sky-solusHundreds of thousands of satellite viewers who would have been left with blank screens by the BBC’s decision to break away from BSkyB and broadcast its satellite signal “in the clear” have been saved by a last-minute deal.
Sports and tourism minister Richard Caborn announced in parliament yesterday that the commercial broadcasters had “made a deal” that would see them investing hundreds of thousands of pounds in a scheme to provide special viewing cards to viewers of free-to-air satellite signals.
An estimated 600,000 viewers who have digital satellite systems but do not subscribe to Sky Digital were due to lose ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five later this year when Sky changes its encryption system.

Since renegotiating its deal with BSkyB earlier this year and switching to its own satellite free of Sky’s encryption, the BBC has stopped paying for the solus card that allows digital satellite viewers who do not subscribe to Sky Digital to watch the terrestrial channels.
While the commercial channels will contribute hundreds of thousands of pounds to the scheme, for the first time viewers will have to pay towards the cost of the cards.

“Good progress is being made and the broadcasters are close to a solution. I am able to announce you today very good news: they have now made a deal”, said Mr Caborn during a recess yesterday afternoon.
“All the details are not finalised yet, but we already know that those people who currently have a non-subscription satellite viewing card and who wish to continue receiving the commercially funded public service channels without paying a subscription to Sky or another pay-TV broadcaster will be able to get a new card,” he added.

The news will be greeted with particular relief by non-BSkyB subscribers who receive a poor analogue signal, forcing them to watch terrestrial TV through a satellite dish.
Mr Caborn said viewers would have to pay around £20 plus VAT for a new card, which would last for at least two years. He added that Sky had promised not to disable the existing cards until the scheme was up and running.
All affected viewers will be alerted to the new scheme through onscreen messages that will appear next week and direct them to a call centre.
“We believe this is a very good outcome. It has not been easy to achieve; and I want to take this opportunity to thank the broadcasters for their hard work,” said Mr Caborn.

The BBC announced earlier this year it would no longer pay the £12 per subscriber annual charge for the cards after it opted out of BSkyB’s encryption system in a move that the BBC director general, Greg Dyke, said would save the corporation £85m over five years.
The BBC now broadcasts “in the clear”, meaning its channels can be picked up by anyone with a satellite dish, even if they do not have a Sky Digital subscription.

The three commercial terrestrial broadcasters remain contracted to BSkyB and continue to have their broadcasts encrypted. BSkyB has already said it would continue to provide the solus cards to non-Sky subscribers if terrestrial broadcasters paid for the service.

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By Expat