BBC’s £130m-a-year digital surplus likely to be spent on broadband plan

The lion’s share of the BBC’s £130m-a-year “digital switchover surplus” licence fee money is expected to be taken by Lord Carter to help achieve his goal of getting broadband in every UK home by 2012.

The lion’s share of the BBC’s £130m-a-year “digital switchover surplus” licence fee money is expected to be taken by Lord Carter to help achieve his goal of getting broadband in every UK home by 2012.
It is understood that the outline of a deal has been reached, although the full details have yet to be finalised, for £90m to £100m of the annual switchover surplus to be used to help the communications minister achieve his ambition of universal broadband access by 2012.
The remaining £30m to £40m is said to have been earmarked for regional media.
Lord Carter yesterday seemed to play down the importance of the surplus, saying “The debate about how to spend the money is coming ahead of the availability of the money” as so far only 75,000 people have had their analogue signal switched off.
But he added: “What we do say in the document very clearly is if there was a digital switchover surplus … could that be money, once you were certain you were past the digital switchover ‘worry point’ if you like, be used for other things? Yes, certainly that is something we would look at.”
While the bulk is set to go to Lord Carter’s plans for Digital Britain, a significant sum is thought to be earmarked for a new funding pot to deliver regional news.
Last week a tug of war emerged over how the switchover surplus, the money ringfenced from what the BBC spends on content and services to help subsidise vulnerable groups, will be used after the analogue TV signal is switched off in 2012.
Ofcom, in its long-awaited report on the future of public service broadcasting, revealed a number of options for the sizeable fund, shattering any hope the BBC may have had in retaining the cash for its own uses.
Options tabled included funding part of Lord Carter’s Digital Britain project, which includes making broadband available to every home in Britain, and the establishment of “independently funded consortia” to deliver news to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions.
Ofcom raised other potential uses for the switchover surplus such as increasing coverage of DAB digital radio across the UK. However the tone of the 124-page report, called Putting Viewers First, suggested the media regulator felt a bigger impact could be made by funding the immediate future of regional news.
“Funding of a similar size to the switchover surplus would in itself only be a relatively small contribution to providing universal DAB or broadband access,” Ofcom pointed out in the report.
The media regulator has proposed a plan that from 2011 would see “independently funded consortia” compete for a £30m to £50m fund to provide regional news broadcast on either the ITV network, Channel 4 or using a “new dedicated service within each nation”.
Companies including Reuters and PA have previously been mentioned as parties potentially interested in the competitive tender model, while ITN last week confirmed it would bid if the plan got the green light.
The Digital Report yesterday raised the prospect of regional media consolidation as ways are found to maintain local news in a worsening economic climate.


Apple awarded patent for iPhone multi-touch


Apple has been granted a patent for the touchscreen control system used in its iPhones, potentially allowing it to sue unauthorised imitations.

The patent, which was initially filed last April, grants Apple exclusive rights over: “Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics”.

This has been interpreted by experts as referring to the iPhone’s multi-touch control method, whereby navigation of menus is done by pulling icons around or apart.

The patent could prove to be bad news for Palm, whose Palm Pre handset uses a similar method and is due to hit the UK market later this year.

Apple chief operating officer Steve Cook stopped short of threatening Palm with legal action, but did spell out Apple’s intention to closely guard its technology.

He said: “We think competition is good. We are ready to suit up and go against anyone.

“However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off and will use whatever weapons at our disposal.”

The iPhone sold 1.75 million units in the US alone in the last three months of 2008.





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ITV shows to be made available on demand by Virgin Media


ITV and Virgin Media today announce a deal to make some of the nation’s favourite television shows available on demand to Virgin Media’s digital TV subscribers with ITV Player, ITV’s on demand catch up service.

The agreement will give ITV its largest ever potential on demand audience, with Virgin Media’s 3.5 million TV customers able to view over 40 hours of top quality programming from ITV1, 2, 3 and 4 each week. Popular shows such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale will all be made available for seven days after being broadcast as part of Virgin Media’s free catch-up TV1 service.

Virgin Media’s viewers will also be able to choose from 500 hours2 of award-winning ITV comedies, documentaries and dramas, all ready to watch at any time On Demand. This collection of some of the best of British television will be available as part of Virgin Media’s vast library of programmes which sit within its TV Choice section. A selection of ITV’s High Definition (HD) programming will also be available On Demand, adding to Virgin Media’s growing and popular list of HD content as part of the UK’s leading TV On Demand service.

In addition, Virgin Media and ITV have also agreed that Virgin TV subscribers will be able to watch ITV content online via their computers, providing further viewing options.

Virgin Media has pioneered On Demand television in the UK with more than half of its TV customers regularly using this service. Total views of all on demand programmes exceeded 357 million by the end of the first nine months of 2008 and averaged 45 million views each month in the third quarter of last year.

ITV has also seen a rapid rise in users for its On Demand offering, with the average number of plays per month more than doubling since the end of the first quarter of 2008. The top three ITV shows in 2008 were Coronation Street, The X Factor and Emmerdale in that order.

Malcolm Wall, chief executive officer of content at Virgin Media, said: “ITV makes some of the country’s most loved TV programmes so we’re delighted to be able to offer so many of them to our customers. We already have the largest and best collection of entertainment available On Demand and adding this vast amount of quality content will make our TV offering even more compelling.”

Ben McOwen Wilson, director of online at ITV, said: “Our ambition is make our content as widely available for audiences. We are thrilled to be announcing this deal with Virgin Media at a very exciting time for ITV. We know Virgin Media’s customers consume a lot of content On Demand, and we are confident that with the massive appetite and growth of On Demand content across our online sites during 2008 this deal will allow a new wave of viewers to enjoy our content; in a time when the way our audiences watch TV continues to transform.”






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