Ofcom’s report today considers whether the existing licence holders will be able to contribute, at a commercially sustainable cost, to public service broadcasting in the 10 years from 2015.
Ofcom says it will be looking at:
Delivering benefits to viewers
The licensees provide public service programming, such as news and current affairs, which is valued by viewers. In return, they receive benefits, such as the right to appropriate prominence on TV listing guides and access to spectrum to broadcast on digital-terrestrial television (Freeview).
In the report to the Secretary of State, Ofcom has outlined three credible options for the licences and considers that each could deliver benefits for TV viewers.
1. Renew existing licences
The licensees have told Ofcom that, in broad terms, their existing public service obligations could be sustainable in the next licence period*. Ofcom’s analysis shows the Channel 3 and 5 licensees could continue to make a sufficient contribution to public service broadcasting beyond 2015.
This includes the possibility of establishing a separate, stand-alone licence for Channel 3 in Wales. We also suggest that changes to the Channel 3 service received by viewers in the south of Scotland may be appropriate to ensure the provision of Scottish news in that area.
2. Auction new licences
Re-auctioning would open up licensing to a competitive process. It may also test whether potential bidders – including the current licensees – could consider fresh approaches to public service broadcasting.
3. Extend the current licences
Extending the current licences for a shorter period could allow for a full review of public service broadcasting as part of a future Communications Bill. It could also give Parliament a chance to consider how public service content could be delivered in a world changed by the growth of digital media.
Ofcom believes that the three options are credible. The decision now rests with the Secretary of State.
I think it is very confusing for customers today. You can by an HD Ready TV without a DVB T2 tuner. I suspect many people have bought these sets believing they will be able to receive HD programmes.
When 625 transmissions started all new TVs had to have a UHF tuner. I guess if the government made such a law today the EU would object.
About 44% of sky subscritions include HD. I understand that about 80% of Freesat boxes are HD boxes. So HD will soon be in the majority on satellite. Freeview will never be able to compete in the long term with over 60 HD channels available on satellite. During the Olympics 25 extra free to air HD channels will be added.
I am suprised that so many people put up with SD picturequality. When the BBC did some viewing tests with BBC staff they found a significant number of people needed to go to an optition. So I suspect poor eye sight is one factor. The human brain also seems to compensate for low definition. After all many people found the 32 line Baird system quite entertaining. It does not help that freeview uses an inferior 1440x1080 pixels.
The only real choice is 'Option 2', to fully auction the franchises once again. It's been 20 years, and this would certainly put to bed Hunt's ludicrous plan for a 'Channel 6' to replace what (essentially) ITV/C3 was created to do almost 60 years ago.
The Independent stations were originally conceived as regional companys. This made it possible to change regions not considered to be performing. Now ITV is a national station things are very different. When regional stations closed they had no other way of transmitting. In this multi channel age ITV could carry on if it lost it's PSB licence. The value of having a PSB licence has certainly been reducing. In fact ITV has been moving away from free to air broadcasting with ITV 2,3,4 HD being part of the Sky package. Ofcom might have trouble finding a company to replace ITV in any case.
Trevor harris: Looking at the Ofcom "advice", the general principle seems to be that if re-advertised then Channel 3 would be split into four licences: one for England, one for Scotland, one for Wales and one for Northern Ireland.
This would split the Wales and West licence apart, and also the Border licence.
It is worth noting, of course, that if another bidder for Channel 3 won the "England" licence, then "ITV 1" would have to relocate itself to a commercial multiplex, and take the EPG slot for ITV2 (6, 118, 113).
This would mean that ITV disappears from homes with just "PSB" coverage, and ITV 1 HD would go from Freeview HD.
However, unlike the last time, where I watched at the BT Tower the actual demise of the "unseated" C3 companies, ITV plc could easily continue to broadcast to most homes.
The same applies to Channel 5 - if the "new" Channel 5 company got a PSB2 slot and the "5" position on the EPG, the existing Channel 5 could continue, but on 6/118/113 using the space on COM4/SDN.
Of cause it depends on the size of your TV screen and picture as to the real benefit of so called HD - lets face it in the 1940's 405 line black and white (VHF) was referred-to as 'High Definition'(compared to 30 lines vertical it certainly was) - in the 1950's and to the late 1960's we had one or two TV stations (BBC or ITA) late 60's BBC2 on 625 lines UHF only still b/w; but because the new 21" TVs produced a degraded 405 line picture 625 (UHF) had to come, meanwhile Hollywood and Pinewood were loosing audiences even of full colour star studied movies to say at home TV, so into cinemas came wide screen as it was thought TV would 'never be able to show Cinemascope' etc and in USA NTSC Color TVs were expensive and big, full of tubes and 'Never The Same Color' at each scan.
After a couple of decades when TV was in a sort of limbo in the UK after BBC and ITV had started in 625 then PAL colour along came Sky dishes and BSB 'table mats' but then came the clever move of the TV manufacturers (90% non-British) to push the UK public into wide screen , big screen, digital , p.c. linked , led and lcd (young chaps in TV shops explained to customers CRT is dead - I suspect half didn't even know what CRT stood for!) anyway it was away from the box in the corner to the flat screen hanging on the wall time (bad for your eyes and your neck)so to the tip with the 28" and to Currys for a 50" so you could watch the movies meant for the cinemas - what comes around goes around .......
I can see the biggest problem about the ITV licence renewals being the lack of competition. Gone are the days when there were numerous bidders, they've all been swallowed up and become ITV plc. I expect them to downgrade their regional content, after all it costs money and they're struggling for revenue. As for the public service element, watch them wriggle out of any commitments.
The only realistic option is to renew the existing licenses and make it a condition that Channel 5 takes up the 5th freeview HD slot. The only advantage that these channelsgain from their PSB status is their position on EPG's (3/103 & 5/105).In an era of multichannel broadcasting the real value for any channel is the content they broadcast. For example, if ITV1 lost out to a new bidder they could move to a commercial freeview mux & stay on freesat / sky (in a different EPG channel number) but crucially they would retain the rights to their biggest shows, e.g. Coronation St & X-Factor & would be freed from their PSB obligations. This would make it extremely difficult for a new bidder to enter a very competitive market place.
Chris King.Being born in Halifax myself in my honest opinion the day Yorkshire TV replaced Granada TV in the town back in 1968 was a big mistake,and i was born the year later.The same happened to nearby Todmorden back in 1982 when Yorkshire TV replaced Granada TV in that town and if i recall many Todmordians were up in arms when that happened,and similarly in 2009 when BBC1 Look North from Leeds replaced BBC1 North West Tonight from Manchester there too.Luckily most households in Halifax especially to the west of the town facing Lancashire can receive Winter Hill transmissions thus listening to BBC1 North West Tonight and ITV1 Granada Reports local news bulletins.
The problem with ITV1 today is that there is no flexibility in the regions to opt out at times other than the restricted regional news magazine slots to broadcast anything of interest to the region unlike the BBC which does have greater flexibility to opt out for programmes of particular interest to the region. This situation could and should change.