The UK government is renewing Freeview licenses until 2034, allowing public service and commercial broadcasters such as ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to continue to deliver content free-to-air to audiences.
On Tuesday (Aug. 17), the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) said it had granted Ofcom the power to carry out a renewal of all five national multiplexes on the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) platform (better known as Freeview).
The deal will guarantee transmission for commercial public service broadcasters (PSBs) such as ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
TV multiplexes are digital networks that allow many TV channels to be compressed and transmitted all at once over a single radio frequency. The UK government launched a consultation in December 2020 seeking views on the renewal of the licenses, expiring in 2022 and 2026.
The multiplex licenses being renewed are: Multiplex 2, expiring in 2022 and carrying the commercial PSB channels ITV/STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as portfolio channels such as 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, such as 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 BBC1 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.
Minister John Whittingdale said in a statement: “Today we are guaranteeing the future of Freeview TV and a diverse range of much-loved news, entertainment and documentary channels well into the 2030s.
“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.”
The DCMS said this extension removes “any change or disruption to Freeview that could have come about through new ownership,” and it will also legislate to make ownership of Multiplex 2, which is currently jointly owned by Channel 4 and ITV, contingent on PSB status.
In June, the government opened public consultation into a potential sale of Channel 4, set to close Sept. 14.