During the past year the United Kingdom became the leading country in Western Europe for consumer electronics sales – accounting for approximately 25% of the total European market.This astonishing progress has been driven predominantly by two main products – the iPod and the flat-panel television.

As a major player in the content industry that drives demand for both these products, it has been very gratifying for the BBC to note this success.While, at the time of writing, the exact nature of the new Charter is not yet announced, it is becoming obvious that the progress of technology is underpinning a revitalised role for the BBC. For concrete examples of this, one need look no further than the announcement by Government of a firm timetable for switchover from analogue to digital television, the BBC’s own announcement of the start of high definition trials for the football World Cup in June, or the rapid evolution of our broadband and podcasting internet offerings.

BBC R&D has continued to play a vital role in helping the BBC to drive such services forward. Our spectrum planning experts are key players in the collaborative efforts to plan the multiplex frequencies and signal parameters for the 1000-plus transmitter sites in the United Kingdom.They are also playing leading roles in the international fora which will decide a Europe-wide frequency plan for digital radio and television in the summer of 2006 at the International Telecommunications Union.

Our HDTV experts have already made important contributions to the leadership and standardisation of the technical parameters to be used for our broadcast launch this year, and will continue to provide vital advice and support to the teams planning for the programme services themselves. And, without the navigation and metadata standards that have been a major part of our R&D workplan in past years, it is hard to imagine how the broadband audience would be able to locate their favourite podcast downloads among the plethora of offerings now becoming available on the net.