WELSH DECISION ON THE FREESAT VENTURE.
Audience Council Wales 9
Q1: No, access to the BBC's digital services in Wales is currently not acceptable, and the BBC should be taking action to improve access to its digital services in the lead up to digital switchover. It is estimated that about 56% of the people of Wales can receive the full Freeview service line-up (all 6 multiplexes). This compares with an average of 73% of the UK population.
From switchover, which starts in Wales 2009, the coverage of DTT will increase in Wales, as the analogue television signals are switched off and the digital signals are switched on in their place. However, not all of the 6 Freeview multiplexes will be available across the whole of Wales. It is estimated that whilst coverage of the 3 PSB multiplexes (2 from the BBC and one from ITV/C4) will provide near universal coverage in Wales (same coverage as analogue today), the 3 commercial multiplexes (1 operated by ITV and 2 by National Grid Wireless) will probably only reach about 80% of the Welsh population. This figure compares with about 90% of the UK population. Therefore, whilst nearly everyone will receive the digital terrestrial service not everyone in Wales will be able to receive the full Freeview service line-up as currently promoted.
For this reason it is essential that the BBC improve access to its digital services in the lead up to digital switchover.
Q2: Yes, it is essential if the principle of universal access to the BBC’s services for all licence fee payers is to be upheld.
Q3: Yes, Freesat will have near universal coverage of Wales and will therefore provide an alternative choice for consumers to access a range of free-to-air digital television services, digital radio services and interactive services. This will appeal to consumers who will be unable to receive the full Freeview line-up and to others.
The BBC's public service remit
Q5: Do you agree with the Trust's conclusion that the BBC's "Freesat" proposals are consistent with the BBC's Public Purposes because they will improve access to its digital services?
In the light of digital deprivation described above it is essential the proposals are implemented if the Public Purposes are to be meaningful to audiences in Wales.
Q6: [no response] 10
Q8: [No response]
Q9: [No response]
Q11: [No response]
Q12: Freesat will play an essential role in helping to make free-to-air digital television services available to licence fee payers in Wales. There is already a high penetration of satellite in Wales, which reflects the difficulties that the people of Wales have in receiving terrestrial television services, principally because of the challenges of the topography. This is an issue for both analogue and digital terrestrial signals. Council is very aware that licence fee payers in Wales object to having to resort to the services of a commercial competitor of the BBC in order to be able to receive the BBC’s services.
Audience Council Wales is acutely aware that Freesat will not resolve another key issue related to digital deprivation in Wales which is a constant theme to Council’s public engagement, that is the lack of universal provision of the BBC Wales’ national radio stations, Radio Cymru and Radio Wales, on DAB. This is an issue of even greater importance to the audience in Wales due to the lack of availability of Radio Wales on FM in many parts of Wales.