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back to article Only Sky can save digital TV

Even at the second time of asking, digital TV has been a commercial flop. That's not surprising when taxpayer-subsidised broadcasters are given valuable spectrum. It's time Ofcom admitted this and gave Sky the chance to revitalise the market. Here's why. The UK, probably more than any other country in Europe, has a very healthy …

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How Much is Murdoch Paying You?

Well, I can't really remember when I've disagreed more with a Reg comment. Let's see, you think more channels equals more diversity, and are sad that a load of crap channels that nobody watched have gone to the wall? And you want public control to be handed over to Rupert Murdoch?

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Shopping channels

I completely agree, and further more what I think they should do is get rid of those 6 god awful shopping channels and give the channels to Virgin and Sky, 3 each or something. Hopefully that then would stimulate some form of content. Would also be interesting if an American cable channel like HBO could get in on the act...

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Really.....

So Sky can "save" digital TV ?

If Sky went bust tomorrow Digital TV would go ahead without them, it does not need saving?

If it is not commercially viable then someone has their business model very wrong, pay for a licence to broadcast, get advertisers, buy or make some programmes people actually want to watch, sounds like the same model as conventional TV to me?

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Keep Murdoch's grubby hands out of it

Personally, I'd be happy if _every_ commercial broadcaster went to the wall, as I don't watch advert-based TV unless it falls off the internet straight from the US with the ads removed.

But that's by the by. The whole point of Freeview is that you don't need to pay a monthly sub to Murdoch. Giving up some of that pitiful quantity of spectrum to him so he can force us all to need more boxes under the TV, because he wants to use a different, incompatible standard, is a terrible idea after Ofcom -sorry- the BBC has been forced at gunpoint to waste millions (that could have been used to stop turning their factual department into a ghost-town) persuading the country to buy boxes you want to make paperweights.

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Dead Vulture

Nonsense

On Satellite even in Ireland, the Sky channels have a tiny percentage of viership.

TV has degraded as the number of channels has increased.

ABC1 failed because there is only so many times you can watch re-runs of Home Improvement.

There is not enough content for 20 decent channels never mind 1000.

In other European countries there is no de facto Satellite Monopoly. Rather than strengthening Sky as a distribution platform (they produce very little content) they should be forced to be more open. Their box (which unlike cable the customers own) should be able to take other CAMs. Their CAM should be available for other boxes.

Given the arrogant, closed proprietary nature of Sky's platform (Which is NOT a British Company and would move to Morocco or somewhere tomorrow if Ofcom did real regulation of them), BBC/ITV/C4 are perfectly correct to create Freesat.

RTE/TG4 on the other hand has given it's content to Sky for free and Sky can charge the Irish consumer what ever they like. This is even worse when you consider the DTT trial in Ireland is window dressing and there is no real plan for DTT roll out.

Your article reads like BskyB marketing spin. Not a balanced piece on the future of UK broadcasting.

Not up to usual El Reg standard.

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Freebie Digi-channels

Well at least with the present set up there are occasionally some decent (even if oft-repeated) programmes on digi.

Give it to that cnut Murdoch and it'll be wall-to-wall trash.

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Virgin

The lack of any mention of Cable and they part owned channels makes this whole article pointless.

Virigin own and operate lots of channels which people watch, yes part owned by the BBC.

onDigital failed becuase nobody could get it and they spent to much on sports. Nothing to do with the whole idea being crazy.

Sky the answer? lol, do you have a column in the Times on Sunday too?

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Or alternatively...

you could simply observe that there is sufficient money and talent in a place the size of the UK to feed four, maybe five TV channels capable of producing interesting, entertaining, educational, amusing and (yes, I know it's subjective) quality programmes.

It's obvious; *irrespective* of how the BBC is funded, there's only so much advertising budget. When ITV got it all, trebles all round. When Channel Four came along and had a chunk of it, faces fell; now Channel Five wants its share too; ITV are not stunningly happy. I'm pretty sure that the *last* thing the indepenents want is a BBC that's advertising funded; the brand name is too strong and that's where all the money will go.

And given that I'm already paying for every non-BBC TV programme visible in the UK that carries adverts (that'll be all of them, then, I guess?) the concept of paying for something twice rather annoys me.

