31 December 2008

Review of 2008

It's been another busy year reporting on the comings and goings, trials and tribulations, controversies and celebrations which have transformed digital terrestrial television. The new year will bring further changes, and the future of the platform looks bright. But let's not forget some of the news stories from 2008 which have helped to push Freeview to the fore of Britain's digital revolution.

The year started with some sad news: radio station Oneword arguably became the first casualty of the "credit crunch" when it's owners simply couldn't afford to keep broadcasting, and who any potential buyers steered well clear of. The station ceased broadcasting just two weeks into the new year, leaving the future of DAB looking slightly shaky, too. It wasn't long before some positive news came through, though: UKTV began broadcasting in widescreen, while Top Up TV launched their new 250GB Anytime box (and announced a content deal with Disney).

Viewers in Wales lost the CITV channel in February when the children's channel was moved into ABC1's old slot to allow for 24/7 broadcasts of ITV4. S4C countered the move by announcing their intentions to launch a kids channel of their own... and asked to be gifted some capacity in order to do so! Elsewhere, Ofcom's plans to squeeze HD channels onto DTT are met with criticism from the DTG.

Bloomberg left Top Up TV in March, fuelling rumours that it might finally launch on Freeview (it never did), while National Lottery Xtra came to Freeview (but only for an hour each morning). Further wrangling over plans to launch HD channels surfaced, but Ofcom stood it's ground and even announced plans to improve coverage of commercial multiplexes C and D to the UK population – 87.6% of which now had some form of digital TV.

Various reviews of the Switchover programme all came to roughly the same conclusion: that it had been a success. Ofcom's response was to speed-up the process by halving the "limbo" period between analogue and all-digital services in future switches. In other news, Five Life was replaced by Fiver, Sky said they would consider launching their controversial Picnic service on IPTV (via broadband), and Ofcom officially launched their HD-DTT plans.

Ofcom postpone a ruling on Sky Picnic; Rabbit launches and The Jewelery Channel leaves.

Transmission changes leave around 1% of Freeview receivers useless because they are incompatible with the new specifications. Birmingham and the Midlands are the first region affected by the national roll-out of the network enhancements, which only affects boxes that did not adhere to Freeview specifications because they were manufactured before these were finalised. Discovery revamp their presence on Top Up TV, and are joined by Warner Bros content; Setanta extends weekend broadcasting hours; and Virgin 1 went widescreen.

Freeview Playback is re-branded as Freeview+ to jump on the Sky+ bandwagon. Gems TV launch a second channel on Freeview as, due to technical constraints, they can't broadcast on the same channel number from two separate slots on two different multiplexes. Ofcom announce switchover dates for the West and Westcountry. ITV begin advertising a tenth stream on multiplex A. Ofcom advertise two HD slots for Freeview.

Broadcasts of BBC Parliament are suspended on Freeview to allow for the launch of an enhanced BBC Sport interactive service. Thanks to Parliament's recess, Freeviewers can choose between three extra video streams of Olympics coverage using the new service. Elsewhere, the BBC World Service joins other BBC services on multiplex B; it emerges that 250,000 people had to buy new receivers following the launch of new transmission standards; ITV and Channel 4 submit their proposals for broadcasting in HD on Freeview; The Hits is replaced by 4Music; and Sky Three becomes Sky 3.

BT Vision launch HD on-demand content... and at the other end of the scale, Smile TV 2 launches a sub-standard-definition service on multiplex A. Ofcom and Sky get into a war of words over Picnic, which Sky decides to shelve... days before Ofcom provisionally approves the plans! Sony launch their Freeview add-on for the PlayStation 3, the Play TV.

The stakeholders in Freeview are finding it increasingly difficult to agree on decisions, according to reports. Sky is generally thought to be the "bad apple" of the bunch. Five add content to BT Vision; another Freeview slot is advertised on multiplex C or D, which is quickly snapped up by Discovery for a brand new channel. Eurosport and Clyde 1 cease broadcasting on DTT, and CNN announce they will be replacing Nuts TV in the new year. Ofcom finally announce plans for local DTT multiplexes.

Switchover proper begins and ends in the eastern Border region. Mojo Radio ceases broadcasting, and Orange officially scrap plans to launch an IPTV service to rival BT Vision. Five consider launching a kids channel, and Freeview consider the need to have an EPG shuffle.

A huge number of changes to Freeview in January are announced: DirectGov, Discovery's new channel "Quest", CNN, NetPlay and upto three more new services will be joining the platform. Price Drop and Nuts TV will both be leaving. The credit crunch has already snuffed out plans for new radio station Closer to launch, and could claim Ideal World as another victim.

30 December 2008

More Freeview capacity up for grabs

Arqiva, the operator of multiplexes C and D, is inviting bids for some spare Freeview capacity which will become available from January. A 04:00 to 06:00 slot for a television channel is being offered alongside a 24-hour 144kbps stream (for radio or data services). The deadline for proposals is 19 January.

Price Drop TV to leave Freeview

Virgin Media Television have confirmed that Price Drop TV will leave Freeview in the new year. The contract for Price Drop expires on 5 January; it is expected that Discovery's new channel, Quest, will begin broadcasting soon afterwards.

28 December 2008

NetPlay launches on 8 January

NetPlay TV will launch on Freeview channel 48 on 8 January 2009, according to its press release.

15 December 2008

Ofcom to launch local TV auctions

Ofcom will launch an auction process to sell off local multiplex capacity in Manchester and Cardiff in February. It is hoped the process, which could be repeated at a further 79 sites, will encourage community groups to launch new, localised channels.

NetPlay to launch on Freeview

Interactive gaming company NetPlay are to launch a channel on Freeview channel 48 next year, according to reports. It isn't yet known where the capacity to broadcast this new service - be it text or video - will come from.

13 December 2008

Four HD Freeview channels by 2010

Ofcom have confirmed that there will be capacity for a fourth high definition television channel on Freeview by 2010. Public service broadcasters have been invited to submit proposals for the licence, which is being offered on the assumption that "that the latest generation H.264 video encoding and statistical multiplexing equipment will be used when the fourth service is launched". The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are currently due to launch HD services on DTT.

DirectGov coming to Freeview

DirectGov, the UK Government's online services portal, will extend its reach on digital television with the launch of a service on Freeview in January. Ofcom have issued a licence for the service to Teletext, which suggests that DirectGov will be a text service, along the lines of NHS Direct.

Ideal World struggling

Shopping channel operator Ideal World has seen its share price slashed and has called in KPMG to review its accounting procedures after issuing it's third profit warning in as many months. The channel has laid off 15% of its staff and expects to make a loss of £4million this year.

30 November 2008

Mojo radio ceases broadcasting

Radio station Mojo (Freeview channel 721) has ceased broadcasting. The station has been broadcasting since September 2003, and drummed-up a loyal audience of 300,000 listeners, but is being closed due to the spiralling costs of broadcasting. There is no indication that the station will be replaced on Freeview, where it was available in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

20 November 2008

Analogue switched-off at Selkirk

On day 401 of the UK's Digital Switchover programme, analogue transmissions have ceased from the Selkirk transmitter in Scotland; it's relay stations will follow suit in the coming hours. From midday today, the Eastern half of the Border television region will be served by exclusively digital terrestrial television signals.

14 November 2008

UKTV History to be re-branded Yesterday

Well, actually, it will be re-branded early next year, but it's new name will be Yesterday. As well as a confusing new name, the channel's programming will also be changing, with a shift towards more modern documentaries.

08 November 2008

Freeview: EPG reshuffle expected next year

Freeview are expecting another reorganisation of channel numbers on the platform's electronic programme guide early next year, according to unofficial reports. The last "reshuffle" took place in October 2005; not only have there been a large number of changes in the interim period, but many are expected to take place between now and January.

Five consider launching kids channel

Five are considering launching a children's channel, according to reports. It's thought the broadcaster will be looking to exploit its status as a public service broadcaster (presumably to guarantee coverage on Freeview and prominence on other platforms' electronic programme guides) to promote and sustain the channel.

07 November 2008

Freeview+ launches ad campaign

A massive £6.5million advertising campaign for Freeview+, the range of Freeview personal video recorders, was launched yesterday. The campaign is Freeview's biggest to date, and will run across television and print.

Confirmed: shopping channel to leave Freeview

Virgin Media have confirmed that they have lost the licence to broadcast one of its shopping channels on Freeview from January next year. The cable company owns Sit-Up TV, responsible for broadcasting Bid TV and Price Drop TV on DTT. It is thought that the capacity freed-up will be used to launch a new channel on multiplex A; Discovery won an auction for the slot last month. Virgin are "reviewing the implications of this development on [their] business model and considering alternative courses of action".

06 November 2008

Orange ditch plans to launch IPTV service

Orange has abandoned plans to launch a Freeview-plus-Broadband television service because their proposed service was "too similar" to BT Vision, according to reports. Their decision is also thought to be based on the current economic downturn and a significant reduction in their home broadband subscription base since the idea was first mooted two years ago.

