bbcThe BBC and ITV’s free-to-air digital satellite proposition has hit a stumbling block, BBC director general Mark Thompson admitted yesterday. Facing MPs on the Commons culture committee Thompson said the service was likely to be delayed until next autumn while talks continued over standards for the Freesat offering.

Thompson insisted progress was being made, and believed there would be boxes and dishes ready for the public to buy by autumn 2007. Last September ITV said it was working with the BBC to launch a Freesat service in the first half of 2006.

Welcoming ITV’s move at the time Thompson said the huge success of Freeview, the free-to-view digital terrestrial television service, had demonstrated “how highly free digital television is valued by many people”. “Our long-stated aim has been to bring about an open market in subscription-free satellite services so we can ensure free access to all the BBC’s services across the country in the run-up to switchover and beyond.”In November set-top box makers warned the BBC and ITV that their Freesat service might have to be delayed for a year because the broadcasters had yet to provide detailed specifications.

Yesterday BBC chairman Michael Grade said complaints from viewers unable to receive Freeview was the single biggest protest issue against the corporation.

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By Expat