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Should the UK close down the TV networks to allow for more mobile broadband?

Ofcom is wondering if Freeview is needed in the future, or can we close down the massively popular service to provide more 4G broadband. Freeview occupies 256MHz today, whilst mobile phone services have 560MHz. Digital UK has a report that suggests Freeview is good for the UK.

  Photograph:
Photograph:
published on UK Free TV

From the Digital UK Press Office today:

A new report published today reveals the major economic benefits that Freeview and other terrestrial TV services deliver to the UK.

The report shows that the country's most widely used platform returns nearly £80bn to the economy and challenges the view that mobile broadband delivers more value from airwaves than television.

The findings come at the start of a year when crucial decisions about the future of free-to-air TV will be made by policy makers in the UK and EU. Just over a year after digital switchover freed up capacity for 4G mobile broadband, a further shake-up of the airwaves is being considered to release more spectrum for the mobile market.

Commissioned by Digital UK, the report by media and telecoms consultancy Communications Chambers sets out for the first time the economic and social importance of digital terrestrial television (DTT) which delivers broadcast channels for both Freeview and YouView - and is watched in three-quarters of UK homes.

Headlines from the report include:

  • Evidence of DTT's vital role in supporting UK broadcasting, driving innovation and investment in programme-making while keeping consumer costs down
  • DTT provides nearly £80bn* to the UK - significantly more than previously estimated - and supports 15,000 jobs in broadcasting and independent production
  • New economic analysis showing that DTT delivers more value per unit of spectrum than mobile broadband (see notes)


As the largest free-to-air TV service, DTT creates healthy competition between platforms and ensures viewers can access public service channels without subscription Digital UK and its members (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva) are urging government to ensure any further transfers of airwaves do not weaken Freeview and other terrestrial TV services, and that viewers should not suffer disruption or foot the bill for making the changes. In a joint letter accompanying the report, Tony Hall, BBC Director General, Adam Crozier, CEO of ITV, David Abraham, Channel 4 CEO and John Cresswell, CEO of Arqiva, stress the importance of terrestrial services such as Freeview in ensuring the UK remains a world leader in television.

Jonathan Thompson, Chief Executive of Digital UK, said: "This report sheds new light on the value of DTT for viewers, the UK television sector and wider economy. With increasing demand for spectrum it is critical that DTT remains a strong proposition with the same coverage and range of channels viewers enjoy today."

Copies of the report can be downloaded from The Value of Digital Terrestrial Television in an era of increasing demand for spectrum [PDF].

Notes

*£79.8bn, calculated on the basis of ten year "net present value" (NPV)

New economic analysis: The report estimates that the average value per MHz of spectrum for DTT is 50% higher than that for mobile data and that the marginal value (the unit value that might realistically be reallocated between DTT and mobile) may be even greater. The report estimates the marginal value of mobile data per MHz of spectrum to be £0.19bn compared to £0.47bn for DTT.

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Comments
Sunday, 18 September 2016
S
StevensOnln1
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

4:50 PM

MikeB: I think you've summed it up quite well. The latest figures I've seen put digital radio (all methods combined) at 45.3% of all radio listening and is expected to reach the Government's 50% target next year, which should lead to a date being announced for a digital radio switchover. I expect we'll find out more about the future of DTT and radio for the next few years once the BBC's charter renewal is finally completed.

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StevensOnln1's 3,376 posts GB
J
J Martin
sentiment_satisfiedSilver

7:15 PM

Yeah as always it does,nt matter if anybody wants to use something that is perfectly ok they have no say in the matter. I agree technology moves on but mainly when big manufactures learned if they made something that last for a long time people stop buying and sales dry up. So we had normal tvs, then wide screen then hd and low and behold now everyone has hd nearly. Time to make everybody believe they have to have super hd But even before we get that up and running the next upgrade is just around the corner. We are told something is old or tech speak " obsolete" but it ain,t it is just big companies want more and more profits. Just imagine if the likes of apple only bought out a new I phone every 5 years?? End of the world

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J Martin's 103 posts GB
S
steve P
sentiment_satisfiedGold

7:48 PM

"no technology lasts forever" is an exaggeration. The wheel remains very popular despite maglev and sewing of clothes remains popular despite alternatives.

Technologies do of course get made redundant when better technologies appear, but this should happen by natural economic forces not by government intervention. I have seen no convincing argument why DAB is BETTER than FM and can present many why it is not. NB I have no wish to ban DAB; I just object to my preferred transmission method being banned. If broadcasters choose not to provide transmissions so be it, but don't ban them.

I am not worried about the end of Freeview as nobody could conceive of relying on Satellite TV which is prone to fail when there are storms and is a monopoly with inadequate back-up if Earth hits a thick patch of asteroids.



link to this comment
steve P's 1,172 posts GB
M
MikeB
sentiment_very_satisfiedPlatinum

9:58 PM

J Martin: 'I agree technology moves on but mainly when big manufactures learned if they made something that last for a long time people stop buying and sales dry up.'

Most tech formats start to vanish when either something better but cheaper comes along, or when the market generally (and that means consumers) lose interest. You might still want to use that cassette player you bought in 1979, but your not going to be able to buy any new music on it. Consumers started to move over to CD's, and the music companies followed them - they might still have released music on vinyl, cassette and CD for a while, but if no one wants to buy that album on C90 any more, what is the company supposed to do? And lots of formats never quite take off - think of minidisc, etc.

steve P: 'Technologies do of course get made redundant when better technologies appear, but this should happen by natural economic forces not by government intervention. I have seen no convincing argument why DAB is BETTER than FM and can present many why it is not. NB I have no wish to ban DAB; I just object to my preferred transmission method being banned. If broadcasters choose not to provide transmissions so be it, but don't ban them. '

In the case of technology, its often not just through natural economics - pretty much all modern mass transport has been shaped by government in one way or another, be it rail, cars or aviation. And broadcasting is something thats always had to have regulation and government invovlement, and of course that includes the technology behind it - the sort of capital and planning needed pretty much requires it.

