Freesat gets the go-ahead

The BBC Trust has given the green light for a national roll out of the free-to-air BBC digital satellite service. The corporation has been developing Freesat as a joint venture with ITV.The service is expected to launch in Spring next year following the formal approval from the Trust, the body which overseas the BBC’s work.

Freesat will provide up to 200 standard and High Definition (HD) digital channels and provide a free-to-air alternative to Freeview. Currently, around 25% of television viewers cannot get Freeview services through their aerials.

Director general Mark Thompson says the service will support digital switchover, with the analogue signal due to be turned off in stages by 2012.

He says: “Its primary purpose is to drive digital take-up in analogue homes, particularly in those areas which are out of digital terrestrial coverage.”

“Freesat also offers a trusted free-to-view digital upgrade path that gives licence payers all the benefits of digital television (notably high definition capability) guaranteed free of subscription.”

The BBC and ITV have been working with manufacturers, retailers and installers to develop products. They are also in talks with other broadcasters about joining the joint venture.

The Trust says feedback has supported the idea Freesat represented good value for money, was in the public interest and would not adversely affect the broadcasting market.

A number of conditions were imposed on the move, including that partners were in no way subsidised by the licence fee and sufficient control was retained by the BBC to guarantee public service objectives are retained.

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