Switchover proper begins in Border

The first major phase of the UK's digital switchover plan began just after midnight this morning, when analogue transmissions of BBC Two were switched off at the Selkirk transmitter in Scotland. In just over two weeks, all analogue television broadcasts from Selkirk and its relay stations will have been replaced by digital multiplexes.

05 November 2008

Mojo Radio to close

Mojo will close on November 30, it has been announced. The radio station, which began broadcasting on Freeview on September 15, 2003, will be sacrificed by parent company Bauer to save money.

31 October 2008

Ofcom finally reveal local TV plans

Ofcom has finally launched a consultation into the provision of local television services over Freeview after digital switchover. Channels like Manchester's Channel M face an uncertain future unless local multiplexes are made available. Ofcom are suggesting that large metropolitan areas be awarded capacity for a single local multiplex, for use for local TV channels, a quasi-national network of channels... or, potentially, for whatever the highest bidder decides to do with it.

30 October 2008

Freeview marks birthday with changes

Freeview is six years old today. Launched on 30 October 2002, the platform was designed to rescue the UK's switchover plan from the disaster that was ONdigital. Today, it's the leading digital platform and is looking forward to a raft of new channels and services in the coming months.

There have been a number of changes to services today, mainly carrying out some housekeeping: UKTV Gold has been renamed GOLD, almost a month after the channel rebranded; BBC 7 has become BBC Radio 7, and BBC 1Xtra, Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra have all had their channel names tweaked. Eurosport has been completely removed from the EPG, as has Scottish radio station Clyde 1. Elsewhere, Teletext on 4 has been replaced by a placeholder for 1-2-1 Dating.

Isle of Man to choose own ITV region

Residents of the Isle of Man have been asked to express their preference for which ITV region is broadcast across the island after digital switchover. It is currently (unofficially) part of the Border region, although it's also possible to receive Granada programming in some areas. However, following Ofcom's decision to allow Border and Tyne Tees to merge, islanders are to be asked if they would be happy to continue to be (poorly) served by the new super region, or to be (poorly) served by North West England's service. The consultation closes on November 21.

29 October 2008

A channel called Quest?

Discovery have been awarded a licence to broadcast a channel called Quest on DTT. The broadcaster recently won an auction to broadcast a new channel on Freeview from early next year, but details of the branding were not revealed.

28 October 2008

CNNi to replace Nuts TV next year

CNN International will begin broadcasts on Freeview from January next year, when it replaces Nuts TV. The channel will occupy the same broadcast hours – 21:00 to 01:00 daily – but is likely to be issued with a new channel number. Rumours that CNN would be launching a service on Freeview started before the platform had officially launched, when it was reported that the channel would be a part of the launch line-up. Frequent changes to the Turner Broadcasting slot on multiplex A have seen the news channel pop up regularly in reports of new channels. Nuts TV will cease broadcasting on satellite as well as Freeview and become a "dedicated broadband and mobile channel"/fade into obscurity.

22 October 2008

Eurosport ceases broadcasting

Eurosport has ceased broadcasting on DTT and has been removed from the EPG in selected regions. The channel started broadcasting on Top Up TV in May 2005 as the replacement for E4, which "switched sides" and launched on Freeview. Most recently, it was reduced to broadcasting just over three hours of content a day in the early mornings (hardly ideal for a channel covering live sporting events).

17 October 2008

Discovery Channel grab Freeview slot

The Discovery Channel will be launching a channel on Freeview early next year after successfully bidding for a slot on multiplex A. The new channel, whose title is still undecided, will be Discovery's first free-to-air offering. Exact details are unknown, but it's estimated that they are paying around £10 million a year for the slot. At this stage, it's unclear whether the new channel will be replacing Bid TV, or if it will occupy the space vacated by Five when it moves to a public service broadcasting multiplex in preparation for switchover.

Freeview HD plan approved

The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 will all be launching high definition channels on Freeview from 2009, it was announced today. The controversial plan will see standard definition channels shifted around various multiplexes to clear space for a "HD multiplex" carrying three HD channels. According to Ofcom, this figure could increase to four channels as newer technologies become available. The HD multiplex will be phased-in around the country between 2009 and 2012, with special arrangements being made for temporary broadcasts of HD services to cover major events like the 2010 World Cup nationwide.

14 October 2008

Playphone Hits added to Anytime

Playphone Hits has been added to the Top Up TV Anytime line-up, thus securing a "constant" presence on DTT without wasting a precious video stream. Take note, Smile TV 2.

