ITC issues invitation to apply for multiplex service licence to Channel 3 and Channel 4

15th November 1996

The ITC has issued today (15 November 1996) to the terrestrial broadcasters a formal invitation to apply for the licence to operate the second largest digital multiplex. The Channel 3 licensees, Channel 4 and Teletext Ltd are guaranteed capacity on this multiplex.

Under the terms of the Broadcasting Act 1996, the second largest multiplex is not to be awarded by a competitive process, but is to be offered to Channel 3 and Channel 4 who have guaranteed places on the multiplex. Channels 3 and 4 are required under the terms of the Act to simulcast their existing programme service in digital form, apart from the advertisements, and are also offered the remaining capacity on the multiplex to develop new services. In addition, capacity is to be made available to Teletext Ltd, the public teletext service licensee, who will be required to broadcast a digital teletext service which complies with certain public service criteria set out in the Act and will also have additional capacity.

Government laid an Order in Parliament on 30 October which implements Section 28 of the Act concerning the guaranteed place providers. This Order requires the ITC to invite an application to be made for the licence to operate the multiplex. The proposals set out in response to the invitation will become licence conditions which will govern the operation of the multiplex. Before awarding the licence, the Commission must be satisfied that:

  • (a) the proposed service would comply with the specified technical requirements;
  • (b) the applicant would be able to maintain that service throughout the period for which the licence would be in force;
  • (c) the applicant would not charge viewers for simulcasting the present analogue services;
  • (d) the arrangements proposed for the broadcasting of the qualifying teletext service would meet the reasonable requirements of the public teletext provider in relation to the provision of that service.

The guaranteed place providers on this second multiplex have until 31 January 1997 to submit their proposals to the ITC. Although there is no requirement for the ITC to conduct a public consultation on the application, those elements of the application which are non-confidential will be placed for reference purposes in the ITC library, and at its national and regional offices. Anyone who wishes to comment on the application is asked to do so by 14 March 1997.

The ITC hopes to issue the licence to operate the second multiplex in Spring 1997.

Copies of this Invitation to Apply, along with other documents relating to the advertisement and operation of digital terrestrial television licences, are available from the ITC Information Office.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Broadcasting Act 1996 contains the statutory basis upon which digital terrestrial television services are to be licensed. Initial guidance for potential applicants was published by the ITC on 27 September 1996. Licences to operate the four commercial digital multiplexes which are to be awarded competitively were advertised by the ITC on 31 October 1996. The deadline for application for these multiplexes is 31 January 1997, following which there will be a six week period of public consultation. The ITC hopes to award the licences in Spring 1997.
  2. Six frequencies are available for multiplex services. Use of all these frequencies will require a licence from the ITC, except for that of the first multiplex which has been allocated by government to the BBC. Capacity on the second and third multiplexes has been reserved for analogue broadcasters (Channel 3, Channel 4, Channel 5, S4C and the public teletext provider). Those broadcasters notified the ITC on 15 October 1996 of their intention to provide a "qualifying service". The second multiplex which is to be made available to Channel 3, Channel 4 and Teletext Ltd in its entirety will not be awarded competitively, but the third multiplex on which there will remain some capacity not assigned to Channel 5, S4C and certain Gaelic services in Scotland has already been advertised on a competitive basis.
  3. In relation to Channels 3, 4 and 5 a qualifying service is the provision in digital form of the programme service provided by the licensee under its analogue licence. The qualifying service to be provided by the public teletext provider would be a teletext service broadcasting in digital form which complies with certain criteria set out in the Act, and the qualifying service by S4C would be the S4C Digital service as defined in the Act.
  4. The second multiplex is offered to Channels 3 and 4. Channel 5 and S4C have guaranteed capacity on the third multiplex (for S4C in Wales only) and this multiplex is also required to carry a specified amount of Gaelic programming in Scotland.
  5. On the remaining three multiplexes, no capacity has been set aside for any of the analogue broadcasters and applicants for these multiplexes will be expected to put forward, as part of their applications, their own proposals for the digital programme services and the digital additional services to be provided. Applicants for the third multiplex will be expected to put forward such proposals for any part of the capacity not taken up by Channel 5 and S4C, and for any part of the capacity allocated to Channel 5 and S4C which is not used for the provision of qualifying services.