LONDON: The BBC Trust - the new twelve-member independent governing body appointed by the UK government to oversee the BBC - has endorsed the latter's plan to launch a new free-to-view satellite competitor to News Corporation controlled BSkyB.

Essentially the new platform, branded FreeSat, will provide similar content and services (more than forty digital channels plus 20 digital radio stations) as the current terrestrial Freeview service, receivable via a set-top box and standard TV antenna.

The Trust's decision follows a 28-day public consultation which overwhelmingly endorsed the concept and the body now urges the BBC to proceed without delay.

The haste is necessitated by the UK's digital switchover programme, due to commence in 2008 with completion by 2012.

Up to 25% of UK homes are currently unable to receive digital terrestrial signals, a gap the FreeSat service is intended to fill ... and possibly filch a million or two BSkyB customers as well?

Promises BBC Trust acting chairman Chitra Bharucha: "FreeSat is guaranteed to remain subscription-free, ensuring that the benefits of digital television do not equal 'pay television'.

"The results of the public consultation have reinforced our view that the BBC's proposition for FreeSat will create significant public value.

"FreeSat will also deliver more choice to consumers and introduce competition to the market, and while we welcome this positive impact, it is not the objective of our decision."

It is unlikely that Clan Murdoch or Virgin Media (the US cable monopoly fronted by Sir Richard Branson) will share Bharucha's enthusiasm for the project.

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff