Ministers have backed the free-to-air terrestrial platform for the next 10 years.
The government is extending the five national multiplex licences through until 2034, offering 99% UK availability for channels such as ITV2, Dave and Film4 alongside the commercial public service broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
Media Minister John Whittingdale said: “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.”
One of the licences, the ITV-owned SDN, had faced a challenge from an independent consortium. But the government chose to extend the licences under the current terms in a bid to help the PSBs compete with the streaming giants. The move offers some stability and certainty to PSBs about the future of their channels on the platform even as the government looks to sell off Channel 4.
The government is planning to make ownership of Multiplex 2, which is currently jointly owned by Channel 4 and ITV, contingent on PSB status.
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