The Government in the United Kingdom has confirmed that the Freeview television platform will be supported until at least 2034. It is extending the five national multiplex licences for digital terrestrial television broadcasts until 2034. This will protect the future for the transmission mode by which viewers currently receive a diverse range of television channels for free.
Two of the multiplex licences, carrying the commercial public service broadcast channels ITV and STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as some of their portfolio channels and other commercial services, were due to expire in 2022.
The decision will guarantee prime spectrum for commercial public service broadcasters, currently ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, so they can reach the maximum number of viewers in the UK as they compete with the streaming giants in a changing media landscape.
“Today we are guaranteeing the future of Freeview TV and a diverse range of much-loved news, entertainment and documentary channels well into the 2030s,” said the media minister John Whittingdale. “Securing the future of Freeview means people can continue to enjoy its great content while we also protect a vital medium for our public service broadcasters so they can serve audiences in the years to come.”
The government launched a consultation in December 2020 seeking views on the renewal of the multiplex licences expiring in 2022 and 2026 on the DTT platform.
In response, ministers have decided to give Ofcom the power to carry out a renewal of all five national multiplexes until 2034.
It says this removes any change or disruption to Freeview that could have come about through new ownership and will provide stability and certainty to public service broadcasters about the future of their channels on the platform.
The government will legislate to make ownership of Multiplex 2, which is currently jointly owned by Channel 4 and ITV, contingent on public service broadcaster status.
Ofcom will be able to revoke licences for spectrum management reasons with the consent of the DCMS Secretary of State but require that revocation cannot take effect before the end of 2030 and that a five-year notice period must apply.
The announcement effectively enables the continuation of free-to-air television transmissions in the United Kingdom to the end of the decade and beyond, reducing uncertainty for broadcasters. This has come without any additional requirements being imposed on broadcasters beyond public service status, such as offering services in high definition or ultra-high definition, or in online formats.