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International: BBC promises to launch free digital

07-July-2001
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International: BBC promises to launch free digital

The BBC pledged to launch its new package of digital channels in the coming year and said it would not charge viewers for them. Among the new offerings will be BBC3, an entertainment channel, BBC4, an arts and culture channel, and two children's channels. Five new digital radio outlets are also in the pipeline.

"We will not be charging for digital channels," said director general Greg Dyke, as the BBC unveiled its annual report, a yearly justification to viewers of the license fee on which its finances are based.

BBC said that although the majority of people are expected to have made the switch to digital television within two or three years, it would take a decade to switch the rest of the population over.

The BBC drummed up £2.37 billion ($3.31 billion) through its 104-pound annual license fee charge.

Commercial broadcasters have complained that the fee creates an unequal playing field in the broadcasting world, particularly when it comes to developing new services in fields such as digital. But Dyke warned that the BBC is still hamstrung financially in the brave new technological world, particularly with respect to streaming television for Internet broadcasting.

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