Besides, Murdoch's got enough media channels and far too much money. He's not having any more of mine if I have anything to do with it.

Neil

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Thanks from Rupert

...and it looks like a free 10-year sky subscription is coming someone'e way, well done that pommy! Lack of diversity and PBS are 2 completely unrelated issues. The demise of television choice was brought about entirely by the graduation of the first Media graduates, losers taught to be losers by losers, none of them with an ounce of imagination. Reality, people, progs are just glorified home movies. Stop watching them, otherwise theyll never stop doing them

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Ian

DTT=Analog channels in public perception???

You say that 'the public' still associates DTT with the analog BBC, ITV Channel 4 and Five channels. Where do you get the data for that statement? Surely the public associates freeview with a few extra channels not available on analog and they associate Sky/Virgin with paying for even more channels (plus possibly other services like phone/internet)? It's pretty simple really.

You suggest Sky is the saviour of DTT. Well, maybe, maybe not. Personally I see no problem with a PBS-based DTT service broadcast on government allocated spectrum paid for mainly by the TV licence/tax. If pay-TV channels (whether Sky, Virgin or whoever else may wish to enter the UK market) are allowed to consume valuable DTT spectrum while there is still a TV licence/tax system in place, there should be strict limits imposed e.g. no more than 25% of channels should be pay-TV.

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Clueless

If Sky had any talent at programme making then why have they been keeping it such a secret? TV in the UK is the envy of the world and I notice down here in Aus the UK imports are almost exclusively from the BBC and C4. Even the Dirty Digger's own compatriots won't touch Sky shows with a ten foot bargepole.

It's time to bring on the next clueless blogger posing as a real journalist.

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Sky is ok but come on.

Sky will in no way save anything. Once the competition is gone they will go to a premium model and you will pay by series.

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No HD on Freeview

I'm still on analogue, receiving 4 and a half channels (1 to 4 in perfect digital artefact free analogue, and slightly fuzzy 5) and not even watching all of those, there is mould growing on button 3 of my remote. The only real reason for me to switch to digital is if they offered HD content, but with the government committed to selling off the necessary spectrum for a quick buck, and Sky looking to buy it to prevent that happening, it doesn't look like we will ever get free to air HD content.

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Please god no...

Why on earth would you want to let Sky dominate British television? And make no mistake that IS what they would do given half the chance (like a relaxation of the competition legislation). They produce almost very little new content, and what they do show seems to be on perminant loop.

What actually needs to happen is that the existing PSBs need to be told to start producing sensible TV again, and having to compete with services like Sky actually decreases the amount of intelligent content they can show. Channel 4 is the worst offender in this regard having gone from having the best content on TV 10 years ago to being just-another-lowest-common-denominator ITV now.

The PBSs are the only reason we still have good home-made content in this country and you'll have to pry them from my cold dead hands.

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stu
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oh dear. where is my minature violin ?

digital TV may become all PSB channels...

And that is bad why ?

I'll take BBC2+23 over sky crap any day of the week and would gladly pay twice my tv licence for more of the same rather than a subscription channel that has more adverts on it that a PSB commercial station....

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Anonymous Coward

misleading figures in the article

"The public still associates the digital TV platform (DTT) with these old analog channels - even though 85 per cent of the population views them via digital." - Really?

Most people are still using their analogue sets, even with digital tuner boxes most people will use the conventional channels selectors on "2nd TVs" until they are forced to run 2 remotes for every TV. The figures given out by regulators about digital penetration always ignore 2nd(+) sets and related issues and will still result in lots of sets being dumped at switchover, and a small boom for Currys/DSG etc

Much of the country doesnt get digital over the air yet (and Sky/Cable penetration isn' that great), at least not officially according to the providers, and certainly not in bad weather.

Side question: If I pick up a signal intended for another region, as ours isnt yet enabled, am I violating the bit in the Wireless Telegraphy Act about intentionally listening to transmissions not intended for me?

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More to do

I have a digital TV (I splashed out on a nice HD one this year) and I do receive DTV broadcasts. But the signal is so shoddy that I usually watch on analogue, just because it's acceptable. I know my parents are in the same position in an different part of the country. OK, I may need a new aerial, but there are still hurdles besides rufuseniks before DSO.

