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23rd Oct - Solus - Westminster



 
 
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Old November 4th 03, 01:42 PM
Paddy
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Default 23rd Oct - Solus - Westminster

21 Oct 2003 : Westminster Hall



Television Reception (Rural Areas)



3.59 pm



Mr. Man Reid (Argyll and flute): During my summer tour of my constituency,
the most common complaint raised by constituents was difficulties obtaining
television reception. The matter kept cropping up in all parts of Argyll and
mite. It is a problem that does not affect only the highlands and islands.
Since I was granted this Adjournment debate, many Members from throughout
the country have contacted me to say that their constituents experience it.



The fundamental problem is that the terrestrial analogue signal does not
reach many parts of the country. Many constituents who cannot receive a
decent reception from terrestrial signals sought to solve the problem by
buying a Sky digibox. Until recently, they were able to receive the five
terrestrial channels from a BSkYB satellite via their digibox on a
free-to-view basis using a Solus viewing card. However, the BBC has decided
to end its contract with BSkyB, and it has moved its digital services to a
new satellite. The effect of that is that BSkyB can disable those Solus
viewing cards at any time. If that happens, those viewers will no longer be
able to use their Solus card to receive ITVI and Channels 4 and 5. Unless
they pay a subscription to BSkyB, their cards could be disabled at any time
and then they would be able to watch only the two BBC channels.



In addition to buying a Sky digibox, many of those viewers also paid a years
subscription to BSkyB because its adverts led them to believe that their
contract with BSkyB would allow them to view the five terrestrial channels
indefinitely at no further cost, after the expiry of their year's
subscription. Having paid a licence fee, bought a digibox and paid a years
subscription to BSkyB, they were told out of the blue that they must pay
further annual subscriptions to BSkyB to receive the terrestrial channels
ITV 1, and Channels 4 and 5.



That is outrageous, bearing in mind that most of the country takes these
services for granted. BSkyB, ITV and Channels 4 and 5 are negotiating to try
to reach an agreement that would allow viewers with a Sky digibox to
continue to view ITV l and Channels 4 and 5. It is possible that they have
already reached an agreement and not announced it yet. Even if an agreement
is reached, I am sure that there will still be a cost to the viewers, and
there will also be uncertainty about what will happen when the contract
between ITV and BSkyB ends.



A fundamental principle is at stake. People who have bought a TV license
should have the right to watch the five terrestrial channels without having
to pay more fees to private broadcasters. The present system is chaotic. It
is wrong that viewers who have bought expensive equipment and paid up-front
costs such as a year's subscription to Sky can be led to believe that they
can watch the five terrestrial channels from then on so long as they pay the
annual license fee, only to find that their TV can be blanked out as a
result of a deal between major corporations. A deal between Sky and ITV and
Channels 4 and 5 may resolve the situation in the short term, but the
uncertainty will continue and the Government must sort this situation out in
the long term.





The license fee is a hypothecated pol1 tax. The money raised goes to the
BBC.

Everybody who pays that poll tax should receive the five terrestrial
channels in return.

Otherwise, taking the license fee off those viewers is tantamount to fraud.



If the situation with regard to ITV and Channels 4 and 5 were not bad
enough. viewers who receive the BBC digitally via the satellite, cannot even
watch all BBC programmes. As one of the Minister's responsibilities is
sport, I am sure that he will appreciate the anger felt by viewers when I
explain that one of the effects of the BBC's decision to broadcast its
regional channels throughout the UK is that digital viewers of BBC Scotland
cannot watch Scottish football.



The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn) :1 will not be
tempted by that.



Mr. Reid The Minister would have a feeling for the scale of the outrage if
he found that Sheffield United games were to be broadcast throughout the
whole country but blanked out in Sheffield-his postbag would be full. That
is what happens in Scotland at the moment. The BBC is blanking out Scottish
premier league matches from its digital service because its contract with
Scottish premier league says that those matches cannot be broadcast outside
Scotland and the digital version of its regional channels are now broadcast
throughout the UK



I find it galling that the BBC can pay millions of pounds of license payers'
money to the Scottish and English football authorities, yet cannot find a
solution to the problem. Surely, either a technical solution can be found or
the BBC could simply renegotiate its contract with the Scottish premier
league. Again, the fundamental principle should be-this is where the
Government should step in-that if people pay the license fee, they should
have the right to watch all BBC programmes.



Other gaps in television reception mean that many parts of Argyll and Bute
cannot receive the new Freeview service; many parts cannot receive Channel
5. As an example of the frustration felt by my constituents, I shall read
out a letter that I received from a constituent in Kilmelford, I received it
after I had sent her a copy of the standard letter that the Minister for
Media and Heritage, the noble Lord Mcintosh, sends out to MPs who complain
about television reception in their constituencies. This is the reply to
that left er:



"Regarding the installation of a satellite dish, [I have made enquiries, but
it would have to be put on a post 200 metres up the hill from my house at a
cost £220 over and above the Sky charge. I would also have to pay £12.50 per
month to Sky and being a pensioner, still paying for my TV licence",



she says that she cannot afford the additional monthly cost. She continues:



"I would have to get permission from the farmer who owns the field, and
according to people I've spoken to in the village they had Sky dishes fixed
on posts on the hill and the livestock kept chewing through the cables".



Those are some of the problems that people trying to receive decent
television reception in rural

areas face.



The standard reply from the Minister advises viewers to contact a reputable
local installer through the Confederation of Aerial Industries. A reputable
installer will have experience of local reception characteristics and can
advise on the location and orientation of a satellite dish. I generally find
that when I send on that standard letter to constituents, they have already
spoken to a reputable aeriel installer before contacting me, and it is
simply not possible to achieve decent quality television reception in many
places.



Another cause for concern in rural areas is the Government's plan to switch
all the terrestrial television channels from analogue to digital no later
than 2010-only seven years away. Many viewers in rural areas, outside the
reach of analogue signals, rely on self-help relay schemes to receive the
terrestrial channels. Those are small cable systems tat carry the signal
from an analogue relay station situated on a nearby hill. In years gone by,
such schemes received financial support from the BBC, but no longer.
Government policy is that no central Government moneys are available to
assist in the finding of self-help schemes.



There also appear to be no plans to convert those small analogue relay
stations so that they will be able to receive and relay digital signals
around the village. Many of the villages served byte self.help schemes are
in glens that cannot receive digital signals from the satellite because of
the high mountains round about. The self-help scheme is the only way those
villages can receive TV.



Unless the Government change their policy of no assistance for the self-help
schemes, those villages will be left without TV when the analogue signals
are switched off One of the Governments criteria for the analogue switch-off
is that



"everyone who currently receives the main public broadcast channels in
analogue form must be able to receive them digitally".





It is not clear from the criteria whether viewers who receive the
terrestrial channels via a self-help relay system count as viewers who must
be able to receive digital before the analogue switch-off. Perhaps the
Minister can clarify that. I hope that he will agree that those viewers
should count in the statistics. If he does, will he tell the House that the
Government will pay the cost of converting the self-help relay systems to
digital?



Another criteria for the analogue switch-off is affordability. The criteria
here is:



'Switching to digital should be an affordable option for the vast majority
of people.'



'Vast majority" is a worryingly vague term, whereas other statistics in the
Governments criteria involve specific percentages. I earlier explained the
vast costs that some viewers have gone to to receive digital TV. But even
then the plug can be pulled from their TV set by big corporations doing some
deal. Such uncertainty does not encourage viewers to invest in expensive
equipment.



I am concerned that we will see two divides in TV-watching in our country.
The first will be urban/rural. The urban viewer will buy a TV licence and be
able to receive all programmes with no problem. The rural dweller will
either have no decent reception at all or will have to pay out vast sums of
money to be able to watch TV. The other divide in our rural communities will
be between rich and poor. Those who can afford it will be able to buy the
equipment and pay the subscriptions necessary to watch TV, but those on low
incomes will be left out.



Hywel Williams (Caernarfon): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there are
further problems in parts of rural Wales? Some people wish to watch Channel
4 because they cannot understand Sianel Pedwar Cymru, S4C, the Welsh
language fourth channel and have invested in equipment specifically to watch
Channel 4 and Channel 5. With the current proposals, that is a problem for
Welsh constituents.



Mr. Reid : The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point and I agree. The
Government should be making available the Welsh TV channel on a free-to-view
basis as well as the other five terrestrial channels.



Mr. AListair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland): Can I suggest that this
problem is yet a further compulsitor towards the depopulation of the
highlands and islands? The families that we want to keep there are those
with young children. The inability to receive television signals of the sort
that my hon. Friend has outlined will be another factor that they will take
into consideration when deciding whether to remain in those communities.



Mr. Reid : My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The highlands and
islands have suffered depopulation for many years. We want to encourage
young families to stay and other young families to come and live there. If
they cannot get decent affordable television, that will be one reason why
they will move away.



The Government should adopt a simple principle. Everyone who pays the
licence fee should be able to receive all programmes on all terrestrial
channels on a free-to-view basis. I hope that the Minister agrees.



Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Nicholas Winterton): I believe that the hon. Member
for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) has sought the permission of the
initiator of the debate, the Minister and me to take part in the debate.



Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire): I shall take a short part in
the debate. Thank you for your great kindness in allowing me to do so, Mr.
Deputy Speaker. I want to build on the point that the hon. Member for
Caernarfon (Hywel Williams) made about S4C, the Welsh language station,
particularly as it relates to my constituents and those of my hon. Friend
the Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Opik) who live up and down the Welsh
border. Television viewers receive their terrestrial analogue signal from
relay stations on the other side of the border. The result is that they
generally receive Channel 4 when they would like to receive S4C, the Welsh
language station, to get news and political developments from Wales.



Another issue is that my constituents often receive midlands ITV signals.
The regional programmes, and particularly local political issues, are from
the midlands rather than from Wales. We saw the digital solution as enabling
the people to have a choice between S4C and Channel 4, and between midland
ITV and the Welsh independent television service. We would be pleased if the
Minister could come to us with a solution. Without such a solution, those
facilities will not be available to our constituents.



Mr. Deputy Speaker : The Minister is frill of solutions.



The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn) :1 was reflecting on
the comments made by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid). I
congratulate him on securing the Adjournment debate. As he explained, the
issue is important. However, I have just left a meeting about obesity in
young children who watch too much television. It shows that one can become
schizophrenic in this job if one is not careful. I am grateful to him for
raising the issue of rural television.



Lembit Opik (Montgomeryshire): We want rural children to have the right to
watch too much television in the same way as theft urban counterparts, which
they sadly cannot do in Montgomeryshire at the moment.



Mr. Caborn : It is all a matter of choice.



I have a great deal of sympathy for viewers who installed satellite
equipment in good faith, who chose to go free to view and who have been told
that their Solus cards will not work after a certain date. We have received
more than 800 letters about the matter, and we have also received more than
150 letters from MPs, some of which have been cited in this afternoon's
debate.



