Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Further supplementary memorandum submitted by BSkyB

  BSkyB would like to offer some additional clarificatory information on two issues raised during its oral evidence session at the Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing on 8 February 2001.


  1.1  Digital satellite is the only platform in the UK currently offering free receiving equipment without a requirement to subscribe to any pay-TV service. To receive a free set-top box and dish, digital satellite customers need only agree to a telephone connection to their box (no new line necessary) enabling access to interactive digital television services, and to pay for installation. Standard installation is £100 for non-subscribers (comparable to the cost of installing a TV aerial), reduced to £40 for those who do choose to subscribe to any Sky package.

  1.2  ONdigital, on the other hand, lends free equipment to viewers only while they take at least a basic pay-TV subscription for a minimum of 12 months, and the cable industry only provides set-top boxes to its customers while they subscribe to pay-TV services.

  1.3  Those viewers who benefit from the free satellite box and dish offer, but who do not wish to subscribe to any pay-TV service, can still receive many dozens of free-to-air services without charge, including BBC services, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as access to e-mail and many interactive and e-commerce services. Subscribers and non-subscribers alike can access more free-to air channels on digital satellite than any other platform. According to information provided by ASTRA, the operator of the satellite system, 77 audio and video channels were carried free-to-air in November 2000 (list attached[22].


  2.1  Sky is currently required to subtitle 50 per cent of programming on all its DTT channels (Sky One, Sky Premier, Sky Moviemax, and Sky Sports 1, 2 and 3), by the tenth year of launch, and has been making steady progress towards this target. Indeed, on some channels the annual 5 per cent incremental targets have been exceeded significantly, for example on Sky One and Sky Premier where already over 40 per cent and 45 per cent of programmes are subtitled respectively. The subtitling on Sky's DTT services is also carried on those channels' digital satellite broadcasts.

  2.2  In response to a question from Mr Keen on subtitling provision, Mr Ball indicated that, over the next 10 years, Sky intends to subtitle 80 per cent of its DTT programming. This follows the Government's proposal to increase the DTT subtitling targets from 50 per cent to 80 per cent over 10 years. The subtitling on Sky's DTT services would also be carried on those channels' digital satellite transmissions.

  2.3  In a further exchange with Ms Kirkbride, Mr Gallagher explained the position with regard to other satellite and cable channels, where the Government propose to apply the same targets as DTT at the next legislative opportunity. Sky, like most satellite and cable broadcasters, advocates a voluntary rather than legislative approach to subtitling for these services. Most satellite and cable channels do not enjoy the licence fees or scarce UK frequencies from which terrestrial broadcasters benefit, and compulsory requirements on new niche channels could place disproportionate burdens on a number of those channels[23]. As indicated by Mr Ball, however, Sky aims to achieve a high level of subtitling on Sky News on an accelerated and entirely voluntary basis.

February 2001

22   Not printed. Back

23   For example, BBC News 24 enjoys more than £50 million of public funding per annum, with which it can finance extensive subtitling, irrespective of the channel's low reach and share of viewing. (BARB figures for October-December 2000 show the average weekly reach of BBC News 24 was only 4.2 per cent of digital viewers-ie more than nine out of 10 digital viewers did not even watch the channel in the course of a week-and the channel accounted for just a 0.29 per cent share of viewing in digital homes). Back

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