FM is not going anywhere yet, but the trend is clear. Thats no different to the way that FM gradually took over from AM, etc. It first began in 1955 in the UK on the BBC, but Radio 1 was still partially on MW until 1994. Commercial radio stations simulcasted on MW and FM from the start, but only stopped doing this when the IBA told them to stop in 1989-90 (again, offical advise, not just the market).

Techonologies often take a very long time to really get going, but once they are taken up by enough people, it can then often take a very long time for them to vanish. But once they start to slide or be supplemented, there reaches a point where you have to 'put them down', rather than than have them linger. The cost of running a broadcast system which just enough people use to mean you can't just ignore it, but not enough to make it worth doing is huge, and therefore government needs to step in.

I dont really care if FM is better or worse than DAB for an individual (although I barely notice any real difference in audio quality on the equipment I use, no one has ever asked me about bitrates when I sell radios, and I can get a much larger number of stations on DAB), but if enough individuals stop listening to analogue, the market will want to move on. FM wont be banned, it will just have fallen so out of favour that its no longer worth doing.

Its like when people complain that their favourite sweet is being discontinued, and complain that they have no choice in the matter. They might have loved it, but if they were the only dozen people whom actually bought it, it doesn't matter - the manufacturer is going to stop making it.

The fact is that although certain forums etc on the net complain bitterly about this sort of stuff, hardly anyone else cares. And its the market that ultimately decides, the government just looks at the trend and acts accordingly.

link to this comment
MikeB's 2,579 posts GB
Monday, 19 September 2016
S
steve P
sentiment_satisfiedGold

1:39 AM

There should be no thought of stopping FM until it represents well under 10% of listening.

ACTUAL listening. Not that 90% of households have A DAB reception set.

Another possibility is to compensate people whose equipment is rendered useless by paying for equivalent new kit.

My B&O Radiogram for example.

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steve P's 1,172 posts GB
R
Richard Cooper
sentiment_satisfiedGold

8:30 AM

Steve P: Hi again, Steve P. Again you are expressing your own, obviously firmly held opinions. If you look at the most recent quarter's RAJAR statistics you'll see that actual listening to DAB is very close to 50% and is expected to reach that figure by sometime next year. When this figure has been achieved, the Government intend to decide on a date for analogue radio switch off and digital radio switchover, which would be no sooner than two years after the date that the Government choose this date. There was no compensation on offer in the mid-2000s when television viewers discovered that Freeview digital terrestrial television could not be received directly on analogue tuner television sets and so I don't expect there to be any compensation on offer at digital radio switchover, although I would expect the Government to make financial help available to the elderly, the disabled and the vulnerable, so that they have access to a digital platform for broadcast radio. Richard, Norwich.

link to this comment
Richard Cooper's 461 posts GB
S
steve P
sentiment_satisfiedGold

9:59 AM

Richard, Your Grace

I hate to trouble a DAB fan with mere facts, but here they are

The share of all radio listening via a digital platform now stands at 44.1%.
The digital share is comprised of
DAB share 30.9%
DTV 5.4%
and listening Online or App 7.8%.

So 30% is very close to 50%?

I would not be surprised if DTV and Online grow faster than DAB.

Why are FM only radios still sold with no warning of imminent uselessness?


link to this comment
steve P's 1,172 posts GB
S
steve P
sentiment_satisfiedGold

10:09 AM

"The share of all radio listening via a digital platform now stands at 41.7%, up from 37.9% for the corresponding period last year.

The share of listening hours to DAB has increased by 9% year on year, with share now at 27.7% from 25.2%
in Q4, 2014"

http://www.rajar.co.uk/do….pdf

Interesting to note that DAB is only a quarter of listening HOURS - surely the true metric?

And even more interesting that that statistic is no longer provided.

The inconvenient truth?

link to this comment
steve P's 1,172 posts GB
R
Richard Cooper
sentiment_satisfiedGold

10:18 AM

steve P: Hi, Steve P. I need to correct what I said in my last post. It is when the share of all digital listening via ANY digital platform reaches 50% that the Government will discuss an analogue switch off date, whereas I had INCORRECTLY stated that it was when the share of listening by DAB dad reached 50%. Please accept my apologies for this error. So, as you can see, the 44% of digital listening via any digital platform is quite likely to increase to 50% by this time next year. When I myself sell an FM radio from my collection, I always warn potential buyers in my 'item description' of the redundancy of the item within a few years, just as I did when I put my 2k Ondigital 'Freeview' DTT box ON an online auction website in 2009, but amazingly it sold at my 'reserve' price anyway, even though I'd given the redundancy warning! I think that it is a pity that online retailers of brand new FM only radios such as the Philips combined FM radio/ CD Player do not give a redundancy warning notice on the item before selling it. Apparently, radio manufacturers have jointly agreed not to manufacture any more analogue only radio sets, whereas retailers seem only to be interested in profits from sales of any item on their shelves! Perhaps I'm being too cynical! Incidentally, I am neither a duke nor an Archbishop, so you may address me as 'Sir' rather than 'Your Grace', Steve! Richard in Norwich.

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Richard Cooper's 461 posts GB
D
David
sentiment_satisfiedGold

11:22 AM

DAB radios for the home need a better way of tuning in stations and far better displays of information mine looks vintage not modern at all.

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David's 306 posts GB
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