Letter: Channel 5 critics not on the viewers' side

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The Independent Online
Sir: The letters promoting digital television and criticising Channel 5 (29 April) did not, unsurprisingly, mention Channel 5's main benefit: a new kind of entertainment channel, free to viewers, with new local TV stations in major cities. Channel 5 is the last chance for this kind of channel for at least 10 years.

We do not have to choose between Channel 5 and digital. That would be like saying we have to choose between Wildlife on One and digital, or local news and digital.

We must be clear about the difference between digital as a means of coding a video signal and digital terrestrial broadcasting which is one of many applications. The BBC says that because digital satellite transmissions and digital VCRs may be available soon, so may digital terrestrial broadcasting. This is disingenuous, to say the least.

Digital terrestrial television will come, but it will not come easily, nor will it come quickly. The introduction of the new Channel 3 licences, from the time of the 1988 White Paper to the launch of the new companies in 1993, took five years. The introduction of digital terrrestial television wil take much longer. In the meantime, all other countries are pushing ahead with licensing more TV stations - analogue, of course. Many European countries are licensing local TV stations for the first time - analogue of course. Is the DTI so convinced it must head off in the opposite direction?

It is notable that the producers and advertisers want Channel 5 very much. Equally, most existing broadcasters do not. They want to stop Channel 5 because it will bring competition, and they are promoting digital which they believe will not offer any competition at all.

Yours sincerely,

JOHN HOWKINS

Channel 5 Broadcasting

London, W1

3 May

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