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


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 future.

  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

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