More organisations have joined a campaign to preserve Freeview and terrestrial radio beyond 2040, but the Government says it won’t commit to beyond 2034.
Joining the Broadcast 2040+ campaign, new coalition partners include the Digital Poverty Alliance and the Campaign to End Loneliness, alongside the National Federation of the Blind of the UK.
Additionally, organisations from across the broadcast sector have signed up, including the Local TV Network (LTVN) which represents 34 local TV services, World DAB, the global industry forum for digital radio, and Together TV – the community-focused free-to-air channel.
Notably, none of the UK’s major broadcasters have signed up to the campaign.
The expansion of the Broadcast 2040+ coalition follows significant TV viewing figures over recent weeks, which saw the nation come together to celebrate Eurovision and King Charles III’s Coronation. Campaigners argue that viewing figures for these events demonstrate the continued role terrestrial TV and radio play in uniting the nation.
In November, delegates will meet at the World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-23) in Dubai to make globally binding decisions on the future use of the spectrum currently used for terrestrial TV. Meanwhile, most of the UK’s largest radio groups are actively pushing their streaming apps as an alternative to FM and DAB-based services.
Currently Ofcom and Government want to keep Freeview until 2034. But members of the Broadcast 2040+ campaign want to go further, into the 2040s.
▶ What are the long-term alternatives for terrestrial TV and radio?
- TV and radio services could be streamed entirely via broadband internet and mobile networks. By the 2030s, it’s expected most households will be able to access fibre-based internet connections. But households wanting to stream across multiple devices will need a higher speed service, which traditionally cost more than lower speed tiers.
- Alternatively, public service broadcasters could be awarded a slice of spectrum for a terrestrial 5G Broadcast network to create a basic universal service for all users. This would create a free-to-use 5G service using the existing network of main and relay transmitters used by Freeview. 5G Broadcast is currently being tested in a number of European countries, including the Czech Republic, Germany and Italy. 5G Broadcast can stream audio and video content not just to TVs, but also to tablets and mobiles, without Wi-Fi or mobile subscription.
- Satellite TV is expected to be phased out by the end of the decade. Cable TV is expected to effectively convert over to an IP-based service.
When will these changes need to happen?
The BBC wants to transition to an all IP-based broadcast environment and has been told to engage with stakeholders. The Government is minded to secure terrestrial TV services until current broadcast licences expire at the end of 2034.
This would mean ensuring that WRC-23 decides to maintain the status quo with regards frequency usage for another four years.
As RXTV reported earlier this month, a similar campaign covering EU countries is also lobbying to retain the current terrestrial TV frequencies for media and cultural use. While the UK is not in the EU, decisions made at WRC-23 will need international co-ordination across national borders.
In refusing to commit to the future of Freeview beyond 2034, the Government says it believes “this strikes the right balance between giving certainty to audiences, platform operators and broadcasters on the one hand, while recognising that – in a decade’s time – the broadcasting landscape and quality of digital infrastructure might look very different.”