Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/10/hard_tv_times/

UK's lags bemoan Freeview channel blackout

Hard TV times after digital switch

By Lester Haines

Posted in Policy, 10th April 2007 12:18 GMT

The UK's lags are none too pleased about losing a raft of TV channels they currently enjoy through their Freeview boxes, the Evening Standard reports.

The cull comes as a result of the Prison Service's switch to digital TV and inmates who'd been allowed to buy Freeview boxes now find themselves subjected to starvation rations of BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4, and Channel 5, plus four extra channels – ITV2, Film Four, The Music Factory Channel, and Sky Sports News.

One disguntled con told the official paper Inside Time: "Those of us who purchased Freeview boxes found they could no longer pick up any channels - basically they are dead. Why are they only making four extra channels available and who chose said channels? Will prisons be getting the full package in due course and if not, why?"

Prisoners are allowed TVs in their cells as "a reward for good behaviour", paying "as little as £1 each week for the privilege" without having to cough for a TV licence, the Standard notes. Reaction to their bellyaching about the suspension of services is accordingly predictable.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "Prisoners should count themselves lucky that they even have televisions because many ordinary people are struggling to pay their licence fees after recent tax rises.

"The idea that prisoners have a human right to access every television channel under the sun is absurd. Not only would this cost taxpayers millions of pounds, but it would also make a mockery of their prison sentence."

The Prison Service's Carol Selema explained: "The number of channels available at present may change in the future, either up or down. The Prison Service is not under any obligation to provide prisoners with access to the full range of digital channels available to the general public.

"Television in cell is a privilege and not a right. The nine channels that are available in the pilot sites were chosen centrally, but these can be changed locally if the governor so wishes." ®