Freesat gets go-ahead

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A free-to-view satellite television project from the BBC and ITV has been approved by the former's overseeing body.

Freesat looks set to go live next spring after the BBC Trust gave the thumbs up to the joint venture.

For a one-off fee, consumers will be able to gain up to 200 channels and full digital satellite interactivity without the need for subscription.

The service will offer standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) receivers, as well as the option of an HD video recorder and an integrated digital television.

The BBC Trust granted its approval to the scheme after its own research showed that 86 per cent of respondents thought the proposals were valuable to licence payers, with 93 per cent saying they were consistent with the BBC's public service remit.

"The BBC's objective in launching Freesat is to support digital switchover by providing another way for licence payers to receive digital television channels and radio services, subscription free from the BBC and ITV," explained BBC director general Mark Thompson.

"Its primary purpose is to drive digital take-up in analogue homes, particularly in those areas which are out of digital terrestrial coverage."

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade, himself a former chairman at the BBC, added: "Freesat will build on the success of Freeview by offering viewers a simple and cost effective way of upgrading to digital TV.

"By filling in the current gaps in Freeview coverage, Freesat will ensure that a free-to-air, no strings attached option for accessing digital TV is available to the whole of the UK ahead of digital switchover."

The BBC and ITV say they are in talks with other broadcasters about joining the venture.

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