British Digital Broadcasting granted licences

19th December 1997

British Digital Broadcasting was granted today three licences to broadcast Digital Terrestrial Television throughout the United Kingdom. The licences are for an initial 12 years, renewable for a further 12. During this time the government is likely to switch off the analogue signal. The ITC's decision follows the European Commission's clearance of the joint venture between Carlton and Granada, who each own 50 per cent of British Digital Broadcasting (BDB).

Michael Green, Chairman of BDB, said:

"This is a great Christmas present for BDB. Digital Terrestrial Television is the most exciting advance British television has seen for decades. For the first time, people will be able to receive multi-channel TV through their existing roof-top aerials. No dish, no cable. "BDB will be at the heart of Digital Terrestrial Television. As the largest commercial digital terrestrial broadcaster, it will be offering at least 15 channels from Britain's most popular broadcasters and producers - Carlton, Granada, BBC/Flextech and BSkyB - with better pictures and sound.
"Now we have regulatory clearance, we can plan ahead to bring digital terrestrial television to people's homes. Multi-channel television for all will soon be a reality."

BDB will broadcast a basic package of 12 channels - from Carlton, Granada and BBC/Flextech - and three Premium channels of sports and movies from BSkyB. Some of these channels will be new - Carlton Films, Granada Sports Club and channels from the BBC/Flextech joint venture. Others - like the BSkyB movie channels, Sky Screen 1 and Sky Screen 2 - have so far been unavailable through a standard aerial.

Viewers will be able to watch all the existing free-to-air channels, plus new free channels from the BBC and ITV, including BBC News 24. All they will need is a simple set-top box that plugs into their existing television set and aerial socket.

As well as more channels, Digital Terrestrial Television will bring viewers interactivity, better picture quality and sound, with some programmes being broadcast in widescreen format. The set-top box's on-screen programme guide will show what is on each channel and what is on next, without interrupting people's viewing. The box will also receive new digital services from Ceefax and Teletext, with improved pictures and graphics, faster speed of access and extensive programme information to supplement the on-screen programme guide.

BDB has already awarded its transmission contract, invited manufacturers to tender for orders for its set-top box, and begun work on its multiplex centre.