BSkyB is under no regulatory obligation to provide subscription-free access and we think it
reasonable to conclude that it does so as a commercial choice. So there is no guarantee
that there would remain a subscription-free route to access BBC services in the future. As
with any commercial proposition, BSkyB could at any point choose to withdraw or change
the terms of this service subject to normal notice provisions. Whilst the BBC would have
no say in such a decision, the potential impact in terms of access to its services would be
As part of considering the public value of the proposition, our view is that it would not be in
the public interest for licence fee payers to be reliant only on commercial provider routes
over which the BBC has no influence as a subscription-free means of access to BBC services.
There may also be additional benefits to consumers through the introduction of an
additional provider and hence greater competition in the market. This would lead to
increased choice for consumers and potentially other benefits, such as improved product
offerings to customers in the short and longer term. This effect will be particularly strong in
those areas where there is currently only a single, or limited, supplier of digital retail TV
services and those outside of the current Freeview footprint, where the current level of
competition may be lower.
95% of respondents thought that licence fee payers should have a choice of subscription-free
means of access to digital services, with several expressing specific concerns about
dependency on Sky.
Overall conclusions on the interests of licence fee payersWe consider that the BBC's main stated objectives for the proposition are consistent with
the best interests of licence fee payers and the Public Interest duties of the BBC and the
Trust. In relation to the second stated objective, to provide a subscription-free route to HDoutput in perpetuity, given that there will be a PVT assessment of the BBC’s HD service
proposals, the Trust has only considered whether it is in the public interest (and in the
interests of licence fee payers) to have an in-built capability to carry HD output. Our view is
that this allows for appropriate future development which is in the public interest because it
protects against “Freesat” being superseded by technology as well as providing incentives for
manufacturers to produce the required set top box equipment. The response to our
consultation has reinforced this view. 91% of respondents considered it important that theproposition should be future-proofed. One respondent commented “I think the set top
boxes should be capable of receiving both standards [SD & HD] so that a new box is not
necessary when high definition broadcast becomes standard”.
In reaching the above conclusions we have taken into account generally the wider matters
set out in these conclusions particularly those explored in the section on public value and
those in the section on market impact and we have also had regard to the Trust's duties
under the Charter and the Agreement (particularly the duties in Article 23).
Sunday, 10 February 2008
BBC TRUST FREESAT CONCLUSION.
AS REPORTED BY THE BBC TRUST IN APRIL 2007.