I will give the Chamber an update on how the broadcasters are trying to
resolve the issue, but first I want to explain the background to the
Government's policy on digital television and the digital switchover, which
the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute also raised.



The growth in take-up of digital television is a significant development in
broadcasting in this country. We are close to the point at which 50 per
cent, of all households have digital television. The current take-up level
is 48 per cent., and we believe that it will have gone over 50 per cent, by
Christmas. The successful launch of Freeview and the continued growth of Sky
have been central to the increase in digital television. The launch of
Freeview has been helped by technical changes to improve the signal since
its launch last year. All six digital terrestrial television multiplexes are
available to around 73 per cent, of households.



The enthusiastic take-up of digital makes the Government believe that
switching off the analogue signals at some time is the right decision for
the economy and viewers alike. Indeed, on 18 September my right hon. Friends
the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Secretary of
State for Trade and Industry published a cost-benefit analysis showing that
switchover will bring a quantifiable benefit of between £1.5 billion and £2
billion in net present value terms.



There is still some way to go to convince people that switchover is the
right thing, and this debate provides a timely opportunity to set out the
arguments. First, we need to switch off because we can extend DTT coverage
more widely because of the limitations of terrestrial broadcasting. Analogue
is the incumbent mode of terrestrial broadcast, which means that analogue
transmissions have exclusive use of channels that have been cleared
internationally for full power transmission.



Digital television uses the same spectrum as that used for analogue
television, with digital transmission interleaved between the analogue
services. That means that the number of clear frequency channels that can be
used for DTT without causing interference with other services, nationally
and internationally, is severely restricted.



Those limitations mean that digital terrestrial cannot be extended until the
completion of switchover. In planning the current DTT transmitter network,
the broadcasters decided to concentrate on developing the 50 main
transmitter sites and 30 of the larger relay sites, which would deliver the
maximum coverage, given spectrum constraints. hievitably, that means that at
present rural and remote areas fall outside the scope of digital terrestrial
coverage.



Secondly, there is the cost of duplication. Broadcasters are spending
significant sums on transmitting programmes in analogue and digital form.
The terrestrial broadcast network will need major capital investment in the
next decade or so. As the majority of households switch to digital, it makes
less and less sense to continue with that uneconomic arrangement.



The third factor is the sheer inefficiency of analogue broadcasts in
spectrum terms. Digital transmission uses a fraction of the capacity of
analogue broadcasts while increasing choice, giving access to interactivity
and driving electronic programme guides to help viewers in a multi-channel
environment. Switching off will allow us to work the spectrum much harder.



We are clear, then, that the question is not whether we switch off analogue
broadcasts-that case has been made-but when. We must ensure that digital is
right for all viewers. That is why we have established a consumer experts'
group to ensure that there is an effective conduit for working through
issues affecting consumers. Ofcom also has a consumer panel, and it will be
involved in the exercise, too.



There are many other issues to be resolved before we can set a date. We are
still on track for 2010, but progress depends on the response of consumers,
broadcasters and other stakeholders. One of the tasks of switchover will be
for broadcasters to produce proposals on the level of digital terrestrial
coverage at switchover. Their decision will be based on a judgment about the
cost effectiveness of a complete conversion to the 1,100 transmitters and
the relays in the UK.



The Government and Ofcom will need to review the broadcasters' proposals,
and to consider whether sufficient provision is made for those who have no
access to digital terrestrial. We will consult on those proposals next year.
The points that the hon. Member for Argyll and flute raised about switchover
will be factored into that consultation. The decision on when we move to
switchover will be based on the outcome of that consultation.



Pete Wishart (North Tayside): Not much that the Minister has said will be of
comfort to my constituents who cannot receive services. Would he be prepared
to ensure that Ofcom provided satellite services if we do not make any
progress on that issue in the foreseeable future?



Mr. Caborn : Let me complete what I have to say, and then the hon. Gentleman
may want to come back to that subject if there is time. What I have to say
will probably cover his question.



One of the main considerations will be the option of free-to-view cards when
public service broadcasts are encrypted. That is a particular concern for
people in remote areas who may only have access to satellite when switchover
takes place.



As has been said, in May the BBC decided to move its broadcast services from
the Astra 2A to the Astra 2D satellite, and to enable consumers to receive
EBC services in the clear without a viewing bard. However, that new
arrangement ended payments by the BBC to Sky for provision of Solus viewing
cards to digital satellite viewers who do not have a subscription to a
pay-TV service. A consequence of that decision was the problem of how access
to the free-to-view commercial channels-ITV, Channels 4 and 5-could be
maintained on the satellite platform. Sky made it clear that it was not
prepared to fund supplying new viewing cards to Solus card viewers, but said
it would facilitate a new scheme.



ITV, and Channels 4 and 5 have been working hard to develop a solution,
following the representations made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of
State. Good progress is being made and we believe that the broadcasters are
close to a solution. Indeed, today I am able to announce good news: they
have made a deal. The details are not finalised yet, but we already know
that those people who have no subscription satellite viewing card, and who
wish to continue receiving the commercially funded public service channels
without paying subscription to Sky or other broadcasters will be able to get
a new card. They will be offered the opportunity to buy a viewing card for
£20 plus VAT. Those cards will last until Sky does another card swap-out,
and for at least two years if the next swap-out is sooner than that.



Channel 4, ITV and Channel 5 are contributing hundreds of thousands of
pounds to cover the overheads of the scheme. Sky is not expected to disable
existing cards until the new scheme is up and running. All the affected
viewers-those who have not received new viewing cards from BSkyB because
they are not current subscribers- will be alerted to the new scheme through
an on-screen message, which will direct them to the call centre where they
will be told what to do. Those on-screen messages should appear on Monday 27
October or the following week on 3 November. We believe that is a good
outcome. It has not been easy to achieve and I want to take the opportunity
to thank the broadcasters for their hard work in coming to that solution. We
are aware of other issues affecting rural television coverage and those are
concerns.



