BSkyB, NewsCorp's British satellite monopoly, announced Wednesday it is to launch a new "free" package offering access to over one hundred digital TV channels -- well and truly leapfrogging the thirty-odd channels offered by the BBC's Freeview.

The new venture, publicly welcomed [through gritted teeth] by the BBC as contributing to the overall spread of dTV, was unveiled by James Murdoch at a London banking conference.

But as with lunches, "free" TV is for those who believe in Unicorns. Would-be customers are required to stump-up £150 ($274.38; €226.82) for the receiving equipment, including the viewing card and installation -- three times the amount required for a Freeview digibox.

Furthermore, the new BSkyB service is guaranteed "free" for only two years. It is, of course, always possible NewsCorp will thereafter display an unsuspected philanthropic streak. Few are holding their breath.

The assembled bankers also learned that BSkyB will next year launch a new premium package of high-definition channels, decidedly not free -- although no indication was given of price. "Another step," proclaimed Murdoch minor, "in giving customers a choice from Sky that suits their needs at the top and lower ends of the scale."

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff