The UK’s House of Lords has published a report recommending that that all TV content should be broadcast over the internet. The report, published by the Communications Committee, says it is likely that IPTV services ‘will become ever more widespread, and eventually the case for transferring the carriage of broadcast content, including public service broadcasting, from spectrum to the internet altogether will become overwhelming’.
The committee took the view that ‘this may well be a more sensible arrangement, as spectrum is perfectly suited to mobile applications’. Richard Hooper, OBE, Chairman of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, told the committee that using spectrum for TV – an activity usually carried out in fixed locations – was wasteful, particularly when spectrum could be put to better use by mobile technologies. The report stated:
We recommend that the Government, Ofcom and the industry begin to consider the desirability of the transfer of terrestrial broadcast content from spectrum to the internet and the consequent switching off of broadcast transmission over spectrum, and in particular what the consequences of this might be and how we ought to begin to prepare.
The report also suggested that when TV is being delivered ‘primarily through the internet’, there will be a ‘signficantly stronger’ case for there to be Universal Service Obligations (USO), which would require the services to be made available to all citizen-customers at an affordable price, right across the UK.
While we do not support the introduction of a USO at present, we do believe that broadcast media will increasingly come to be delivered via the internet. As and when that happens, and particularly in circumstances where this applies to PSB channels, the argument for recommending a USO becomes stronger. The Government should begin now to give this active consideration.
The report comes at the end of a month that saw two online TV services launched in the UK: YouView, which is backed by the BBC, ITV, BT, Channel 4, TalkTalk, Arqiva and Fiveand, and BSkyB’s trimmed down Now TV service.