Mr. Reid : The announcement that the Minister has just made about the £20
plus

VAT charge, although a step in the right direction, is still not the ideal
solution. The

Government provide free television licences for the over-75s. Will they be
consistent

and offer viewing cards for free to the over-75s?



Mr. Caborn : The difference between being 75 and over and living in a
particular area is that of choice. People do not have a choice about being
over 75. There is a rationale to the idea and if representations were made,
it would be a decision for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hear what the
hon. Gentleman says, but it is not a decision for the DCMS.



I was pointing out that the planning rules on the installation of dishes are
too restrictive, especially for people living in national parks and other
rural designated areas. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister published a
consultation paper in April outlining options for reform. I understand that
the Scottish Executive are to publish a consultation paper shortly and we
are also looking at other constraints affecting tenants, particularly those
in public sector housing. Those points were raised, and the ODPM will
produce a consultation paper.



The hon. Member for Argyll and flute touched on television coverage being
part of the wider digital divide. The Government are looking at several
possible solutions, such as broadband aggregation and satellite broadband. I
can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are committed to doing everything we
can to stimulate the market. The Government have looked at the satellite
platform's ability to offer an attractive consumer broadband solution either
independently or as part of a combined digital television and rural digital
package and that work is continuing. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his
colleagues will make representations to ensure that we get that right.



Hywel Williams : I am still trying to take in the announcement the Minister
made about those over 75. Will he answer a simple question? Does he mean
that those over 75 will pay twice for the same thing?



Mr. Caborn : There are two clear rules. One applies to those over 75, which
was put in place by the Government to ensure that they have access to
television-because of their age, income and circumstances a political
decision has been made that they should have such access. That was made in
its own right and on its own merits. We are discussing a totally different
issue in this case-[Interruption.] We are still dealing with those over 75,
but if they live in certain areas, conditions apply there. That is no
different whether someone is under or over 75. Anyone who is over 75 will
deal with those conditions that apply for anyone who is that age in the
United Kingdom.



Mr. Carmichael : Why is someone who is over 75 and living in the west side
of Shetland to be treated differently from someone over 75 who is living in
Glasgow?



Mr. Caborn : The rules that apply for someone over the age of 75 do not
change. If they live in certain areas where the same conditions apply to
everyone, 75 and under, or those over 85, they will still get what any other
over-75-year-old will get via that Act. That concession has been made.



The problems of rural coverage cannot be resolved separately from digital
switchover. It is not sensible to improve analogue services when an
increased number of householders are voting to go digital. Our framework for
switchover will ensure that people in rural areas who receive public service
broadcasting channels on analogue- BBCI to Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5-have
access to those public service channels when analogue is switched off.



It being half-past Four o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the
sitting lapsed,

without Question put.



  #2  
Old November 5th 03, 08:22 PM
IOOA
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

The Sky site says the cards are £20 plus VAT but that a pub has to pay £105
for the same P2 card


Why? surely a pub is allowed to use a standard television with analogue and
just pay a standard licences fee, why is it more to use a P2 card in a pub
via sky than an individual person.

"Paddy" wrote in message
...
21 Oct 2003 : Westminster Hall



Television Reception (Rural Areas)



3.59 pm



Mr. Man Reid (Argyll and flute): During my summer tour of my constituency,
the most common complaint raised by constituents was difficulties

obtaining
television reception. The matter kept cropping up in all parts of Argyll

and
mite. It is a problem that does not affect only the highlands and islands.
Since I was granted this Adjournment debate, many Members from throughout
the country have contacted me to say that their constituents experience

it.



The fundamental problem is that the terrestrial analogue signal does not
reach many parts of the country. Many constituents who cannot receive a
decent reception from terrestrial signals sought to solve the problem by
buying a Sky digibox. Until recently, they were able to receive the five
terrestrial channels from a BSkYB satellite via their digibox on a
free-to-view basis using a Solus viewing card. However, the BBC has

decided
to end its contract with BSkyB, and it has moved its digital services to a
new satellite. The effect of that is that BSkyB can disable those Solus
viewing cards at any time. If that happens, those viewers will no longer

be
able to use their Solus card to receive ITVI and Channels 4 and 5. Unless
they pay a subscription to BSkyB, their cards could be disabled at any

time
and then they would be able to watch only the two BBC channels.



In addition to buying a Sky digibox, many of those viewers also paid a

years
subscription to BSkyB because its adverts led them to believe that their
contract with BSkyB would allow them to view the five terrestrial channels
indefinitely at no further cost, after the expiry of their year's
subscription. Having paid a licence fee, bought a digibox and paid a years
subscription to BSkyB, they were told out of the blue that they must pay
further annual subscriptions to BSkyB to receive the terrestrial channels
ITV 1, and Channels 4 and 5.



That is outrageous, bearing in mind that most of the country takes these
services for granted. BSkyB, ITV and Channels 4 and 5 are negotiating to

try
to reach an agreement that would allow viewers with a Sky digibox to
continue to view ITV l and Channels 4 and 5. It is possible that they have
already reached an agreement and not announced it yet. Even if an

agreement
is reached, I am sure that there will still be a cost to the viewers, and
there will also be uncertainty about what will happen when the contract
between ITV and BSkyB ends.



