c4Channel 4 has joined the BBC and ITV in a proposed joint venture to supply free digital satellite television to homes that cannot receive the Freeview service through aerials.
The BBC has submitted a proposal for the Freesat service to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and is awaiting its response. The idea was raised by the BBC and ITV in autumn 2004.
The service would not require a subscription, though there would be a charge for equipment and installation. BSkyB offers its own free satellite service, also without subscription, but charges £150 for installation.
Channel 4 has an agreement for its main channels to be carried on Sky and this deal is thought to have more than 18 months to run. But it means Channel 4’s C4 and E4, for instance, would not be available on Freesat until its agreement with Sky ends.

However, the broadcaster’s involvement with Freesat is likely to make the proposal more attractive to viewers and equipment suppliers. Freesat aims to provide digital television to those homes that cannot get Freeview – about one in four – because of their location.
However, since paid-for digital television services are available from Sky and cable company NTL, among others, it is not yet known how many homes are likely to need the service
when the present analogue television signal starts its close down in 2008.

This is understood to be one of the key reasons for the delay since suppliers, including retailers and set-top box and satellite dish manufacturers, do not know what returns they could expect.
The BBC and ITV originally promised the service by the first half of this year. Another delay has been that neither the Government nor the BBC knows how many people might need special help in converting to digital television, or how much money that is likely to involve.

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By Expat