Lords suggest case for TV switch from broadcast to internet is 'overwhelming'

A House of Lords report has claimed the future case for transferring TV content from broadcast to the internet will become "overwhelming" and have questioned Government policy on the roll out of fibre-optic broadband to rural areas.

TV: Lords suggest case for switch from broadcast to internet is 'overwhelming
TV: Lords suggest case for switch from broadcast to internet is 'overwhelming

In a report published today the House of Lords Communications Select Committee said it could be argued that the use of spectrum for "fixed, broadcast purposes is wasteful" because spectrum is "perfectly suited" to mobile applications.

The committee said it is likely that IPTV services will become more widespread and eventually the case for transferring the carriage of content from spectrum to the internet will become "overwhelming".

The spectrum currently used to broadcast TV could then be used by mobile operators, representatives in the House of Lords suggested.

However, TV industry sources have questioned whether it would be practical or possible to deliver all linear TV viewing (more than four hours per person a day in 2011) via a broadband service in the short to medium term.

In a consultation published in March Ofcom concluded that digital terrestrial TV (DTT) delivers "very substantial public and economic value" and raised doubts whether IPTV could replace DTT in a 10 to 15 year period.

A spokesman for the Committee was not available for comment on questions whether the committee had evidence to demonstrate the transfer of TV broadcast to the internet and whether it was feasible.

Elsewhere in the report the Lords call for superfast fibre-optic broadband to be expanded to as many communities as possible and raise questions over the Government subsidies BT receives for rolling out superfast broadband to rural areas.

Once BT has laid down the superfast broadband fibre competitors wanting to offer the service will have to use both BT’s physical fibre connection and also BT’s active hardware at each end which the Lords said will make it "impossible to differentiate products".

The Lords said: "It appears to us, therefore, that Government subsidy is being used to fund a new world in which there may actually be less competition than there was over copper – reinforcing BT’s market power."

A spokesman for BT said: "[Broadband being expanded to as many communities as possible] is already happening with BT making fibre available to a further four million homes alone whilst the committee has deliberated.

"This new network is open to all ISPs on an equal basis and more than 50 ISPs are using it.

"Companies can also lay their own fibre using BT’s ducts and poles should they wish so there is plenty of room for competition.

"This level of open access is unparalleled in Europe and so the UK is well placed to have one of the best super fast networks in the continent by 2015."

The Lords also said Government policy on broadband should be driven by the "social benefits" it can unleash and not be built around "precise speed targets" people can expect to receive in the short term.

The Lords committee launched its inquiry into superfast broadband in February in a bid to find out more about the thinking behind and progress with the Government’s broadband strategy.

Last year the Lords Communications Select Committee published a report into TV advertising that recommended Contract Rights Renewal, the rules around the way ITV sells spot ads on ITV1, be scrapped but the suggestion was never adopted.

However, after conducting a subsequent investigation into the TV advertising market Ofcom ruled that there was "no clear evidence of harm" to consumers and decided not refer the market to the Competition Commission.

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