ITV and DSat - the choices



There is growing confusion about the future of some 600,000 homes that receive ITV, C4 and Five via digital satellite through Sky's 'free' service.

The issue arises as a result of the BBC's move to a free and unencrypted service on satellite. The remaining Solus cards are due to expire in the 'the next few weeks'. There are reports on the Internet that some cards have already expired.

The simplest solution would be for the three broadcasters to pick up the £14 million tab for renewing the solus cards. However, there are no signs of this happening although the benefits of the Government's digital dividend would dramatically reduce the cost of the operation for ITV. C4 say that they cannot afford to pick up the bill themselves.

Without ITV's intervention, these homes will stop receiving the three channels digitally during August. They will have three choices:

to revert to terrestrial analogue TV
to adopt DTT through Freeview
to subscribe to the lowest Sky premium of £12.50 month
Many observers now say that senior figures in ITV believe that the network's position in multichannel homes was permanently damaged by its absence from Sky Digital in the early days of ONDigital and that there is great pressure to find a solution. The majority of D-Sat viewers will continue to receive ITV1 (and 2) as well as C4 and Five as part of their pay subscription.

However, some MPs lead by Chris Bryant, member for the Rhondda, want the Government to step in in order to maintain the momentum towards analogue switch-over.