BBC Trust reaches provisional decision on Freesat
Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

The BBC Trust has provisionally approved BBC managements proposal to develop and launch a free-to-view satellite platform, Freesat. BBC management envisages Freesat being achieved as a joint venture with other public service broadcasters. The Trust believes the service would create significant public value by offering licence fee payers an additional means to access digital services, including the BBCs digital television channels and radio services, which is subscription free and guaranteed to stay that way.

The Trust has today published its decision, and the evidence and analysis which informed its judgement, and opened a 28 day public consultation prior to making its final decision in April 2007.

Acting BBC Chairman Chitra Bharucha said: The BBCs Royal Charter requires the Corporation to take a leading role in digital switchover which begins next year. From 2008 until 2012, as each UK nation and region switches to digital, all households that havent done so already will have to choose a new way to access television. One of the benefits arising from digital switchover will be greater choice for viewers. For those 7 million homes yet to make the switch, it needs to be clear that the benefits of digital television do not need to equal pay television.

A new, guaranteed subscription-free satellite service would provide the public another option when deciding which platform to choose. Over half of those yet to switch fall outside the Freeview coverage area. For these homes, the new service would mean being able to access BBC digital services they have already paid for via their licence fee but until now have been unable to receive on a guaranteed subscription-free basis.

We have considered the market impact and whilst there may be some negative effects, in our view these should be balanced against the potential positive market impact of greater choice. Overall, we believe a Freesat service to be in the public interest and we hope that other public service broadcasters would join the BBC in a joint venture. We welcome all responses to our provisional conclusion during the consultation.

The BBC Trust has decided that Freesat meets the BBCs Charter and Agreement definition of a non-service activity and does not require a Public Value Test. Nonetheless, in reaching its provisional decision the Trust has considered the potential public value and market implications of launching the service.

(Source: BBC Trust)