A fundamental principle is at stake. People who have bought a TV license
should have the right to watch the five terrestrial channels without

having
to pay more fees to private broadcasters. The present system is chaotic.

It
is wrong that viewers who have bought expensive equipment and paid

up-front
costs such as a year's subscription to Sky can be led to believe that they
can watch the five terrestrial channels from then on so long as they pay

the
annual license fee, only to find that their TV can be blanked out as a
result of a deal between major corporations. A deal between Sky and ITV

and
Channels 4 and 5 may resolve the situation in the short term, but the
uncertainty will continue and the Government must sort this situation out

in
the long term.





The license fee is a hypothecated pol1 tax. The money raised goes to the
BBC.

Everybody who pays that poll tax should receive the five terrestrial
channels in return.

Otherwise, taking the license fee off those viewers is tantamount to

fraud.



If the situation with regard to ITV and Channels 4 and 5 were not bad
enough. viewers who receive the BBC digitally via the satellite, cannot

even
watch all BBC programmes. As one of the Minister's responsibilities is
sport, I am sure that he will appreciate the anger felt by viewers when I
explain that one of the effects of the BBC's decision to broadcast its
regional channels throughout the UK is that digital viewers of BBC

Scotland
cannot watch Scottish football.



The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn) :1 will not be
tempted by that.



Mr. Reid The Minister would have a feeling for the scale of the outrage if
he found that Sheffield United games were to be broadcast throughout the
whole country but blanked out in Sheffield-his postbag would be full. That
is what happens in Scotland at the moment. The BBC is blanking out

Scottish
premier league matches from its digital service because its contract with
Scottish premier league says that those matches cannot be broadcast

outside
Scotland and the digital version of its regional channels are now

broadcast
throughout the UK



I find it galling that the BBC can pay millions of pounds of license

payers'
money to the Scottish and English football authorities, yet cannot find a
solution to the problem. Surely, either a technical solution can be found

or
the BBC could simply renegotiate its contract with the Scottish premier
league. Again, the fundamental principle should be-this is where the
Government should step in-that if people pay the license fee, they should
have the right to watch all BBC programmes.



Other gaps in television reception mean that many parts of Argyll and Bute
cannot receive the new Freeview service; many parts cannot receive Channel
5. As an example of the frustration felt by my constituents, I shall read
out a letter that I received from a constituent in Kilmelford, I received

it
after I had sent her a copy of the standard letter that the Minister for
Media and Heritage, the noble Lord Mcintosh, sends out to MPs who complain
about television reception in their constituencies. This is the reply to
that left er:



"Regarding the installation of a satellite dish, [I have made enquiries,

but
it would have to be put on a post 200 metres up the hill from my house at

a
cost £220 over and above the Sky charge. I would also have to pay £12.50

per
month to Sky and being a pensioner, still paying for my TV licence",



she says that she cannot afford the additional monthly cost. She

continues:



"I would have to get permission from the farmer who owns the field, and
according to people I've spoken to in the village they had Sky dishes

fixed
on posts on the hill and the livestock kept chewing through the cables".



Those are some of the problems that people trying to receive decent
television reception in rural

areas face.



The standard reply from the Minister advises viewers to contact a

reputable
local installer through the Confederation of Aerial Industries. A

reputable
installer will have experience of local reception characteristics and can
advise on the location and orientation of a satellite dish. I generally

find
that when I send on that standard letter to constituents, they have

already
spoken to a reputable aeriel installer before contacting me, and it is
simply not possible to achieve decent quality television reception in many
places.



Another cause for concern in rural areas is the Government's plan to

switch
all the terrestrial television channels from analogue to digital no later
than 2010-only seven years away. Many viewers in rural areas, outside the
reach of analogue signals, rely on self-help relay schemes to receive the
terrestrial channels. Those are small cable systems tat carry the signal
from an analogue relay station situated on a nearby hill. In years gone

by,
such schemes received financial support from the BBC, but no longer.
Government policy is that no central Government moneys are available to
assist in the finding of self-help schemes.



There also appear to be no plans to convert those small analogue relay
stations so that they will be able to receive and relay digital signals
around the village. Many of the villages served byte self.help schemes are
in glens that cannot receive digital signals from the satellite because of
the high mountains round about. The self-help scheme is the only way those
villages can receive TV.



Unless the Government change their policy of no assistance for the

self-help
schemes, those villages will be left without TV when the analogue signals
are switched off One of the Governments criteria for the analogue

switch-off
is that



"everyone who currently receives the main public broadcast channels in
analogue form must be able to receive them digitally".





It is not clear from the criteria whether viewers who receive the
terrestrial channels via a self-help relay system count as viewers who

must
be able to receive digital before the analogue switch-off. Perhaps the
Minister can clarify that. I hope that he will agree that those viewers
should count in the statistics. If he does, will he tell the House that

the
Government will pay the cost of converting the self-help relay systems to
digital?



Another criteria for the analogue switch-off is affordability. The

criteria
here is:



'Switching to digital should be an affordable option for the vast majority
of people.'



'Vast majority" is a worryingly vague term, whereas other statistics in

the
Governments criteria involve specific percentages. I earlier explained the
vast costs that some viewers have gone to to receive digital TV. But even
then the plug can be pulled from their TV set by big corporations doing

some
deal. Such uncertainty does not encourage viewers to invest in expensive
equipment.



I am concerned that we will see two divides in TV-watching in our country.
The first will be urban/rural. The urban viewer will buy a TV licence and

be
able to receive all programmes with no problem. The rural dweller will
either have no decent reception at all or will have to pay out vast sums

of
money to be able to watch TV. The other divide in our rural communities

will
be between rich and poor. Those who can afford it will be able to buy the
equipment and pay the subscriptions necessary to watch TV, but those on

low
incomes will be left out.



