HC Deb 07 November 1996 vol 284 c622W
Mr. Renton

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to ensure that his television decoder to be used for digital satellite programmes is also available at fair and reasonable cost for digital terrestrial programmes. [2053]

Mr. Ian Taylor

[holding answer 6 November 1996]:] Regulations have been in place since 23 August this year, well in advance of any manufacturing agreements for decoders, which deal with the licensing of decoder technology. The regulations—1996/2185—provide that licensing of proprietary technology for conditional access to manufacturers of consumer equipment must be undertaken on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. Owners of such technology, when licensing one manufacturer, must therefore consider applications for additional licences from other manufacturers—perhaps acting on behalf of other broadcasters operating on other delivery systems—and must grant or refuse such applications on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. If a manufacturer or broadcaster believes he is being unfairly refused a licence, the regulations allow him to take immediate action in court against the owner of the technology.

Taken together, these will enable manufacturers to supply set-top boxes which either incorporate facilities for terrestrial and satellite reception, or to which such facilities could be added at a fair and reasonable cost, should they see a market for such receivers which is worth pursuing.

The regulations also prohibit the owner of the technology from dissuading a manufacturer from including additional conditional access technology or a common interface in the same decoder. A common interface allows for the attachment of additional conditional access components and other components of the digital decoder—for example, a receiver for another deliver mechanism such as digital terrestrial.

The Government do not intend to impose requirements which will increase the cost of set-top boxes, the equipment which will be used to decode digital television signals, by mandating the inclusion of facilities which consumers may not wish to use. However, the European standards for digital television are designed to assist manufacturers who wish to produce receivers capable of receiving and decoding both satellite and terrestrial signals, or to which additional reception capabilities can be added.

In due course, conditional access systems are likely to be integrated in the television set, the manufacturers of which will seek to provide access to a wide range of broadcasters.