Broadcasting: Rural Areas

Department for Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered at on 13 November 2023.

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Photo of Simon Fell Simon Fell Conservative, Barrow and Furness

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment she has made of the public service value of (a) broadcast TV and (b) radio service for those living in rural communities with minimal access to broadband.

Photo of Simon Fell Simon Fell Conservative, Barrow and Furness

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment she has made of the value of broadcast services for individuals living in areas with limited broadband connections.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Minister of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

The Government remains committed to the future of free-to-air TV and radio services. Millions of households across the UK rely on these services, particularly those living in rural communities. We also recognise the crucial role that free-to-air television and radio services play in the wider UK broadcasting system, in particular in helping ensure that public service content continues to be widely available and free-to-air to all audiences.

The Government has recently launched a major research and engagement programme looking at how UK audiences will get their TV in the decades to come, including digital terrestrial television (DTT), satellite, cable, and online.

Before any decisions about the future of terrestrial television are made, close consideration will be given to how any changes would impact audiences, and especially those who rely on DTT as their primary means of watching television.

Currently, over 97% of premises across the UK have access to a superfast connection (>=30 Mbps), which in many cases is likely to be sufficient for audiences wishing to watch or listen online. In addition, by 2025, the Government’s target is to have at least 85% gigabit-capable broadband coverage, and to achieve nationwide coverage (99%+) as soon as possible thereafter, and by 2030. As of November 2023, over 78% of UK premises can now access gigabit-capable broadband, which represents significant progress since January 2019, when coverage was just 6%.

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