It’s the thought that counts 

19 December 2006

Ofcom refuses to guarantee spectrum

Since nobody will make money from public service broadcasting, it’s perhaps a depressingly predictable response in an era when central government is more interested in pound signs than public service. If such an adminstration had been in power during the era when the BBC was created, the whole concept might even have been rejected as being laughable.

Back to the present day, it now seems very unlikely that for the next spectrum auction there will be a repeat of the huge bidding war that accompanied the 3G mobile phone licences; the ‘winners’ of that particular fiasco are still trying to make money from those grossly overvalued licences and will be for some considerable time.

There may be some interest in the potential for future wireless broadband data services but again they may prove too costly in the short term plus satellite-based data services are being developed which will be much cheaper to implement. Indeed satellite data services could ultimately end up replacing other forms of television including terrestrial-based services.

However the mobile phone companies are still interested in mobile TV, and this perversely may help the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 in their quest to obtain enough spectrum space for a HD Freeview service. There’s certainly the appetite for a high definition equivalent of Freeview and for such a service to be launched much sooner rather than later.

Put simply, the mobile phone companies need the major broadcasters to provide content for their mobile TV services, hence some form of cooperation will be required between the various parties for this to happen. Combine this with a reluctance for anyone to bid too much money and you have a perfect recipe for a deal between broadcasters and mobile phone companies.

So the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five and others may still get the space they need for a HD Freeview service but it will be no thanks to Ofcom or a cash-hungry Government which seems to have forgotten the basic principles of public service, regardless of whether or not digital terrestrial broadcasting will become outdated technology within the next ten years.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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