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Channel 5 - Reception

Main Content Last Revised  Tu 2-Dec-98

In April 1997 I was asked by Right 2 Reply to take part in a follow-up story about Channel 5. I made another film and this time it was followed by a studio discussion featuring Channel 5's CEO and the ITC. It emerged there were three categories of viewer - those who could receive Channel 5 just fine, those who needed a new aerial or otherwise upgrade their equipment and those who could not get pictures at all. What follows is the transcript of the transmitted discussion, which was slightly edited for time before broadcast.

Thanks to Sean Hughes for the images.

From Right 2 Reply shown on C4 on Sa 5-Apr-97 at 18:30 and on both C4 and S4C on Mo 7-Apr-97 at 12:00
Copyright © 1997 Channel 4 Television Corporation.

Roger Bolton
Joining us in the studio is Andrew Wiseman and viewer Sylvia Barry, who lives in Kent and canít get C5. And to discuss who will or wonít get the new service is C5ís Chief Executive, David Elstein, and Paul Smee, Director of Public Affairs at the Independent Television Commission, which was responsible for awarding C5 their licence.

Sylvia, when did you know that you couldnít get C5?

Right 2 Reply
Sylvia Barry Well we had heard in the past that we wouldnít be getting it, but as the launch got nearer, we really hoped that maybe things would change and that we would be able to receive it.
Roger Bolton So what did you do to try and find out if, in the end, you could just get hold of it?
Sylvia Barry Well, I looked through my TV listings magazine, TV Quick, and they had a section every day devoted to C5 and advertising the help-line number that Andrew spoke about. And there was just no mention at all on that that we wouldnít be receiving it.
Roger Bolton Do you feel left out of some sort of national event?
Sylvia Barry Absolutely. Absolutely.
Roger Bolton Well David Elstein, is there any hope for people like Sylvia who are outside the areas at the moment?
David Elstein
David Elstein, Chief Executive, CHANNEL 5 Well the first thing to say is our test transmissions have shown that as many as 88% of all people in the UK could receive, with the right aerial, our terrestrial signal. Thatís much more than we ever anticipated.
Roger Bolton Would that apply to Ramsgate in Kent?
David Elstein Ramsgate is probably just out of reach, but there are two other things that might be of help to Sylvia: Every cable operator carries C5. So as and when cable gets to you in any town in the UK, you will be able to get C5 as part of a free service. You donít have to pay for C5 when you get cable.
Sylvia Barry Well we havenít got cable at the moment.
David Elstein Well cable may come. And then the third way you may be able to get C5 is: hopefully we will be transmitting by satellite as well, the only terrestrial station to contemplate doing so. And nearly every household in the country can install a dish if it so desires.
Sylvia Barry Nearly every household, but we are a listed building so ours is subject to planning regulations. And it wouldnít be a free service to us, would it?
David Elstein Yes it would. All you have to do is get a dish and C5 will be available free.
Roger Bolton When will it be available on satellite? Have you got a date?
David Elstein I donít have a date yet; weíre just sorting out the final details. And we hope it will be very, very soon.
Roger Bolton Very, very soon within the next 18 months?
David Elstein (Laughs.) Within the next two weeks, all being well! Thatís the target Iíve set myself. As soon as we can conclude negotiations.

Now you donít have to put a dish on a building, you can put it under a shrub in the garden or whatever. But you would be one of the very, very few people who would be unable, by any of the three systems, to get C5. And Iím sorry. Unfortunately, when C5 was advertised as a national licence, it was made absolutely clear to all the applicants that it would not reach every household. In fact at that time it was thought it would only reach 70% of households.

Roger Bolton Well, let me bring in Paul at this point. Are you happy that C5 have let people know sufficiently that they wonít getÖ that the people who arenít going to get the channel know they wonít get the channel?
Paul Smee
Paul Smee, Director of Public Affairs, INDEPENDENT TELEVISION COMMISSION I think C5 have done a very good job in publicising their existence and also the limits of their reception. Itís a pity that some people are not able to get the channel. That is because the spectrum is so crowded that in certain areas it was just not possible to free up a frequency for them to put their signal through.
Roger Bolton So youíre giving, in effect, the Channel a clean bill of health on what theyíve done?
Paul Smee I think they have done a very good job in most cases.
Roger Bolton Andrew, would you agree with that?
Andrew Wiseman
Well, no. I think that if you ring up a help-line all about getting C5 and they donít tell you whether youíre going to get it or not, I donít think thatís a very good thing! Andrew Wiseman
David Elstein Well, we donít know whether people can get it or not. I mean, the truth of the matter is, we were really surprised during our test transmissions to see how far away from a transmitter people could get a signal. So it would have been quite unfair to tell people false information saying "Youíre just outside our assumed perimeter of signal reception" when weíre getting information that people 30 miles outside could get it.
Roger Bolton Andrew, were you surprised that when people went around from C5 re-tuning, they didnít tell people how to tune in at the same time?
Andrew Wiseman Well I think thatís true. And the help-line simply says select a spare button and tune in your television. And to some people that would be as difficult as the re-tuning exercise, even though to others it would be very simple.
Roger Bolton David, why didnít they tune in at the same time as they re-tuned?
David Elstein In 85% of cases, they did. And in fact our re-tuners spent a lot of time and our money tuning peopleís sets that werenít even connected to a video recorder. People often have three sets but only one video recorder. The re-tuners tuned in all three sets in nearly every case.

Now the reason why we canít, over the help-lines, give you detailed instructions on how to tune your TV in is that there are so many different makes of TV. So basically what we say is consult your manual; if you still have problems, call us back.

Roger Bolton But Paul, a lot of people would be surprised at this third category of those people who need to go and get a new aerial. A lot of people would be surprised by that. They didnít hear about this a year ago: they thought C5 was free-to-air. They didnít think it was free-to-air if you get yourself a new aerial.
Paul Smee I think it has been very difficult to estimate who exactly would pick up the service until all the transmitters which are broadcasting the signal from C5 were on air. And certainly, we did not want prematurely to encourage people to go and buy a new aerial and then find actually they didnít need it. It was just because they were receiving a signal from a different transmitter.
Roger Bolton So how many people do we know think will actually need a new aerial?
Paul Smee I couldnít really put a figure on it. I think we believe that by the time that all the frequency is available, through the country, C5 will be in the reach of 80% of the population.
Roger Bolton How much did the new aerial cost you, Andrew?
Andrew Wiseman Installation Ė the guy said it was one of the simplest installations heíd had Ė it was about £70 including VAT, installation and a box to combine the two aerials.
Roger Bolton Last question, David Elstein, in two yearsí time, what percentage of the country do you think will be able to get C5?
David Elstein 85% or more.
Roger Bolton And when will the remaining 15% be able to get it?
David Elstein Well, weíre switching on a bunch of 9 extra transmitters during the summer and early autumn. Thereís also something like 3 1/2 million dish homes who, as soon as we are transmitting on Astra, will be able to get the signal. And cable is rolling out at a rapid rate. So if you combine all of that with people tuning in, we expect to get to nearly 80% this year.
Roger Bolton Well, if they do tune in, Andrew, will they enjoy the programmes? Have you enjoyed anything on C5?
Andrew Wiseman Er... Jack Docherty, I like. The permanent, on-screen, damned logo, I donít like.
Roger Bolton Well, Iíd like to ask Sylvia the same question but sorry Sylvia, thereís no point, is there?
Sylvia Barry Unfortunately not!
Roger Bolton There weíve got to leave it. If youíve got a good clear picture from C5, do let us know what you think of their shows. They donít have a Right2Reply programme, so our address is coming up later.

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