Memorandum from Mr Kevin Hutchens
I wish to submit the following brief statement
to the new inquiry on communications. This evidence relates to
the session with the BBC:
1. I continue to be impressed by the quality
of Public Service Broadcasting on the BBC. In news alone there
is so much variety and choice. However I continue to wish to see
more coverage of developing nations.
2. Comedy and Soaps continue to have an
important role. Old favourites such as EastEnders continue to
deserve acclaim, as does the backup for social issues raised via
3. I continue to be concerned about the
difficulty in accessing free to view digital channels. The Committee
would do well to examine the reality of the present situation.
At present there appears to be some confusion over the availability
of affordable set top boxes. It also appears the priority of the
industry is selling the more expensive and larger digital televisions.
In the light of the importance of this I have
submitted a separate memorandum by way of an email.
I am concerned about the difficulty in accessing
free to view digital channels. The Committee would do well to
examine the reality of the present situation.
Recently I contacted the BBC inquiry line to
ask if it was easily possible to get an affordable set top box,
in order to access free to view channels. I was advised that boxes
could be obtained (without taking up a subscription) for under
£100. Further it was advised that such boxes were available
to access ITV Digital.
However, a random phone round of three major
retailers confirmed a different story. One said they knew nothing
of such a scheme. Another quoted me a price of £168. The
third suggested that such a deal might be possible, but only if
I had a satellite dish installed (by Sky).
To say the least I feel this would confuse some
members of the public. Also it may be the case that some unscrupulous
dealers would use such a situation to do a hard sell on subscription
Clearly the Select Committee would do well to
examine carefully with the BBC how free-to-view channels can quickly
become a reality for all, without the intrusion of a satellite
dish and without the necessity of taking out a subscription.
2 December 2001