Sunday, 10 February 2008



licence fee payers and with our view of the public value in approving the “Freesat”
Our consultation has confirmed that these views are widely held. Only 38% of respondents
considered the current access to the BBC’s digital services acceptable. 93% thought that the
BBC should be taking action to improve access in the lead up to digital switchover. This
figure was 100% for Wales and Northern Ireland where access through ‘Freeview’ is known
to be more limited.
(ii) Assessment of the best interests of licence fee payers and the public interestCurrently, licence fee payers in geographical areas where access to Freeview is not possible
will, until digital switchover in their area, only be able to access BBC services by taking up
“Freesat from Sky” (or an offering of any other entrant to the market) or subscription
services. This is in the context where no commercial provider would be subject to the same
express Public Interest duties that apply to the BBC with oversight by the Trust (with our
own express public interest duties). This isan important issue and the public consultation
responses support our view that there is a significant level of public concern over this. As
part of the Trust’s and the BBC’spublic duties, it is incumbent on us to address this situation
if there is an appropriate way to do so. Our conclusion is that the “Freesat” proposition is
an appropriate way to take action over this matter of public interest.
In our view failure to address this position, which potentially affects a significant proportion
of licence fee payers, would be inconsistent with the BBC's and the Trust's public interest
duties, particularly to promote the Public Purposes set out in the Charter, which require
facilitating access to BBC services. We also consider it is in the interests of licence fee
payers and part of the public interest that “Freesat” is made available as soon as possible.
As part of considering the public value of the proposition, which is dealt with in section 6.5
below, we have concluded that it is not acceptable for a significant proportion of licence fee
payers to be limited to a single subscription-free access routeto BBC services provided by a
commercial third party (BSkyB), over which the BBC has no influence, until as late as 2012.
BSkyB has expressed concern that, in their view, we have created the impression in our
consultation that “Freesat from Sky” ‘remains available to customers only by the grace and
favour of Sky and that at some point the service might cease to be free’. They make the
point that any DVB-compliant services broadcast via Astra and Eutelsat can be viewed via
Sky’s set top boxes. Whilst we accept that it is technically possible to receive channels
broadcast unencrypted via satellite using Sky set top boxes, we do not believe that this
option is, or would be, widely used, and we do not consider it to be a substitute for a
properly supported proposition complete with an Electronic Programme Guide to make
access to services more user friendly. The Consumer Expert Group on Digital Switchover
confirms this, stating that “close attention will be paid to usability aspects of Freesat-
compliant products with the opportunity to encourage manufacturers to follow best practice
in remote control design, labelling and on-screen navigation. Some of these features are
expected to be mandatory for a product to qualify for the Freesat trademark licence.”

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