service like Sky Digital and not complain about the BBC's great free-to-air plans.
I think that it will take a lot more work to convince people to go for this offering than if it included channels like Sky 1 and E4. Look at the ratings, and see how few people watch the Sky channels that are to be carried, and how many people watch Sky 1. If people are going to go for more channels, it is so that they can get a choice of entertainment, not continuous news.
Dan F, England
Certainly the new service is better than nothing, but what about those people who want to watch sport, movies, documentaries, etc. without the hassle of getting a dish fitted? Or those who rent accomodation and aren't allowed to fix a dish to the side of their home? We should at least have the option of subscribing to pay channels, particularly as Sky is involved in this deal. One for the future, perhaps.
I think it's the best of the bunch of options. Hopefully the FTA boxes will come down dramatically in price, and will start to be integrated more into TV sets. Getting clear reception (hopefully!) of BBC Radios 1-6 is a bonus as well.
Awarding the licences to the BBC/BSkyB partnership has been a politically driven safe and soft option. The failure to allow for any premium channels is a BIG mistake. As a former ITV Digital subscriber I am not in the slightest bit impressed or inspired by the proposed channel selections. We are being offered duplication of analogue channels and a good scraping of the bottom of the barrel to fill out the package. This is not the way forward!
How can the BBC seriously think that its channel line up is going to attract more viewers to DTT? Why on earth do we need so many news channels, yet are missing out on the content that is really likely to draw in the viewers, such as that carried on E4, UK Gold and Sky One? To me, the ITV/Channel 4 bid looked the best - a totally free service, with the option for a handful of quality subscription channels. That way you cater for the free viewers and the people who want the quality of some of Sky's channels without the quantity of rubbish that goes with it.
I feel it a big mistake not to include E4 in the new line up - I don't wish to wait until next year to see the new series of programmes such as The West Wing on Channel 4 - I want to see it as soon as possible.
Bye bye Sci-Fi then.
I got digital only for Sky1 because they show new Sci-Fi. I've seen no commitment from the BBC on Sci-Fi for ages. I'm glad to see them moving into more adveturous drama like 24, but no Trek. I'm not buying. Forget it.
Let's hope that the BBC put quality before quantity.
Both quality and quantity would be even better.
Martin, Glasgow, UK
Awful decision, Sky Digital is successful for one reason: Premiership football. That is how they have generated viewers. ITV Digital only had the draw of Nationwide League football and paid over the odds which ultimately led to its downfall. Without the live Premiership matches this arrangement will be as unsuccessful. Surely those who can't have Sky Digital or cable should have the option to pay for subscription channels through DTT?
So the BBC got the digital licence and all we get are kids' programs, news, news and more news, and S4C (watch it once and forget it). I've waited to see who would get it - now I'm off to order my Sky dish. Poor show.
It is a good decision. Sky and cable can offer better pay services for those who want it. If you don't want to pay then you have DTT.
I must say that I am extremely disappointed about the ITC's decision. It is a known fact that free non-analogue terrestrial channels do not have quality programming because they are not able to obtain enough money through advertising alone for good programmes. That is why channels such as Sky One and E4 require a subscription as well as advertising revenue. I got DTT (digital terrestrial television) for Sky One, E4, and PlayUK. The prospect of free channels such as "Sky Travel" leaves me feeling sick. There is already this kind of pathetic channel available on the bandwidth belonging to SDN - such as TV Travel Shop and QVC - we don't want any more like this! Because there is a limited bandwidth on DTT this means that decent quality channels need to be found to make it a success. With the BBC planning to improve reception by switching broadcasting methods this further reduces bandwidth and makes it all the more precious.
As a former ITV Digital subscriber, I am disappointed to see that there are no plans for film channels. I miss Film Four and Carlton Cinema the most and as I live in a block of flats where there is no cable access and we are not allowed by planning regulations to erect a satellite dish, I feel I am being unfairly discriminated against. Please think again BBC. Are five news channels really necessary and do we have to have wall to wall sport? Please no!
Rod Maxwell, UK
Well, given that the government intends on having us all switched over to digital TV in the next few years, this may be the best way about it. I'd rather this responsibility in the safe hands of the BBC, than the previous 'monkeys'. Let's just hope the level of investment to bring the broadcasting technology up to scratch doesn't have an impact on the level of programming - or the license fee.
Yes, it gives DTT consumers even more choice. The majority of channels will not be repeated on Sky Digital, making the services complimentary and increasing the DTT market, as Sky Digital consumers might want to have both systems.
The only way to entice people to buy the new boxes is to get some 'pay' channels on the free to view service. Sky news and Sky Sports News is a good start but the service will need more. If the service could come to an arrangement, and get Sky One and E4 (free of charge) then the majority of 20-40 year olds will be extremely interested (if they haven't got DTV already). The 20-40 age range are the most likely to part with £100 of their hard earned cash.
Since the BBC's digital services are funded by the licence fee, there should always have been an option for receiving the free-to-air channels without having to enter into any kind of subscription service. Even what ITV digital was charging for their basic service was too much for the privilege of effectively "renting" the adaptor box, and although the downside may now be that Rupert Murdoch has got a monopoly on digital subscription services, as far as I'm concerned he can keep them because he'll never get a penny out of me. However, I, and I suspect millions of others, may now seriously consider buying a digital adapter.
02 Jul 02 | Entertainment
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