Hywel Williams (Caernarfon): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there are
further problems in parts of rural Wales? Some people wish to watch

Channel
4 because they cannot understand Sianel Pedwar Cymru, S4C, the Welsh
language fourth channel and have invested in equipment specifically to

watch
Channel 4 and Channel 5. With the current proposals, that is a problem for
Welsh constituents.



Mr. Reid : The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point and I agree.

The
Government should be making available the Welsh TV channel on a

free-to-view
basis as well as the other five terrestrial channels.



Mr. AListair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland): Can I suggest that this
problem is yet a further compulsitor towards the depopulation of the
highlands and islands? The families that we want to keep there are those
with young children. The inability to receive television signals of the

sort
that my hon. Friend has outlined will be another factor that they will

take
into consideration when deciding whether to remain in those communities.



Mr. Reid : My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The highlands and
islands have suffered depopulation for many years. We want to encourage
young families to stay and other young families to come and live there. If
they cannot get decent affordable television, that will be one reason why
they will move away.



The Government should adopt a simple principle. Everyone who pays the
licence fee should be able to receive all programmes on all terrestrial
channels on a free-to-view basis. I hope that the Minister agrees.



Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Nicholas Winterton): I believe that the hon.

Member
for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Williams) has sought the permission of the
initiator of the debate, the Minister and me to take part in the debate.



Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire): I shall take a short part in
the debate. Thank you for your great kindness in allowing me to do so, Mr.
Deputy Speaker. I want to build on the point that the hon. Member for
Caernarfon (Hywel Williams) made about S4C, the Welsh language station,
particularly as it relates to my constituents and those of my hon. Friend
the Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Opik) who live up and down the

Welsh
border. Television viewers receive their terrestrial analogue signal from
relay stations on the other side of the border. The result is that they
generally receive Channel 4 when they would like to receive S4C, the Welsh
language station, to get news and political developments from Wales.



Another issue is that my constituents often receive midlands ITV signals.
The regional programmes, and particularly local political issues, are from
the midlands rather than from Wales. We saw the digital solution as

enabling
the people to have a choice between S4C and Channel 4, and between midland
ITV and the Welsh independent television service. We would be pleased if

the
Minister could come to us with a solution. Without such a solution, those
facilities will not be available to our constituents.



Mr. Deputy Speaker : The Minister is frill of solutions.



The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn) :1 was reflecting

on
the comments made by the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid). I
congratulate him on securing the Adjournment debate. As he explained, the
issue is important. However, I have just left a meeting about obesity in
young children who watch too much television. It shows that one can become
schizophrenic in this job if one is not careful. I am grateful to him for
raising the issue of rural television.



Lembit Opik (Montgomeryshire): We want rural children to have the right to
watch too much television in the same way as theft urban counterparts,

which
they sadly cannot do in Montgomeryshire at the moment.



Mr. Caborn : It is all a matter of choice.



I have a great deal of sympathy for viewers who installed satellite
equipment in good faith, who chose to go free to view and who have been

told
that their Solus cards will not work after a certain date. We have

received
more than 800 letters about the matter, and we have also received more

than
150 letters from MPs, some of which have been cited in this afternoon's
debate.



I will give the Chamber an update on how the broadcasters are trying to
resolve the issue, but first I want to explain the background to the
Government's policy on digital television and the digital switchover,

which
the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute also raised.



The growth in take-up of digital television is a significant development

in
broadcasting in this country. We are close to the point at which 50 per
cent, of all households have digital television. The current take-up level
is 48 per cent., and we believe that it will have gone over 50 per cent,

by
Christmas. The successful launch of Freeview and the continued growth of

Sky
have been central to the increase in digital television. The launch of
Freeview has been helped by technical changes to improve the signal since
its launch last year. All six digital terrestrial television multiplexes

are
available to around 73 per cent, of households.



The enthusiastic take-up of digital makes the Government believe that
switching off the analogue signals at some time is the right decision for
the economy and viewers alike. Indeed, on 18 September my right hon.

Friends
the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Secretary of
State for Trade and Industry published a cost-benefit analysis showing

that
switchover will bring a quantifiable benefit of between £1.5 billion and

£2
billion in net present value terms.



There is still some way to go to convince people that switchover is the
right thing, and this debate provides a timely opportunity to set out the
arguments. First, we need to switch off because we can extend DTT coverage
more widely because of the limitations of terrestrial broadcasting.

Analogue
is the incumbent mode of terrestrial broadcast, which means that analogue
transmissions have exclusive use of channels that have been cleared
internationally for full power transmission.



Digital television uses the same spectrum as that used for analogue
television, with digital transmission interleaved between the analogue
services. That means that the number of clear frequency channels that can

be
used for DTT without causing interference with other services, nationally
and internationally, is severely restricted.



Those limitations mean that digital terrestrial cannot be extended until

the
completion of switchover. In planning the current DTT transmitter network,
the broadcasters decided to concentrate on developing the 50 main
transmitter sites and 30 of the larger relay sites, which would deliver

the
maximum coverage, given spectrum constraints. hievitably, that means that

at
present rural and remote areas fall outside the scope of digital

terrestrial
coverage.



Secondly, there is the cost of duplication. Broadcasters are spending
significant sums on transmitting programmes in analogue and digital form.
The terrestrial broadcast network will need major capital investment in

the
next decade or so. As the majority of households switch to digital, it

makes
less and less sense to continue with that uneconomic arrangement.



