Ofcom proposal to allow pay TV on DTT multiplexes B, C and D

Ofcom consultation (PDF, 18 pages) setting out a proposal to remove the requirement in the licences for digital terrestrial television (DTT) multiplexes B, C and D that any services carried are provided on a free-to-air basis (other than with Ofcom's prior consent). Multiplex B is operated by a wholly-owned BBC subsidiary, and C and D are operated by National Grid Wireless (previously Crown Castle UK).

The requirement seems to stem from a commitment to free-to-air content being included as part of the Freeview consortium's bid for the multiplex licences in 2002: the Freeview consortium had comprised the BBC, Crown Castle and BSkyB, and the Independent Television Commission (Ofcom's predecessor) converted the consortium's proposals into binding requirements that no pay TV channels would be allowed on multiplexes B, C and D, and that Sky would not be allowed to operate more than three channels on DTT. Ofcom does not appear to consider whether removing the prohibition on pay TV would warrant any review of the limits on Sky's access to DTT capacity.

Ofcom states that "it is unclear" whether the prohibition on pay TV channels helps fulfil Ofcom's duties under the Communications Act 2003. The consultation paper sets out Ofcom's thoughts on two particular proposals for change: removing the restriction on all three multiplexes, and removing it on a case-by-case basis. Ofcom favours a complete removal. The only argument that Ofcom finds in favour of the latter option is to prevent Sky from converting its free-to-air channels on DTT to pay TV channels, and considers that such a move is unlikely anyway.

Responses by Thursday 12 January 2006.

See this Ofcomwatch post for comment.

Filed under BBC, Media, Ofcom.

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