Petition Guarantee access to broadcast TV (Freeview) and aerial radio beyond 2040
The Government must guarantee access to Freeview and aerial radio beyond 2040. Unless the Government takes such action ahead of the World Radiocommunication Conference in November 2023 the spectrum of frequency allocated to Digital Terrestrial TV (Freeview) may be lost and the services disbanded
Millions rely on Freeview/broadcast TV and radio to keep in touch with society. Silver Voices, which advocates for the over 60s, argues that internet-based services are less reliable and much more costly. Poorer households are already cancelling streaming services because of the cost of living crisis. Protecting Freeview will prevent millions of older people and other vulnerable groups, at risk of loneliness and depression, from being excluded from public information and entertainment.
This response was given on 24 February 2023
We agree that terrestrial TV and radio are hugely important and will continue to be for years to come. We remain committed to ensuring UK audiences can access these platforms in the long term.
The Government remains committed to the future of digital terrestrial television (DTT), the technology underpinning the popular Freeview platform, and to the maintenance of broadcast radio.
We know that millions of households across the UK rely on DTT and we expect this to continue over the next decade. We also recognise the crucial role that DTT plays in the wider UK broadcasting system, in particular in helping ensure that public service programmes continue to be widely available to all audiences in a convenient and low cost format. This includes news and current affairs programmes, as well as popular entertainment shows that bring the country together.
For these reasons, the Government has already legislated to secure continuity of digital terrestrial television until at least 2034. We believe this strikes the right balance between giving certainty to audiences, platform operators and broadcasters on the one hand, while recognising that – in a decade’s time – the broadcasting landscape and quality of digital infrastructure might look very different.
In line with this approach, the UK’s preference at this stage is for ‘no change’ to international spectrum allocations as they relate to terrestrial television. As Ofcom noted in their recent Call for Input (available here: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0025/239407/WRC-23_Call_for_Input.pdf), “our priority will be to ensure that, following the outcome of [this year’s World Radiocommunications Conference], DTT services can continue to operate”.
Before any decisions about the future of terrestrial television beyond 2034 are made, the Government will give close consideration to how any changes would impact audiences, especially those who rely on DTT as their primary means of watching television. To support this, we will continue to evaluate the future distribution of television as the sector evolves over the next decade, and we have asked Ofcom to undertake an early review of market changes that may affect the future of content distribution before the end of 2025.
Similarly, the joint government and industry Digital Radio and Audio Review, published in October 2021, underlined that broadcast transmission (particularly DAB) is likely to represent a significant proportion of radio listening for the foreseeable future. In recognition of this, and of the huge public value that radio provides, by way of trusted news and information as well as being a source of companionship to its listeners, the Government passed legislation in April 2022 to enable Ofcom to renew the two national commercial digital radio multiplex licences until December 2035. At the same time, at the hyperlocal level, numerous new stations are already taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the ongoing rollout of small scale DAB across the country following legislation passed in October 2019.
More information on the steps we are taking over the next few years can be found in our Broadcasting White Paper, (available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/up-next-the-governments-vision-for-the-broadcasting-sector/up-next-the-governments-vision-for-the-broadcasting-sector)
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
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