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BBC wins UK DTT licences

A consortium led by UK public broadcaster the BBC and transmission company Crown Castle has been awarded the country's re-tendered digital terrestrial television licences.

A consortium led by UK public broadcaster the BBC and transmission company Crown Castle, with satellite operator BSkyB providing some programming, has been awarded the country's re-tendered digital terrestrial television licences today by the Independent Television Commission (ITC).

The digital terrestrial broadcast licences were left vacant by the collapsed ITV Digital network earlier this year.

The new service comprises 28 free channels, which viewers can see by purchasing a US$146 digital set-top box, or an existing ITV Digital box. Although no pay services are included in the bid, it is forecast that these will be added in some form - subscription or pay per view - in the future. The licence will run for 12 years and the service is expected to be up and running within months.

“This is a fresh start for digital television in the UK and the best outcome for viewers,” says Greg Dyke, the director general of the BBC. “It won't be an easy task - the platform has been through a major crisis - but we believe that a simple, entirely free-to-view digital option has the best chance of success with consumers."

The main criteria for the award appears to have been ability to convert UK viewers to digital TV over the long term, with Sir Robin Biggam, the chairman of the ITC commenting, "The commission believes that the BBC/Crown Castle application is the most likely to ensure the viability of digital terrestrial television. It will target those viewers who have not been so far attracted by digital TV and will help facilitate the move towards digital switchover." A factor supporting this view is the BBC's plan to spend $29 million marketing the new platform, including cross-promotion on terrestrial television.

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