Brown includes spectrum in £36bn windfall

Gordon Brown

Chancellor Gordon Brown has included the auction of spectrum liberated from digital switchover among asset sales that are set to raise £36bn for the Treasury between now and 2011. The amount is twice the forecast made in December.

The Treasury has not set a target for the auction. But Brown's inclusion of the spectrum among other asset sales just a day after Ofcom's consultaton on its Digital Dividend Review—which recommends all the liberated spectrum be sold—has unsettled public service broadcasters hoping that some spectrum be set aside for high-definition channels on Freeview.

"We are extremely disappointed that the ink is barely dry on the consultation responses sent to Ofcom and meanwhile the Treasury is factoring in significant revenues from these auctions," Richard Lindsay-Davies, director general of the Digital TV Group, told The Guardian.

An Ofcom spokesman was quoted by The Guardian as saying: "Our priority is to increase the supply of spectrum, reducing scarcity, and so creating more opportunities for innovation and competition. It is not Ofcom's objective to raise revenue for the Government."

Earlier this month Trade and Industry minister Margaret Hodge sought to dispel industry speculation that the Treasury is seeking to maximise revenues from a spectrum auction by not setting aside capacity for HD on Freeview.

Addressing the Digital TV Group's annual summit—which was dominated by the spectrum issue—Hodge echoed Ofcom's statement in December that it did not believe it was best-placed to decide which services should get access to spectrum, and insisted: "This spectrum [auction] is not about maximising money for the Treasury."

Last week broadcasting minister Shaun Woodward said ministers were keeping an "open mind" on calls for spectrum use after digital switchover.

Lovelace Consulting  |  22.03.2007

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