The third factor is the sheer inefficiency of analogue broadcasts in
spectrum terms. Digital transmission uses a fraction of the capacity of
analogue broadcasts while increasing choice, giving access to

interactivity
and driving electronic programme guides to help viewers in a multi-channel
environment. Switching off will allow us to work the spectrum much harder.



We are clear, then, that the question is not whether we switch off

analogue
broadcasts-that case has been made-but when. We must ensure that digital

is
right for all viewers. That is why we have established a consumer experts'
group to ensure that there is an effective conduit for working through
issues affecting consumers. Ofcom also has a consumer panel, and it will

be
involved in the exercise, too.



There are many other issues to be resolved before we can set a date. We

are
still on track for 2010, but progress depends on the response of

consumers,
broadcasters and other stakeholders. One of the tasks of switchover will

be
for broadcasters to produce proposals on the level of digital terrestrial
coverage at switchover. Their decision will be based on a judgment about

the
cost effectiveness of a complete conversion to the 1,100 transmitters and
the relays in the UK.



The Government and Ofcom will need to review the broadcasters' proposals,
and to consider whether sufficient provision is made for those who have no
access to digital terrestrial. We will consult on those proposals next

year.
The points that the hon. Member for Argyll and flute raised about

switchover
will be factored into that consultation. The decision on when we move to
switchover will be based on the outcome of that consultation.



Pete Wishart (North Tayside): Not much that the Minister has said will be

of
comfort to my constituents who cannot receive services. Would he be

prepared
to ensure that Ofcom provided satellite services if we do not make any
progress on that issue in the foreseeable future?



Mr. Caborn : Let me complete what I have to say, and then the hon.

Gentleman
may want to come back to that subject if there is time. What I have to say
will probably cover his question.



One of the main considerations will be the option of free-to-view cards

when
public service broadcasts are encrypted. That is a particular concern for
people in remote areas who may only have access to satellite when

switchover
takes place.



As has been said, in May the BBC decided to move its broadcast services

from
the Astra 2A to the Astra 2D satellite, and to enable consumers to receive
EBC services in the clear without a viewing bard. However, that new
arrangement ended payments by the BBC to Sky for provision of Solus

viewing
cards to digital satellite viewers who do not have a subscription to a
pay-TV service. A consequence of that decision was the problem of how

access
to the free-to-view commercial channels-ITV, Channels 4 and 5-could be
maintained on the satellite platform. Sky made it clear that it was not
prepared to fund supplying new viewing cards to Solus card viewers, but

said
it would facilitate a new scheme.



ITV, and Channels 4 and 5 have been working hard to develop a solution,
following the representations made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary

of
State. Good progress is being made and we believe that the broadcasters

are
close to a solution. Indeed, today I am able to announce good news: they
have made a deal. The details are not finalised yet, but we already know
that those people who have no subscription satellite viewing card, and who
wish to continue receiving the commercially funded public service channels
without paying subscription to Sky or other broadcasters will be able to

get
a new card. They will be offered the opportunity to buy a viewing card for
£20 plus VAT. Those cards will last until Sky does another card swap-out,
and for at least two years if the next swap-out is sooner than that.



Channel 4, ITV and Channel 5 are contributing hundreds of thousands of
pounds to cover the overheads of the scheme. Sky is not expected to

disable
existing cards until the new scheme is up and running. All the affected
viewers-those who have not received new viewing cards from BSkyB because
they are not current subscribers- will be alerted to the new scheme

through
an on-screen message, which will direct them to the call centre where they
will be told what to do. Those on-screen messages should appear on Monday

27
October or the following week on 3 November. We believe that is a good
outcome. It has not been easy to achieve and I want to take the

opportunity
to thank the broadcasters for their hard work in coming to that solution.

We
are aware of other issues affecting rural television coverage and those

are
concerns.



Mr. Reid : The announcement that the Minister has just made about the £20
plus

VAT charge, although a step in the right direction, is still not the ideal
solution. The

Government provide free television licences for the over-75s. Will they be
consistent

and offer viewing cards for free to the over-75s?



Mr. Caborn : The difference between being 75 and over and living in a
particular area is that of choice. People do not have a choice about being
over 75. There is a rationale to the idea and if representations were

made,
it would be a decision for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hear what

the
hon. Gentleman says, but it is not a decision for the DCMS.



I was pointing out that the planning rules on the installation of dishes

are
too restrictive, especially for people living in national parks and other
rural designated areas. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister published

a
consultation paper in April outlining options for reform. I understand

that
the Scottish Executive are to publish a consultation paper shortly and we
are also looking at other constraints affecting tenants, particularly

those
in public sector housing. Those points were raised, and the ODPM will
produce a consultation paper.



The hon. Member for Argyll and flute touched on television coverage being
part of the wider digital divide. The Government are looking at several
possible solutions, such as broadband aggregation and satellite broadband.

I
can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are committed to doing everything we
can to stimulate the market. The Government have looked at the satellite
platform's ability to offer an attractive consumer broadband solution

either
independently or as part of a combined digital television and rural

digital
package and that work is continuing. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and

his
colleagues will make representations to ensure that we get that right.



Hywel Williams : I am still trying to take in the announcement the

Minister
made about those over 75. Will he answer a simple question? Does he mean
that those over 75 will pay twice for the same thing?



Mr. Caborn : There are two clear rules. One applies to those over 75,

which
was put in place by the Government to ensure that they have access to
television-because of their age, income and circumstances a political
decision has been made that they should have such access. That was made in
its own right and on its own merits. We are discussing a totally different
issue in this case-[Interruption.] We are still dealing with those over

75,
but if they live in certain areas, conditions apply there. That is no
different whether someone is under or over 75. Anyone who is over 75 will
deal with those conditions that apply for anyone who is that age in the
United Kingdom.



