UK terrestrial television could be set for a huge change, with communications watchdog Ofcom not ruling out an auction for PSB licences for channels 3 and 5.
The licences for Channels 3 and 5, currently held by ITV, STV and UTV and Channel 5 respectively, expire at the end of 2014.
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"In preparation for the next licensing period, Ofcom has a duty to provide the Secretary of State with a report on the licences by June 2012," explained Ofcom.
"Ofcom's report considers whether the existing licence holders will be able to contribute, at a commercially sustainable cost, to public service broadcasting in the 10 years from 2015."
Ofcom has told the Secretary of State that it is perfectly feasible to put the very limited public service broadcasting (PSB) licences up for auction, alongside extension or renewal.
"Re-auctioning would open up licensing to a competitive process," explains Ofcom.
"It may also test whether potential bidders – including the current licensees – could consider fresh approaches to public service broadcasting."
Renewal would obviously see less upheaval with Ofcom confident that the current holders could make 'sufficient contribution' after 2015.
Even that option would probably include a new licence for Wales, in the same manner as the licences held for STV in Scotland and UTV in Northern Ireland.
The third option is for an extension, in order for a full review to be run as 'part of a future Communications Bill' and to allow more consideration for Paraliament to consider the repercussions of digital media in the ever shifting communications landscape.
Sky's the limit?
Should an auction occur, it would be fascinating to see just who would be competing.
The most obvious broadcaster would be Sky, of course, although its enthusiasm for terrestrial broadcasting seems to have dimmed of late as its strategies move to digital.
And its recent high-profile brush with politics might well have left it unwilling to submit to more exposure.
Of course, the Secretary of State may well just opt to renew or extend, which would mean we all carry on pretty much the same.
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