HomeInsightsGovernment publishes response to its consultation on the renewal of Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) Multiplex Licences expiring in 2022 and 2026

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The Government explains that Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) multiplex licences are central to the functioning of the UK’s broadcasting system. DTT licences give broadcasters the right to use spectrum (radio frequencies) to broadcast television services across the UK in a digital format.

The DTT platform is better known as Freeview, which is an important part of the Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) system as content provided by the Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) on this platform is free at the point of use and widely accessible due to DTT’s nearly 99% coverage across the UK.

A number of national multiplex licences on the DTT platform, which carry PSB and commercial channels, are expiring in 2022 and 2026. To renew these licences the Government is required to make secondary legislation. In December 2020, the Government set out for consultation four options for renewal:

  • Option (a) renewal on the same terms as before until 2034;
  • Option (b) renewal until 2034 but with the inclusion of a new revocation clause;
  • Option (c) renewal for a shorter period until 2026; and
  • Option (d) renewal for an alternative length of time.

The Government has now published its response to the consultation, choosing Option (b). Accordingly, it has decided to allow five national multiplex licences on the DTT platform that are due to expire in 2022 and 2026 to be renewed for a further period until 2034, but with a new revocation power that cannot take effect before the end of 2030 to ensure “regulatory flexibility”.

The Government has also said that it will proceed with proposals to make ownership of Multiplex 2 contingent on PSB status and to streamline the licence renewal process.

The Government believes that these longer-term renewals will best support its objectives relating to the future shape of PSB and recognise its commitment to the DTT platform. It will also future-protect the main way UK audiences currently enjoy a diverse range of digital channels through free-to-air TV.

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; and
  • 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.

To read the Government’s response in full, click here. To read the Government’s press release, click here.