HC Deb 05 December 1996 vol 286 cc754-5W
Mr. Maclennan

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps the Government are taking to ensure that members of the public will be able to purchase a single set-top box capable of delivering all digital television services. [6576]

Mr. Ian Taylor

[holding answer 28 November 1996]Regulations which came into force on 23 August ensure that the provision of a common interface cannot be excluded from digital set-top boxes and that conditional access providers cannot favour boxes which exclude such an interface. A common interface allows connection of alternative conditional access modules and other elements of the digital decoder such as tuners for other delivery means, thus allowing extension to all digital services.

However, as was made clear during the passage of the Broadcasting Act 1990, the Government do not consider it appropriate to mandate a common interface, a common set-top box, or provision for consumers to add additional tuner modules for cable, terrestrial or satellite to a digital set-top box. Indeed, the terms of the directive through which conditional access regulation is being implemented, and the single market regulations, do not allow the Government to mandate any such technical features. The Italian Government recently attempted to mandate technical specifications including a common interface but have been stopped by intervention from the European Commission under single market rules.