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Absolute rubbish

The last thing we need is Sky throwing their weight around on the DTT spectrum.

Increased choice doesn't mean better quality (there's a very good Fry & Laurie sketch that sums it up - waiter replaces a diner's silver service cutlery with a carrier bag full of plastic coffee stirrers, saying "They may all be crap, but at least you've got the choice, and that's what's important, isn't it?"). Increased choice simply means more opportunities to re-air the same dross more times a day, and liberally besmear it with logos and trailers for other dross in case we've got attention deficit disorder or have somehow forgotten the channel we're watching.

Ban any subscription content on terrestrial digital. If anyone feels the urge to pay Murdoch for additional channels, get a Sky dish.

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I'm with the BBC on this one

You have to wonder whether the author of this article is getting a backhander from Sky, given comments about their service being "fairly priced" - 100 odd quid a year seems fair for what PSB offers. The arguments against PSB always seem to come down to so-called "fairness", presumably for businesses, as it hardly seems "fair" that consumers might be pushed into paying Sky for their generally dreadful, dead from the neck up content. And then there's that use of "diversity", as if having lots of different crap to choose from made it any less brown, steaming and unappealing.

The free marketeers always seem desperate to portray the likes of Sky as saviours desperate to save us from ourselves if only they weren't held back by those dastardly rules, when the reality of their hatred of PSBs stems more from their inability to compete in any way on quality grounds - strangle the BBC and even Sky might shine.

If the authors wishes come to pass, I think I'll probably kick the TV habit for good.

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Absolute nonsense

Firstly if "Only Sky can save digital TV’" then it wasn't worth saving in the first place. The entire premise of digital telly is flawed; we're obliterating the analogue signal so we can pump out more digital channels despite the fact there is not enough content for the existing ones or enough money to go round to fill them all. Any scan of the TV schedule reveals that the digital channels, whether commercial or public, don't have enough programmes to show.

Sky telly has, by any measure been a complete failure. The number of viewers it gets are tiny and the only reason it's viable as a business is due to eye-watering subscription rates. That, and the fact it runs a near monopoly on the content it does provide. Sky pays obscene amounts of money for content it then absolutely monopolises and then just turns the screw on its subscribers to pay for it. Do you really think American tat like "Lost" is really worth $1 million an episode?

The problem is we've lost sight of what TV should be there for, to entertain, educate and inform. It should not be there to fleece the public on phone quizzes, spawn endless derivative formats, saturate us with repeats and low quality formats and handover a huge monopoly to Sky where viewers access to material is gated simply by means of how much they're willing to pay. We have endlessly deregulated and marketised television and the results have been disastrous; TV viewers and programmes have been hopelessly atomised and divided, quality is rock bottom and the biggest loser has been the viewer. People have voted with their wallets and that for most people TV isn't worth much more than their yearly license fee. To destroy the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 group of companies hand it over to a vulture like Rupert Murdoch is beyond stupid.

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Biased

Sounds to me like you work for Murdoch. The reason most people watch the 5 channels is the amount of rubbish on the other channels.

Unless you can provide the names of some "quality" programmes...

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Nonsense!

If Sky is the only company that can save digital TV then we are in big trouble. Sky TV's original content is basically drivel and if they were allowed to dominate any more than they already do then standards would be driven down even more. One can look to the newspaper market where the Murdoch effect has turned The Times into a up-market Sky-promoting version of The Sun.

The key point that the author misses is that broadcasting has a social purpose and if the action of free markets does not serve that purpose, then we can all choose to arrange matters in a different way: its called democracy.

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Paris Hilton

Blimey

PSBs, DSO, DTT... I thought IT had enough TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms).

Also, this is about TV.. Where's the Paris angle?

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Anonymous Coward

Oh good lets hand control of television to Uncle Rupert.

I think most of us agree that TV gets worse by the year, but handing it over to Sky, come on. It's also interesting to note that our independent commentator on the industry didn't note how much of Sky's output is actually from News International companies. If Sky and Virgin invested a bit more in UK & Non-US base drama and comedy, maybe I'd change my mind a bit, but I really don't fancy all my television from Jerry Bruckhiemer. Does his company produce more drama than the BBC and ITV combined?

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Anonymous Coward

Only bloggs

allow inane drivel to escape the dear editor pages

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And What About The Consumer ...

You bleat about Poor Little Sky being squeezed by the ground based services (not all of which are public service, BTW) ... and your solution?

Give Sky a monopoly.

Don't you think consumers have a right to resist when they are being steamrollered into signing up for a service with dubious benefit?

Trust me, you don't need digital TV to follow Corrie, or the news, or even Lazytown.

And there's zero on Sky to send us running to pay their extortionate fees.

But as a Sky fan, I suppose the consumer view never entered your head?

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You what???

Got to agree with Neil on this one - what a load of rubbish that article was. I'd rather eat my own scrotum than pay that a**ehole Murdoch any money.

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Well, that was a load of crap

It's always worth remembering that SKY gets a huge subsidy from taxpayers too in the form of dodging their tax payments. The rest of us have to pick up the bill, so SKY can go jump as far as I'm concerned.

Their service and programmes suck and I see no reason to believe that they can save digital TV any more than Murdoch has saved quality journalism.

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Dear god no...

Have you seen the content that Sky generates. It's terrible lowest common denominator crap. And Sky One seems to be becoming a 24 hour Simpsons channel.

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Dead Vulture

Yes, let's talk about public funding of broadcasters

Funny that NI sources love to criticise the TV Licence when they're effectively also state-subsidised by their numerous tax dodges.

Let's also talk about Freeview's 'failure'. According to Ofcom figures 21.4 million homes have digital TV, of which 8.1 million are paid Sky subscribers. 12.9 million are using Freeview. This is an interesting situation if a 'failing' service has nearly 5 million more than the 'saviour'. Especially as Freeview added 1.9 million new users in the second quarter of 2007 (up 700,000 year-on year), while Sky managed a paltry 77,000. An increase in growth nearly ten times greater than Sky's ENTIRE growth in the same period? My, how Freeview could learn from the digger's genius!

But don't take my word for it: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/news/2007/09/nr_20070920b

Not that this post really needs any more commentary to be revealed as the NI shill it is, but it's interesting that you seem to think finances are the only measure of whether or not a broadcaster is successful, rather than reach or hours. The brilliance of PSB in the UK is that it encourages broadcasters to cater for markets that otherwise would be not bring a return on effort, which in a Murdoch-shaped world would be replaced by a million channels of cheap music videos funded by ads for scam SMS lines and a load of bought-in Fox pap. If that's salvation then I'm Francis Urquhart.

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What a waste of a good point ...

Your excellent point on the "wasting" of Freeview spectrum by companies like Channel 4 and ITV broadcasting "+1" services and the inequalities of companies like the BBC and Channel 4 just being "gifted" spectrum is completely wasted in an article the sole point of which seems to be praising Sky (with a few breaks from the Sky-love for BBC/Channel 4-kicking)?!

What a waste!

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Have you gone Bonkers?

I normally expect to see a bit of sharp, cynical and amusing commentary on the Reg, not NewsCorp Press releases!

I was tempted to do a blow-by-blow deconstruction of this piece, but then I thought "Why bother?"

Anybody stupid enough to write or publish such nonsense clearly lacks the intellectual equipment to understand a rational argument.

If you want to know why handing SKY DTT is such a bad idea, just look at the SUN (or Times) then switch on SKY TV. 'Nuff said.

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Anonymous Coward

I agree with the first poster.

The commercial carriers have never provided a good model for diversity.

I used to have Telewest. The basic package offered the PSB channels plus Sky One, ABC, Bravo and various other "general" channels. At times I had a choice of: series 3 of Buffy, series 1 of Buffy, series 6 of Buffy, series 4 of Charmed or series 2 of Charmed.

To get any diversity, I needed to go up a package. But that just gave me more films and more sport.

If I wanted anything special (eg French language), I had to get the full package. Sky was always the same. To get any decent channels, you first have to buy every single one of their channels, even if you don't want them.

So Sky/Virgin wins twice. They get the carrier's share and a broadcaster's share.

Let's not replace a triopoly with a monopoly.

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What dross is this...?

Shame. You had a couple of good points (e.g. the +1 channels _are_ a complete waste of spectrum), but ruin it all with shilling for Sky and apparent confusion over what ITV is - you say it is a PSB channel but then acknowledge it is funded entirely by advertising. ITV demonstrates that ad-funded telly _can_ work, so it blows apart your argument entirely, but don't let that stop you...

I'm not sure whether this is as bad as or worse than the Cade Metz troll The Reg rolls out for Apple articles. Perhaps it is the same person...!?

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Since when...

has The Register employed obvious trolls to write its articles?

This was such obvious flame-bait that it doesn't even deserve a considered response!

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BBC and Lonely Planet

Agree with the majority of the people here - that was pure Sky-spin.

It's worth pointing out that Lonely Planet was bought by BBC Worldwide, the commercial part of the BBC and not with licence payers' money.

It'd be nice to see where all Sky's revenues go. Precious little into programming I suspect; unless that perennial Sky One staple 'Ross Kemp on Gangs' is a lot more expensive than it looks.

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Anonymous Coward

Fuck tv

Read a book.

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Has the author renewed his Sky contract?

That is the biggest pile of tosh I have read on El Reg for a long time.

Yes, handing ever more control of our limited terrestrial spectrum to Uncle Rupert sounds liek a marvellous idea, and I am sure that he will open it to healthy competition, as he is known for his love of "the little guy".

And why is having a free public service satellite broadcaster a bad idea?? Freesat from Sky is sh*t. If you like shopping channels and dodgy religious broadcasts then its the place for you. The BBC Freesat model is designed to give people that dont have access to Freeview all the same benefits, it also introduces a little thing called competition. Just to remind our friend from Oz, that the UK is not his personal fiefdom.

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Abysmal article

flawed logic. Sounds like astroturf.

I am very disappointed in the quality of this article and am surprised it was vetted by the editor and included in The Register.

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Lets see shall we

Up until maybe 5 years ago, the content of SKY was pretty good but now the terrestrial channels are stealing all of the decent programs and Sky has what? The Simpsons, Stargate Atlantis and A Town Called Eureka, it's hardly likely to make you want to sign up, even Virgin 1 and FX are getting more quality programs than Sky. In summary, what a biased load of crap.

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Dead Vulture

Utter Tripe

There is a simple formula that sums up the reason why we have complete rubbish on the TV.

NumQualityProgrammeMakers

Quality = ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

NumChannels * NumControlledOwnedByMurdoch^2

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Stu
Dead Vulture

Total tosh.

I'm really beginning to see the value in these comment pages, I wholeheartedly agree with everybody who lashed back at this total shit.

It basically completely failed to see the human angle of Television and treated the whole thing blindly as a moneymaking business venture.

FACT - The quality of programming produced by the BBC and C4 (perhaps not ITV) is regarded by the majority as being vastly superior to the content that BSkyB and the others put out which is mostly US originated, Discovery and National Geo included.

FACT - Nearly all content displayed day in and day out on the vast majority of satellite entertainment and docs channels has already been shown at least twice before, and was low quality to begin with. Thats why I dont pay Sky more cash for a Sky Plus box - whats the point when all you really need is a good scheduling guide to catch the repeat.

Even Channel5 looks fantastic put next to the likes of Sky One or abc1. Lets not forget abc1 went down the pan because Sky dont actively like competition, so didn't put it anywhere near ch106. The same thing is happening now with the new Virgin1 channel. But abc1 was painful to watch with their US advertising scheduling and crap content.

I have a Sky sub, I regularly get to see the tosh that they put out, so why is it I spend most of my watching time on BBC and C4 thru my sky box? Theres only a few reasons why I turn to satellite provided channels, and only for a select bunch of programmes on the docs channels.

And what is the value of dumping on the BBC for your own purposes by saying that their internet TV service failed, it may very well have, but I think its in the worst taste to rubbish the BBC just to help your argument given that their TV and normal web provisions are fantastic quality. Not that it helped your argument any.

Go back to your opinionated blogging where I don't get exposed to it.

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Show Keith the door...

Althought its fun to see so many El Reg commentators in complete agreement for the first time the basic article was just so plain dumb it beggars beleif.

Has El Reg been take over by the Murdzilla? Is this some desparate spin by the BBC gone horribly wrong.

Come on El Reg sack Kieth get back to what you do best failing IT projects and hiereses failing to keep thier clothes on.

