The BBC has been given the go-ahead to develop and launch its long-awaited Freesat initiative. Announcing the approval after a one-month consultation which generated more than 700 responses, acting BBC Trust chairman Chitra Bharucha said the free-to-view digital satellite proposition would create "significant public value".
Bharucha said the Freesat venture would "ensure the public remain in control of how they access the BBC's television channels and radio networks for which they have already paid".
"Freesat is guaranteed to remain subscription free, ensuring that the benefits of digital television do not equal 'pay television'. The results of the public consultation have reinforced our view that the BBC's proposition for Freesat will create significant public value.
"The Trust has asked BBC management to move swiftly in developing plans. On behalf of all licence fee payers, and particularly those outside Freeview coverage areas, we have asked BBC management to be ready to launch Freesat as quickly as possible to ensure that licence fee payers gain the maximum benefit in the lead up to digital switchover."
Of the 700 responses, 25 came from organisations. A majority of organisations responded were "broadly supportive", said the BBC Trust. "Some questioned whether it is the responsibility of the BBC to create additional choice for consumers and if such a proposition should be publicly funded and some respondents also questioned the Trust's decision not to apply a 'Public Value Test' before reaching its decision."
Bharucha said the Trust had imposed a number of conditions on Freesat, including a requirement that other broadcasters in the venture should not be subsidised by the licence fee, and that the BBC "should keep its interaction with Freeview operationally separate from its involvement with Freesat to minimise any potential effect on competition".
Lovelace Consulting | 27.04.2007