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UK government renews Freeview licences for another decade

Government intends to make ownership of Multiplex 2, which is currently jointly owned by Channel 4 and ITV, contingent on PSB status

The UK government has extended the five national multiplex licences for the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) platform – better known as Freeview – until 2034.

Yesterday, TVBEurope reported that a consortium was hoping to persuade the government not to automatically renew licences and offer them for auction instead. That appears to have failed.

The DTT multiplexes guarantee that public service broadcasting content is free to air and widely accessible to consumers with almost 99 per cent coverage of the UK.

The government has also announced it intends to legislate in order to make ownership of Multiplex 2, which is currently jointly owned by Channel 4 and ITV, contingent on PSB status, which it says will ensure that PSBs always have a space on the Freeview platform to serve the widest audience possible.

The multiplex licences being renewed are:

  • Multiplex 2 – expiring in 2022 and carrying the commercial PSB channels ITV/STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as some of their portfolio channels (e.g. ITV 2, Film 4, E4 and More4)
  • Multiplex A – expiring in 2022 and carrying only commercial services including some of the commercial PSBs portfolio channels (e.g. ITVBe and 5USA) and some other commercial services (such as QVC and Quest)
  • Multiplex B – expiring in 2026 and carrying PSB High Definition services including BBC One HD; ITV HD, Channel 4 HD and Channel 5 HD
  • Multiplexes C and D – expiring in 2026 and carrying a range of commercial channels including Dave, Sky Arts and news channels such as Sky News, Al Jazeera and GB News

Multiplex 2 is licensed to Digital 3&4 Limited (D3&4), a joint ITV and Channel 4 subsidiary, while Multiplex A is licensed to SDN, an ITV subsidiary, and Mulitplex B to BBC Freeview, a commercial subsidiary of the BBC. Commercial multiplexes C and D are licenced to Arqiva.

Media Minister John Whittingdale said: “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.

“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.”