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Most PSB output is shite...

Most PSB output is shite... but SO much better than the commercial channels.

Roll back to BBC1, BBC2 and the 3rd channel I say.

I have spent £thousands on gadgets to show / hear this rubbish - more fool me - and would cheerfully just have radios 3 & 4 - even tho' they have dumbed down in a disgusting fashion. Bah Humbug.

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Clearly biased reporter

Previous "articles" by this "reporter" are the following:

Virgin: stop whinging and deal with the debt

Virgin: Take the money and run, Beardie

BT: we need fibre, not share buybacks

The first two of these clearly demonstrate a lack of objectivity and a definite bias towards Sky. Isn't about time El Reg introduced ignore lists for their users to use against reporters such as this??

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Digital TV? It isn't the distribution that is a problem...

I have a Sky box. I only watch it sporadically. Why?

Well, let's start with the content. Yes, there is some good TV on some of the channels besides the analogue suppliers. Trouble is that it is often old output from the same analogue suppliers, or has been shown there already, and it is repeated to death.

Even where there is stuff I want to watch, it is heavily cut with adverts. Not just with traditional ad breaks, but with sponsorships, digital overlays and overdubs. I want to watch television, but they seem to be more interested in telling me what is coming up later in the day than actually showing what I want to watch now. All digital services are provided with EPG, so I can find this sort of info out at the touch of a button, so why do I need to be told again and again, between programmes, during breaks, even over the shows themselves?

And yes, I know what the "red" button looks like, so why keep telling me to press it for things I don't really want anyway? If I want an interactive experience, I can switch my computers on!

These are all problems I have with digital TV. Problems I never had on analogue. Maybe that's why people prefer not to switch?

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Ok I don't live in Blighty

But, I do receive both the BBC and iTV over Eurobird and Astra 2 (@28.2E).

As an European Citizen (living in Germany), I think you shold be greatfull to have the BBC and iTV. Over here it's just ARD and ZDF and a bunch of crappy regional Three Channels that perhaps you nan might watch @ tee time.

...Then again probably not!

Do I believe that the TV Tax (read: License) system sucks?! HELL YES I DO!!

For further proof of this let's cast our Eye's west-bound. Like we've been doing for years!

It's time for these PBS's (or is that PSB's), to go the way of the dodo, if it's at the cost of a Dr. Who, well that's a price worth paying. I suppose.

You can sit here and argue all day long about the evils of Commercial TV, but the funny thing is, it has a way of weeding out the useless Crap and bring us Programing we'd might ~actually~ want to watch!

But so long as we as Europeans keep casting our Eyes ever west-ward and continue to purchase there Crap (as opposed to say making our own content), on a level to actually compete with that junk, how is anything going to change?!

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Licence fee v Sky subs

Yes, you get so many more channels for your Sky subscriptions than you do for your licence fee, BUT a licence fee is currently £135 for an entire year, which gives you access to around 40-odd Freeview channels. Sky gives you more channels, but at what cost? Even its most basic package of £15 a month is still £45 MORE than the licence fee, and all your money goes to that champion of free speech and unadulterated editing, The Dirty Digger. And if you want to see everything The Digger offers, it's almost £500 a year, which is more than 300% more expensive.

And as so many others have pointed out, the Digger gets us to subsidise his operations by refusing to pay any tax at all. His shares prospectus actually boasts about the company's ability to avoid tax! Do you really want to support a company like that?

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Joke

Er...

It's not April 1st today is it?

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Anonymous Coward

Britannia rules the airwaves!

If you've been to mainland Europe you'll see that their commercial TV and PSBs are awful, they're absolutely filled with US TV - not because people want to see it all but because the shows are cheaper!

The TV system here with a publicly funded BBC, ITV/4/5 having PSB mandates and then a whole world of digital channels outside of them is the best way, we've get the best of all worlds ...

I also disagree ITV/4/5 are even really PSBs, they have some requirements to do public service broadcasting but for the most part, they are commercial.

E4, etc, are commercial TV stations in their own right.

I prefer not to talk about five or Sky as they're foreign owned, they shouldn't be allowed to broadcast in this country ... five is owned by a German company who helped Nazis and well Rupert Murdoch ...

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