BBC pushes free-to-air digital sat option

Analog turnoff in 2010 is achievable, Beeb says

LONDON — The BBC hopes to extend its hold on free-to-air digital TV by backing a non-pay satellite option to cover the million or so homes that cannot receive digital terrestrial services.

In its first report on the digital switchover, the pubcaster says that the government target of turning off the analog signal by 2010 is achievable, but only with a digital satellite service, monikered Freesat.

In the report to Media Minister Tessa Jowell, the BBC also maintains that a pricey national information campaign would be necessary to encourage auds to move to digital.

“By working with like-minded partners, we would like to see an additional route to digital access — free-to-air digital satellite — become a viable and attractively simple option,” said BBC head of marketing Andy Duncan.

“This will ensure all our audiences have access to the BBC’s comprehensive portfolio of digital services and the full digital world. For some, it will be the only way they can receive free-to-air digital TV,” he said.

It remains to be seen on what terms rival broadcasters will get into bed with the BBC to make a non-pay satellite alternative a going concern. Terrestrial digital service Freeview is backed by the BBC, satcaster BSkyB and transmitter combo Castle Communications.

In common with Ofcom, the BBC favors a regional rollout of digital-only transmissions and a new body, Switchco, to ensure the transition does not encounter too many obstacles.

Just over half of British homes have digital TV.

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