U.K.: Guardian Says Give HD Spectrum to BBC

August 22, 2007
A lead editorial this week in The Guardian in London calls on the British government to set aside spectrum for HD programming for the BBC, or else the TV public will suffer as a result. As in the United States and other countries, newly available spectrum is often auctioned off to the highest bidder, but the newspaper says in this case, it’s bad idea.

“An auction is a no-win situation for the BBC, even as part of a terrestrial consortium. If it were forced to bid against the mobile phone companies and BSkyB [satellite] and their deep pockets, it would have to shell out hundreds of millions of pounds that it has not got,” the Guardian said. “It would also be torn apart by the tabloids, particularly the [Rupert] Murdoch press, for ‘wasting’ public money. It would, to boot, divert funds from a budget that has already been squeezed by the government.”

Ofcom, Britain’s version of the FCC, currently is studying the spectrum issue as is the BBC Trust, which seeks out British consumer attitudes towards BBC policies and related issues. In this case, however, deciding how to best disperse HD-hungry spectrum should not be left up to a bureaucratic agency, said the newspaper: “Civil servants cannot judge which of hundreds of different ways of using spectrum will be successful. But if the BBC were deprived of providing HDTV for the nine hours a day it is planning—including for the [2008] Olympics—it would be a massive body blow to the UK’s most renowned cultural institution.”

The Guardian ends it editorial (“A Lack of Vision”) by suggesting, “This is an excellent occasion for [new Prime Minister] Gordon Brown to assert his Britishness by ensuring that one of our few international success stories [the BBC] does not have its wings clipped yet again by a government that ought to be supporting it.”

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