The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has today (7th January 2014) published the findings of a review undertaken regarding the future prospects for the licensing of commercial DTT. The review is the latest development in what has been a continuous process undertaken by the BAI to discharge its duties with regard to commercial DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television). As part of the most recent review, an analysis of current market conditions was undertaken by Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates (O&O), on behalf of the BAI, together with the consideration of a number of potential business models for commercial DTT. There was also a consultation process with broadcasters and other interested parties. As part of the review process, the Authority also gave consideration to a range of policy implications arising from the review’s findings.
After careful consideration of the issues involved, the Authority has decided not to proceed with a licensing process for commercial DTT at this time and has communicated this decision to the Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD.
The Authority agreed with the findings contained in the report, which suggested that the market conditions for launching commercial DTT services have not improved and remain very challenging since the last unsuccessful licensing process was undertaken in 2008. In the interim, consolidation of the TV market occurred at the time of digital switch over (DSO), a crucial time during which viewers made a choice with regard to the optimum digital offering for their home.
The Authority has informed the Minister for Communications that it does not believe any statutory purpose would be achieved by embarking on a course of action in respect of commercial DTT, the most likely outcome of which would be negative and that it would be unlikely that any regulatory actions could substantially influence this situation. Whatever assistance regulatory intervention might offer, it would be unlikely that any intervention would sufficiently improve the revenue and costs associated with any of the business models examined to generate commercial interest in the DTT licences.
Speaking about the publication of the report, Bob Collins, Chairperson of the BAI said “The contents of the report raise a number of policy implications for consideration by Government and also for the BAI, having regard to its statutory obligations and its enduring objectives in respect of diversity and plurality. In submitting copies of the review to the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the BAI would now welcome the opportunity to discuss the findings of the report and the policy implications arising at an early date.”
A copy of the report is available here.
Media Queries to:
Tony Heffernan/Catherine Heaney
087 2399508/ 087 2309835/01 4200580
NOTE FOR EDITORS
Section 131(4) of the Broadcasting Act obliges the Authority to endeavour to arrange for the establishment, maintenance and operation of 3 national television multiplexes, capable of being transmitted by digital terrestrial means to the whole community of the State. In 2008, the BCI (the BAI’s predecessor) commenced the process of licensing commercial DTT and this activity was continued by the BAI after its establishment in 2009. This process was unsuccessful as all of the original applicants withdrew from commercial discussions over the course of 2009/2010. For reasons that were well documented, the BAI decided at that time that it would not be practicable to re-activate a licensing process in the immediate future. In making this decision, the Authority took into account a number of factors including:
• The prioritisation by the government of the Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) multiplex
• The prevailing economic circumstances
• The outcomes of the review and de-briefing exercise which had been undertaken with the consortia who had participated in the DTT licensing process.
In 2011, as part of its ongoing work to support the development of the platform, the BAI undertook an expression of interest process to ascertain interest and capacity in the provision of content services on the public service ‘Saorview’ platform operated by RTÉ.
This review published today represents another activity within what has been a continuous process undertaken by the BAI to discharge its statutory duties with regard to DTT.
In exploring the prospects for commercial DTT the review considered a number of possible business models, including a free service, a pay service and a service operated as part of a triple play bundle.