When the UK established rules to move all terrestrial television broadcasts to digital, there was one small glitch -- about 25% of the country is unable to receive digital broadcasts over the "Freeview" program due to poor reception quality. Of course, there has always been the solution of just getting satellite, but as anyone can tell you, Sky is far from free.
To solve this, the BBC and ITV proposed a "Freesat" initiative, meant to help that 25% receive signals as things change over from analogue to digital. Like Freeview, Freesat only requires the one purchase of equipment (in this case a dish and set-top box) with no further subscription. It has the added benefit of a high bandwidth over Freeview, which may also allow HD content in the future.
Freesat was proposed in September 2005. So why are we hearing about it now? Because the BBC Trust has finally approved it
, over a year and a half later. Warp speed, capt'n! And now that it's approved, the BBC can finally start working on implementing it. At this speed, by the time the changeover happens in 2012, it may even be working.
The new service comes with some stipulations imposed by the trust, including that ITV will not receive license fees from the BBC's normal funds (thus preventing an increase in license costs on the general population), and that the Beeb will maintain tight control over the content. That way, there is no doubt that the service is continuing its public benefits despite being "managed" by a private company.
Free satellite is actually not a totally new concept, as Sky has had the service for a while beforehand to provide similar benefits (digital channels). However, that service comes with the caveat that you are essentially signing a right to be harassed -- you must accept mailers and calls on a nearly weekly basis asking if you'd like to switch to the subscription services. Needless to say, the BBC's version will be a nice choice for people who'd rather not talk to a sales person once a week during dinner.
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