Taking questions following his keynote speech to the RTS Cambridge Convention, Mr Whittingdale said the UK was not yet there. “The future of DTT spectrum will affect every channel if we reach the point when we have to make changes,” he said, telling delegates that the mobile operators were increasingly greedy and were launching more and more services. “If we reach the day when IPTV is universal then we need to consider that, but we are a long way from that point”.
Earlier, Mr Whittingdale outlined his support for the sector through a PVR that contained shows such as Strike Back, Humans, Partners in Crime and X Factor. But he also went through the need to review the structure of the BBC and possible future financial models.
Addressing what he called the “Balance of Payments” – whether the payments between PSBs and platforms for items such as retransmission fees were in balance – he said the recent consultation thought the system was working well, though many argued that the policy rationale behind exempting cable platforms from having to pay copyright fees for the content they are carrying is no longer relevant.
There was also the issue of PSB prominence on EPGs, which puts not only the BBC, but ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 at the top of the guides: “These are complex issues and we have more work to do to understand the consequences of possible changes, but I can confirm that we will be publishing the Government’s response before the end of the year,” he promised.
On the digital single market he said he agreed with the ambition put forward by the European Commission, providing it didn’t adversely effect competition. “Consumers understandably want to enjoy continued access to their favourite programmes when they travel abroad. And it is only right for someone who has paid for access to a subscription service – or even just the licence fee – to be able to access that content when on holiday overseas”.
On a related issue he said the question of accessing content by those living permanently overseas was more tricky, but a personal experience suggested action was needed, to avoid continued piracy. “I was recently alarmed when talking to an ex-pat Brit living in Spain to hear how he was able to access every UK TV channel – free to air and subscription alike – as well as hundreds of movies and catch-up TV for around €25 a month.
Mr Whittingdale said a quick search on the internet reveals a number of services making similar claims.