Memorandum submitted by Teletext Limited
I understand that the Culture, Media and Sport
Committee of the House of Commons is taking evidence on a range
of issues in advance of the planned White Paper. Teletext Limited
responded to the Committee with written evidence concerning the
last White Paper and I would be most grateful if the following
submission could be included in the Committee's considerations.
Teletext Limited is a public service broadcaster
and has since 1993 provided the public teletext service on Channels
3 and 4. Today the service provided by Teletext is used, every
week, by almost fifty per cent of the UK population, c.22 million
users. The service is regulated by the ITC and delivers a range
of editorial content including News, Sport, Entertainment, Lifestyle
and Social Information. In recent years the ITC has consistently
commended Teletext for quality of the service which in many respects
exceeds the requirements of it's licence.
With the arrival of new platforms providing
new means of electronic distribution, Teletext saw the need to
ensure that the service was available on all delivery platforms.
Currently, Teletext is available on analogue terrestrial television,
digital terrestrial television, digital cable television, digital
satellite television, the internet and mobile phones.
These Teletext services are familiar to the
user, of high quality and easy to use. As such they attract a
large and growing audience particularly amongst those who might
otherwise reject new technologies. We believe that Teletext can
make an important contribution in encouraging the take up of electronic
and interactive information services and thereby in enabling the
UK to remain at the forefront of the information age.
There are however a number of issues which Teletext
regards as of sufficient importance to bring to the attention
of the Committee.
The capacity currently available to Teletext
is insufficient to allow the Company to comply with it's obligations
as set out in the 996 Broadcasting Act. The analogue service which
we have been broadcasting since 1993 typically comprises 1,100
pages. By comparison, with the capacity available on digital terrestrial,
we can broadcast only 250 pages. This is profoundly disappointing
to us and, more importantly, to our audience. We have sought capacity
on commercial terms from other broadcasters but there has been
no interest on their part.
I understand that ways are being sought to make
more capacity available for digital terrestrial television. I
would encourage the Committee to support the case for Teletext
to be awarded additional capacity. Our needs are modest and the
difference we can make is, I submit, considerable.
As a public service broadcaster we have (insufficient)
gifted capacity on digital terrestrial. We are therefore assured
of carriage on this platform. On digital cable and on digital
satellite no such assurance exists and we are carried at the discretion
of the platform owner. Moreover the duration or term of the carriage
is entirely discretionary as is the content profile. It is possible
for platform owners to determine the content of the service we
provide. This could lead to the deconstruction of the service,
the destruction of the Teletext brand and the service it signifies.
We propose that "must carry status"
for Teletext should apply to digital cable as it does for other
public service broadcasters. We further propose that "must
carry status" for public services should apply to all television
delivery networks including digital satellite and, when appropriate,
DSL(Digital Subscriber Loop). Public service broadcasting plays
an important part in the UK broadcasting landscape and it should
not be marginalised by new network owners.
Whilst "must carry" (and the recriprocal
"must offer") will ensure access to distribution of
our services on the new networks, we recognise that the platform
owner has made significant investments in deploying the technology.
It is reasonable for the platform owner to expect a contribution,
from carried services, to his costs. Our concern relates to the
transparency and openness with which these costs are arrived at
and providing comfort that they are fair and reasonable. At present,
terms are negotiated on a bilateral basis with no mechanism for
comparison being available. If a telephone company or a utility
company were to operate on this basis it would be widely condemned.
We propose that the terms available for carriage
on new television delivery networks should be a matter of public
record thereby enabling companies to plan, sensibly, for their
I understand that the Committee will have to
assess a great deal of evidence and accordingly I have sought
to keep this submission brief. Nonetheless, I hope the Committee
will recognise the legitimacy of our concerns and find itself
able to support our proposals. I am of course happy to discuss
these matters further if required.
25 January 2002