Over-the-air broadcasting has a new champion in Britain: Broadcast 2040+. The campaign launched June 23, 2022, with the goal of ensuring the U.K. government commits to the provision of free, over-the-air broadcast services through 2040 and beyond.
Transmission services provider Arqiva, along with advocacy and interest groups Age UK, Silver Voices, the Rural Services Network and the Voice of the Listener & Viewer, is leading the Broadcast 2040+ effort.
“Whether it’s having the radio on over breakfast or watching the news during major global events, TV and radio binds us together as families and communities. This national asset cannot be taken for granted and I’m proud of the difference broadcast services make to the lives of people up and down the country,” stated Arqiva CEO Shuja Khan. “People across the U.K. – including the most vulnerable – depend on content that is available to them at all times, no matter where they live, and doesn’t need a subscription or a superfast internet connection.”
Khan said the goal of Broadcast 2040+ aims to give “voice to those who rely on over-the-air broadcasts” and to encourage decision-makers to preserve these services for the long-term.
[Commentary: “Don’t Overlook the Benefits of OTA”]
To support the Broadcast 2040+ campaign, Arqiva commissioned research firm Ipsos to survey the British public’s attitudes towards over-the-air radio and television. According to the survey, 90% of respondents believe such services should be supported. Around three-quarters (73%) said that free, over-the-air television was important if not essential, and an even greater number (84%) said the same about radio.
The campaign is focused on over-the-air versus IP-based or cable services, not analog versus digital broadcasting. Broadcast television in the U.K. has transitioned entirely to digital, and while DAB multiplex licenses were recently extended through 2035, analog radio remains a part of the British mediascape.
Despite a proliferation of other transmission paths, broadcast remains one of the most popular ways for people to access TV and radio content in the United Kingdom. More than half (56%) of British adults aged 18+ said they watched over-the-air TV during the past year, and well over three-quarters (87%) had tuned in to broadcast radio services over the same period.
Ipsos found that affordability and willingness to pay are key barriers to the take-up of alternative services to broadcast radio and TV. Thirteen percent of adults said they could not afford pay TV services. And despite improvements in connectivity, 7% of adults felt their internet connection was not good enough to stream television or radio programming.
To support the campaign’s assertions of the importance of over-the-air broadcasting, Ipsos looked at individuals affected by the Bilsdale mast fire, which left a half million people in North Yorkshire, Teesside and County Durham and without broadcast signals for several months.
According to Ipsos, 83% of those who lost access to over-the-air television as a result of the fire felt “personally affected”. This compared to the 40% of respondents in across Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East of England who felt they would be affected by a similar hypothetical scenario.
Arqiva noted that current British pans only provide certainty of provision for over-the-air TV and radio through until the early 2030s. In the coming years, a series of upcoming decisions on the long-term future of broadcast services will be made, starting with the 2023 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC). Decisions at previous WRCs, Arqiva noted, have led to a reduction in the amount of spectrum allocated to digital terrestrial TV in favor of mobile telecommunications services.