Mr. Carmichael : Why is someone who is over 75 and living in the west

side
of Shetland to be treated differently from someone over 75 who is living

in
Glasgow?



Mr. Caborn : The rules that apply for someone over the age of 75 do not
change. If they live in certain areas where the same conditions apply to
everyone, 75 and under, or those over 85, they will still get what any

other
over-75-year-old will get via that Act. That concession has been made.



The problems of rural coverage cannot be resolved separately from digital
switchover. It is not sensible to improve analogue services when an
increased number of householders are voting to go digital. Our framework

for
switchover will ensure that people in rural areas who receive public

service
broadcasting channels on analogue- BBCI to Channel 4, S4C and Channel

5-have
access to those public service channels when analogue is switched off.



It being half-past Four o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the
sitting lapsed,

without Question put.





  #3  
Old November 6th 03, 07:25 AM
Jomtien
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

IOOA wrote:

The Sky site says the cards are £20 plus VAT but that a pub has to pay £105
for the same P2 card

Why? surely a pub is allowed to use a standard television with analogue and
just pay a standard licences fee, why is it more to use a P2 card in a pub
via sky than an individual person.


Why indeed?

--
Digibox problem? : A reboot solves 90% of these.
The Sky Digital FAQ: http://tinyurl.com/tez5
How to get UK TV overseas: http://tinyurl.com/6p73
Fed up with logos / red buttons? : http://logofreetv.org/
BBC gone? : http://www.astra2d.co.uk/
----
Only the truth as I see it.
No monies return'd. ;-)
  #4  
Old November 9th 03, 10:11 PM
Ant
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

On Thu, 06 Nov 2003 07:25:52 GMT, Jomtien wrote:

Why? surely a pub is allowed to use a standard television with analogue and
just pay a standard licences fee, why is it more to use a P2 card in a pub
via sky than an individual person.


Why indeed?


Public performance and exhibition rights. (Remember all that stuff at
the front of a video or DVD about what you can and can't do, with oil
rigs and hospitals and all that jazz?)

  #5  
Old November 11th 03, 07:23 AM
Jomtien
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Ant wrote:

Why? surely a pub is allowed to use a standard television with analogue and
just pay a standard licences fee, why is it more to use a P2 card in a pub
via sky than an individual person.


Why indeed?


Public performance and exhibition rights.


And quite how does the extra payment for an FTV card benefit the
rights holders and why weren't pubs charged for BBC cards when they
existed? This is nonsense and merely masks a complete rip-off.

--
Digibox problem? : A reboot solves 90% of these.
The Sky Digital FAQ: http://tinyurl.com/tez5
How to get UK TV overseas: http://tinyurl.com/6p73
Fed up with logos / red buttons? : http://logofreetv.org/
BBC gone? : http://www.astra2d.co.uk/
----
Only the truth as I see it.
No monies return'd. ;-)
  #7  
Old November 11th 03, 12:07 PM
K
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

On Tue, 11 Nov 2003 07:23:47 GMT, Jomtien wrote:



And quite how does the extra payment for an FTV card benefit the
rights holders and why weren't pubs charged for BBC cards when they
existed? This is nonsense and merely masks a complete rip-off.


Indeed. What's to stop pubs using a domestic card anyway?
  #8  
Old November 11th 03, 01:34 PM
Ant
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

On Tue, 11 Nov 2003 07:23:47 GMT, Jomtien wrote:

Public performance and exhibition rights.


And quite how does the extra payment for an FTV card benefit the
rights holders and why weren't pubs charged for BBC cards when they
existed? This is nonsense and merely masks a complete rip-off.


If a card is being sold for public performance then the channels in
question must purchase (at additional cost) public performance rights
for all the programmes that they show.

Unless I'm mistaken the purchase of a BBC card did not entitle you to
publicly exhibit the channels which that card obtained.

  #9  
Old November 11th 03, 01:35 PM
Ant
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

On Tue, 11 Nov 2003 09:01:04 GMT, Nigel Barker wrote:

Shouldn't pubs & other places like already pay for a license from the Performing
Rights Society in any case? Your answer doesn't explain why there is no charge
to a pub to use a Freeview television even for programmes that are encrypted on
satellite whereas there is a charge for using a Free2view (sic) card.


Well I admit that I'm making this up as I go along, but I'm hoping
that someone will come along in a minute and say that I'm right. :-)

In any case, if ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 want to charge people
extra for exhibiting their programmes in public, who says they should
not be allowed to do so?

  #10  
Old November 12th 03, 08:58 AM
Jomtien
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Ant wrote:

If a card is being sold for public performance then the channels in
question must purchase (at additional cost) public performance rights
for all the programmes that they show.


The cards aren't being sold, they are rented and the payment has
nothing to do with the programme content, it is purely a rental
payment for the card.


Unless I'm mistaken the purchase of a BBC card did not entitle you to
publicly exhibit the channels which that card obtained.


To whom do the pubs make their payment when showing channels received
by RF? Or when showing FTA BBC sat channels that require no card?

--
Digibox problem? : A reboot solves 90% of these.
The Sky Digital FAQ: http://tinyurl.com/tez5
How to get UK TV overseas: http://tinyurl.com/6p73
Fed up with logos / red buttons? : http://logofreetv.org/
BBC gone? : http://www.astra2d.co.uk/
----
Only the truth as I see it.
No monies return'd. ;-)
 




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