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techUK challenges Freeview Play development ‘levy’

techUK, the voice of the UK technology industry, has launched a campaign for the protection of viewer access to free-to-view content without additional costs. The new campaign is in response to Digital UK’s plans to charge device manufacturers a per device levy for the integration of Freeview Play technology into TV and STB products.

The imminent launch of Freeview Play will open up increased access to content from catch-up services provided by the public service broadcasters. However, as part of the introduction and integration of this technology into televisions and other reception devices, Digital UK is requiring manufacturers to pay a charge for enabling of this service on consumer products.
techUK strongly believes that free-to-view services, however consumed, should remain free and that the enabling technologies and hardware should not be subject to any additional fees or levies.

Paul Hide, Director of Operations for techUK said: “We welcome the planned introduction of the Freeview Play service as we move towards a new generation of TV user experience and content consumption. We are however, very concerned that the introduction of this service comes at a significant cost to hardware device manufacturers who are already investing in considerable R&D effort to develop new products to meet the Freeview Play requirements. This product levy is an additional cost that will ultimately be passed onto the consumer. The viewer has already paid a TV licence fee to access these services and this undermines both the concept of free to view television and the founding principles on which Digital UK was created.

The UK free to view broadcasting landscape, with multiple platforms and technologies, is already a complex and, arguably, inefficient environment in which stakeholders throughout industry operate. This results in additional cost and confusion for the UK viewer. Device manufacturers support the introduction of Freeview Play as a platform through which the next chapter of free to view television in the UK can evolve but this has to be in a manner that does not lead to further fragmentation and confusion.”

techUK is working on behalf of its members to highlight the importance of developing a strategy that protects the future of Digital Terrestrial Television in the UK. techUK will be working with the new Government, Public Service Broadcasters, the BBC Trust and Regulators to ensure a continued strong free to view service, the development of common and open technology standards and the efficient use of spectrum to ensure that it retains a compelling and high value consumer proposition.

Responding to the campaign’s launch, a Digital UK spokesperson said: “We welcome TechUK’s support for Freeview Play and its shared belief in a strong free-to-air TV service available to all. Freeview Play has been designed to bring free terrestrial TV into the connected age and our member organisations are making a significant five-year investment in the development of the platform to make the best of broadcast and on-demand content available to everyone for a one-off cost, without subscription.

As part of this, manufacturers who choose to offer the service are asked to contribute a modest amount to help meet the development and ongoing costs of operating the new platform. This includes access to catch-up players from the main broadcasters and testing materials, alongside Freeview’s marketing support. This approach is not unusual across the industry.

How manufacturers absorb this cost, which does not apply to other Freeview products, is an individual matter for them. Viewers do not pay for Freeview Play beyond the initial cost of their TV or set-top box.”

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