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


Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from the Director of the Federation of the Electronics Industry


  1.  Writing on behalf of Consumer Electronics Manufacturers, I would ask the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to consider the following points in relation to the evidence given to you and your colleagues by the Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry, and for Culture, Media and Sport on 12 March 2002.

  2.  Television receiver manufacturers welcome the commitment by Government to the objective of achieving switchover to all digital television broadcasting by 2010. We believe the timescale is achievable, providing the current difficulties are recognised and a radical get well programme is put in hand quickly.

  3.  Some 37 per cent of UK homes have been connected to digital television since the launch in October/November 1998. This is a remarkable achievement and has given the UK a lead world-wide which is in our country's interest to sustain. However, the vast majority of digital homes in the UK are subscribing to Pay-TV.

  4.  It is clear that at least 40 per cent of UK homes have no wish to subscribe to Pay TV. This substantial minority will have to be persuaded to migrate from analogue to digital television and for this there will have to be good quality Free-To-View digital services. Such services are just becoming available with the launch of BBC4 and the BBC childrens' programmes. The further delay to the launch of BBC3 and the questioning of BBC's right to run a News 24 programme must be greeted with dismay by all who wish to see the take-up of digital Free-To-View accelerate.

  5.  Another key factor particularly for the 40 per cent Free-To-View minority is the need to provide digital television by terrestrial means. This requires Digital Terrestrial Television to achieve 99.4 per cent coverage of UK homes. It is inconceivable that a Free-To-View home will voluntarily purchase a satellite dish and digital satellite receiver. Unfortunately, the Government has assumed that Digital Terrestrial Television coverage for the BBC and Public Service Broadcasters need only reach 80 per cent of the population and the remainder of UK homes can be expected to receive Digital Television by Satellite, Cable or ADSL. In their Report to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport published in December 2001, the Viewers Panel stated that ..."arguably Digital Terrestrial Television should cover 99.4 per cent of the population." We fully support this view. It is critical requirement to achieving switchover by 2010.

  6.  There are suggestions that manufacturers should be made to supply digital-only TV sets from a certain date. This would almost certainly contravene EU legislation or would otherwise be seen as an illegal barrier to trade. It would, moreover, be very difficult to police. Furthermore, currently such a limitation of consumer choice might well be in breach of fair competition. The Viewer's Panel certainly think mandated digital TV sets are not appropriate at present. Such suggestions mask the real problems which are related to the poor reception and inadequate coverage of Digital Terrestrial Television; and insufficient Free-To-View digital television services.

  7.  Consumer Electronics Manufacturers have made significant investment in design and development of digital television receivers. There is a small but significant market for integrated digital television (iDTV) receivers which could grow rapidly if vigorous efforts are made to improve the range and quality of digital Free-To-View services; and a commitment made to universal DTT coverage. There is also a substantial potential market for low cost digital terrestrial Free-To-View Set-Top-Boxes which could help to transform digital take-up into a mass market. But to be successful Digital Terrestrial Television coverage and reception must be greatly improved and the associated Free-To-View services introduced rapidly and effectively.

  8.  Should the Chairman and his Select Committee colleagues wish for further information our industry will be very pleased to respond.

14 March 2002

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