Just how has the UK terrestrial platform ended up with more than a dozen adult channels? Julian Clover removes the staples.
Like them or loath them, adult channels have a place in the pay-TV market, and very often in the regulator’s office too. Last week Ofcom revoked licences held by Bang Channels, which ran Tease Me TV, and called the remaining adult licensees into the headmaster’s study. Tease Me had shown free-to-air promotions during the day and after dark had broadcast material likely to make the censor blush.
Tease Me and channels like it first appeared a few years ago and use provocatively dressed women to encourage viewers to dial premium rate phone numbers. One of the Tease Me channels appeared on the DTT platform, commonly known as Freeview, though it will be of little surprise that there was no contribution to the Freeview marketing budget here!
Using the DMOL multiplex allocations website as my guide I counted 13 services listed as ‘Adult’ on the UK terrestrial system, that’s nine more Adult services than are found under News, ten more than in Children, and possibly more channels than can be found on some DTT platforms in their entirety.
Some of the channels take up capacity in ITV’s SDN Multiplex, others in multiplexes, managed by Arqiva, but what are they doing taking up valuable spectrum in the first place? One advantage is that given most broadcast for limited hours after dark, adult channels can take up spectrum that might otherwise go to waste.
It should be noted that there is at least a warning screen, a placeholder channel, so that Granny doesn’t accidentally stumble upon something she shouldn’t.
Once the UK completes its protracted digital switchover process in 2012, it looks as if we will increasingly be left with the PSB channels and their digital offspring. Notable exceptions would include Sky News and QVC, though even Dave and Yesterday are part owned by BBC Worldwide, and draw on content from the BBC library.
Unlike other countries that conduct a beauty contest for who should take up DTT capacity, Britain allows commercial providers to buy and sell capacity, so once the public service broadcasters have their allocation we are left with a free-for-all. So the market decides that there is no room for a channel as worthy as CNN, while the Babestation still gets its own berth.