ITV confirms Freesat venture with BBC

ITV has confirmed it is working with the BBC on a new free-to-view digital satellite service. ITV said the aim of the Freesat service was to complement the hugely popular Freeview platform and would target those homes unable to receive digital terrestrial television.

As part of the Freesat development ITV is to broadcast its channels unencrypted, or 'in the clear', within the next few months.

ITV said Freesat would initially carry all ITV and BBC free-to-view digital services including digital television, digital radio and interactive services, plus dozens of other free channels from launch in the first half of 2006. The Freesat service would have its own electronic programme guide.

ITV chief executive Charles Allen said: "As the UK's largest and most popular commercial broadcaster we want our channels to be available to as many people as possible, regardless of

technological and geographical constraints.

"As we move from an analogue to a digital environment, Freesat—and Freeview—will enable every family in the UK to enjoy a wide range of quality channels for free. Today's announcement significantly strengthens ITV's digital presence and we are delighted to be taking a leading role in the marketing and development of free digital television."

ITV's announcement was warmly welcomed by the BBC. Director-general Mark Thompson said: "We welcome ITV's intention to take all its channels into the clear on satellite, and also welcome them as partners in the project to develop a consumer friendly, subscription-free satellite proposition.

"This is great news for viewers. It paves the way to provide subscription-free digital television across the whole country. The huge success of Freeview, already in more than 5m homes, demonstrates how highly free digital television is valued by many people.

"Our long-stated aim has been to bring about an open market in subscription-free satellite services so we can ensure free access to all the BBC's services across the country in the run-up to switchover and beyond."

ITV went on to announce a new mobile portal and broadband trial, developed by its consumer division in an attempt to grow consumer revenue beyond free-to-air advertising. The ITV Mobile service will work on all WAP enabled phones, giving it almost complete market penetration. The first phase, launched today, allows consumers to:

ITV said in the second phase, planned for January 2006, it would offer video content.

ITV is establishing a broadband trial in Brighton and Hastings, offering a local information service with local news and weather, community activities, travel and property advertising and ITV entertainment content. "As a commercial service it will also offer advertising for local businesses as well as local classified ads," said ITV.

Earlier ITV announced pre-tax profits, before goodwill amortisation and other items for the first six months to June 30 rose 60% on the year to £205m. Revenues, before joint ventures, were up 9% to £1.044bn.

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