A campaign to safeguard digital terrestrial TV and radio launches today (23rd June 2022) as new research by Ipsos shows that 9 in 10 people (90%) across Great Britain want to see continued support for these services.
Digital terrestrial television (DTT) – better known as Freeview – is universally available across the UK. It doesn’t need a superfast broadband connection and there is no additional monthly subscription cost.
Today’s data on the extent of public support for these services comes as the Government and Ofcom – the regulator – make important decisions about the future of broadcast in the UK. It also follows the BBC’s recent announcement in their Mid-Term Charter Review that BBC4, CBBC and Radio 4 Extra will be moved online only.
The Ipsos research shows that 85% of people believe Government or local MPs should actively support the continued provision of broadcast TV and radio services into the future, while 83% believe the BBC should be doing so.
On current plans, there is only certainty of provision for TV and radio through an aerial until the early 2030s. There are a series of upcoming decisions on the long-term future of broadcast services. The first of these will be taking place at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) next year, where countries will decide how much spectrum – radio frequencies used for broadcasting – should be allocated to TV and radio, and how much should be given to other technologies like mobile services.
Decisions at previous WRCs have already led to a reduction in the amount of spectrum allocated to digital terrestrial TV, with more and more services squeezed into fewer and fewer frequency bands.
For millions of people across the UK, universally available broadcast TV and radio services play a crucial role in their daily lives. Freeview is watched on around 35 million TV sets in the UK [BARB, 2020]. The Ipsos research shows that over half of adults in Great Britain have watched Freeview in the past year (56%), with 43% watching it at home every week. Around 40 million people aged 15 and over tune into radio each week according to RAJAR, with the majority listening through DAB or AM/FM.
The Ipsos research highlights that services received through an aerial are particularly important for vulnerable groups, including older people who may lack the digital skills and confidence to use streaming apps, and people living in rural areas where the lack of, or aged, network infrastructure means they are less likely to have a superfast broadband connection.
People struggling with the cost of living also depend on Freeview. Rising prices have led households to cut back on TV streaming services as people look for ways to save money, with more than half a million subscriptions cancelled for this reason in the first three months of 2022, according to Kantar.
To ensure the needs of UK audiences who depend on these services continue to be met, TV & Radio infrastructure company Arqiva is launching the Broadcast 2040+ campaign today, in coalition with organisations including Age UK, Silver Voices, the Rural Services Network and the Voice of the Listener & Viewer.
The campaign aims to secure a commitment from Government that DTT and broadcast radio will be safeguarded to 2040 and beyond.
The Ipsos research, released today, also shows the significant negative impact of the potential loss of broadcast TV and radio, particularly for those who are vulnerable. A quarter of people (25%) said that they would be “very lonely” if they lost their Freeview services, rising to more than 2 in 5 (44%) of those who are 65 and older and living alone.
When a fire at the Bilsdale mast in North Yorkshire left hundreds of thousands of homes without signal last year, over 8 in 10 (83%) people who lost all their TV channels recalled being ‘personally affected’. Many said they felt ‘angry’, ‘frustrated’, ‘isolated’, ‘depressed’, ‘disconnected’ and ‘unhappy’, and around 2 in 5 agreed that they found it very hard to keep up to date with what was happening in the world.
Shuja Khan, Arqiva’s new Chief Executive Officer:
Whether it’s having the radio on over breakfast or watching the news during major global events, TV and radio binds us together as families and communities.
This national asset cannot be taken for granted and I’m proud of the difference broadcast services make to the lives of people up and down the country.
People across the UK – including the most vulnerable – depend on content that is available to them at all times, no matter where they live, and doesn’t need a subscription or a superfast internet connection.
That’s why we’re launching the Broadcast 2040+ campaign in coalition with other groups, to give a voice to viewers and listeners and encourage decision-makers to preserve these critical services for the long-term.
Graham Biggs MBE, Chief Executive of The Rural Services Network:
Government often states a policy that no-one should be disadvantaged by where they live. The whole of the Government’s Levelling Up agenda can be argued to be based on this premise. So this issue of safeguarding DTT and radio is of fundamental importance to rural areas where the population is much older than the national average and the least well served by broadband connectivity. We strongly support the Broadcast 2040+ campaign.
Arqiva is a member of the Rural Services Partnership. You can find out more at this link:
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