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07/09/2005

ITV and BBC launch 'Freesat' digital service

ITV has today announced a new service in conjunction with the BBC that will further strengthen its position in the digital television environment.
ITV and the BBC are working together to develop a new free digital satellite service - project title "Freesat" - to complement the hugely popular Freeview terrestrial service.
Freesat will enable viewers to access subscription-free digital television via satellite and will be aimed primarily at people in the UK currently unable to access Freeview.
As part of the development of Freesat, ITV is also announcing that it intends to start broadcasting ITV channels unencrypted - 'in the clear' - within the next few months on digital satellite television.
The BBC warmly welcomed ITV's digital satellite announcement today.
BBC Director-General Mark Thompson said: "We welcome ITV’s intention to take all its channels into the clear on satellite, and also welcome them as partners in the project to develop a consumer friendly, subscription-free satellite proposition.
"This is great news for viewers. It paves the way to provide subscription-free digital television across the whole country.
"The huge success of Freeview, already in more than five million homes, demonstrates how highly free digital television is valued by many people.
"Our long-stated aim has been to bring about an open market in subscription-free satellite services so we can ensure free access to all the BBC's services across the country in the run-up to [digital] switchover and beyond."
The free satellite service will initially carry all ITV and BBC free-to-view digital services including digital television, digital radio, electronic programme guide, and interactive services, in addition to dozens of other free-to-air channels. The project aims to be operational within the first half of 2006.
ITV Chief Executive, Charles Allen, said: "As the UK's largest and most popular commercial broadcaster we want our channels to be available to as many people as possible, regardless of technological and geographical constraints.
"As we move from an analogue to a digital environment, Freesat - and Freeview - will enable every family in the UK to enjoy a wide range of quality channels for free.
"Today's announcement significantly strengthens ITV's digital presence and we are delighted to be taking a leading role in the marketing and development of free digital television."
The BBC outlined its aim to develop a universally available, consumer friendly and low cost free satellite service in 'Building Public Value' last year.
The Government endorsed this aim in the BBC Green Paper earlier this year.
According to an Ofcom report around 60% of UK households receive digital television. Just over 20% of households cannot receive the Freeview digital terrestrial transmissions.
(SP)
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