Digital Britain: TV demonstrates success of competitive market

The UK government has set out its policy objectives that it hopes will help Britain take full advantage of the digital revolution.

Lord Carter’s Digital Britain Report, details of which had been highly publicised in advance, includes no fewer than 22 action points. However, there is little new on the television sector, the report hailing Britain’s near 90% digital TV penetration as “a good example of the successful interplay between clear strategic direction-setting from government and the dynamism of a competitive market.”

The working group says it will consider at what point the Digital Television Switchover Help Scheme could have return path capability – the modem was removed from UK DTT receivers ahead of the launch of Freeview. The report also seeks to harness the communications and marketing activity around digital switchover to offer public funded impartial advise on the wider opportunities of digital beyond digital broadcast television.

The future of Channel 4 remains under debate, and while a view will be taken with the publication of the final Digital Britain Report in the summer, the possibility of merger or co-operation with BBC Worldwide appears to be the most favoured option. It is clear that Channel 4 will emerge from the process with its remit recast.

Radio will move to the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) system once 50% of listening is in the digital format and 90% coverage achieved.

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham described widely leaked plans for a universal service commitment to provide broadband speeds of 2 Mbps as “building on the approach to postal services and telephone services in years past”

Spectrum between channels 61 and 69 will be opened up for next generation mobile services that the government believes will give a greater certainty for 3G operators. Commitments are being sought from the operators to replicate the existing 2G coverage in 3G to assist with universal broadband access. Such a scheme would take the pressure off fixed line providers in extending broadband coverage to homes, not just in rural communities, but to those living in areas the furthest away from the local exchange.