ITV, prams and a free-to-view Solus card. 

24 September 2003

Everyone wants something for nothing – even ITV. The national broadcaster moaned bitterly when the BBC withdrew funding for Solus cards which allow owners of Sky minidishes to view free-to-view channels where the channel is encrypted but anyone with a viewing card, can receive the service without paying a monthly subscription to Sky.

The BBC withdrew its funding when it removed all encryption from its satellite services, and thus didn’t need them. Unfortunately it withdrew funding at a time when older Solus cards were going to be deactivated – without the money, the replacement cards would not be sent out an. Viewers with the older cards would loose their access to not only ITV1, but Channel 4 and Five – without a subscription to Sky, they’d get them no more.

ITV threw its dummy out of the pram and cried foul.

On the face of it, who can blame them. When you dig down though, you find out that despite wanting to allow non-Sky subscribers to watch ITV1, they had never paid a single penny towards the upkeep of the scheme to allow them to do this. And nor had they any intention of doing so. They were willing to pay the locksmith for the lock to the door, but not for the keys.

This farcical situation, which has seen the three channels blocked for many subscribers, could soon be at an end according to reports on many media websites.

In five years since the launch of Sky Digital, it’s estimated that the Solus card system cost around £8m. Pocket money to the ITV companies, yet it’s likely that it will be the viewer who has to pick up the pieces. How many of the estimated 600,000 Solus card users will bother, is a completely different question.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Andrew Bowden Contact More by me

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Thursday 7 December 2023