13 October 2008

Retailers give "shocking" Switchover advice

An investigation by Trading Standards in Dorset has revealed that some retailers are offering "shocking" advice to customers wanting to switch to digital. Nine out of the fourteen aerial installers they contacted gave bad or misleading advice, while one store told customers they would need to purchase a £1,000 television in order to receive digital TV. Dorset will begin the switchover process next year.

10 October 2008

What's On guide removed from BBCi

The "What's On" section of BBCi has been removed to free-up capacity for more content. Essentially just a reduced Electronic Programme Guide, the service was useful for viewers watching Freeview through a receiver that lacked anything more than a basic "now and next" service. However, virtually all new Freeview boxes and all IDTVs now come with 7-day guides, making the section increasingly redundant.

09 October 2008

New Freeview slot up for grabs

Arqiva, the operator of multiplexes C and D, has called for bidders to register their interest in a brand new channel slot. The slot will be available for 24 hours a day, and is in addition to the existing channels it broadcasts. The deadline for proposals is October 22; the channel is expected to available from January. It has been made possible thanks to "improved multiplexing and compression technology" – the same technology that has made channels like Smile TV 2 possible. Ahem.

07 October 2008

Five add content to BT Vision

Five's video-on-demand service, Demand Five, is to be added to the BT Vision platform. Programmes shown on Five from the last week will be available via the TV Replay subscription pack, or individually for between 79 and 99p. Children's programming from the channel's Milkshake strand will cost 49p each, or included free as part of the Kids viewing pack.

01 October 2008

Factions in Freeview flare-up

There have been "difficulties" between the various stakeholders of Digital Television Services Limited, the company set up to promote Freeview. According to Ofcom, there are growing concerns and differences in opinions between the company's shareholders (the BBC, National Grid Wireless, Sky, ITV and Channel 4), especially over Sky's plans to pull it's channels from Freeview and replace them with a subscription service. Earlier this year, there was deadlock over plans to increase Freeview's budget.

30 September 2008

Picnic saga: service "conditionally approved"

Days after a public spat between Ofcom and Sky over the broadcaster's plans to launch subscription service Picnic on DTT, the spineless regulator has announced a consultation into conditionally approving the plans.

Despite a wide range of concerns – from Sky's dominance of the market to it's membership of the company behind Freeview – it said that preventing Sky from launching new services would be "highly interventionist" and that unless it were "convinced that such action is necessary and proportionate" it would be "wary" of blocking Picnic entirely.

29 September 2008

Westcountry help scheme chooses Freeview

The Switchover Help Scheme in the Westcountry has selected Freeview as it's preferred partner in helping the population to convert to digital television. They will help to provide set-top boxes, aerial installations and technical assistance to the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged. Sky, who were chosen to assist those in the Border region and who have faced criticism for marketing subscription services to some of the most vulnerable, chose not to bid for the rights this time around. They claim this due to the "geographical challenges of West Country... [which] make it difficult to meet many of the criteria of the standard offer (e.g. service visits within 24-hours)". The Westcountry region begins to switch in April 2009.

26 September 2008

ABC shows coming to Top Up

400 hours of programming from the American broadcaster ABC (which includes ESPN and Disney content) will soon be available via Top Up TV Anytime, it has been announced. From tomorrow, September 27, the first seasons of Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and Ugly Betty will be among the shows joining the service.

21 September 2008

Virgin Radio begins Absolute transition

Virgin Radio has begun it's transformation into Absolute Radio, with changes to the station's name and MHEG screen on Freeview. The station has recently changed hands, and the new owners chose not to renew the channel's licence to use the "Virgin" brand (it was both too expensive and too restrictive). Absolute officially launches on September 29.

15 September 2008

Ofcom hit back at Sky

Ofcom have hit back at Sky after the satellite broadcaster blamed them for dragging-out their investigation into the Picnic subscription service on DTT, forcing them to "suspend" launch plans. Ofcom "rejects the implications of Sky's comments" and countered Sky's accusation by reminding them that "having announced Picnic in a press statement in February 2007, Sky took two months to submit the necessary application and a further two months to provide sufficient information to enable Ofcom to publish a consultation on the matter... We have received a number of supplementary submissions from stakeholders after deadline dates which we are bound to consider. The most recent one from Sky arrived as late as 13 August 2008".

12 September 2008

Sky puts Picnic on hold

Sky have halted plans to launch a subscription service on DTT because of extensive regulatory delays, according to reports. A spokesman for the company said that "while our launch plans are already well advanced, there is no definitive conclusion in sight to the Ofcom process. Consequently, we intend to wind down preparations by redeploying as many of the team as possible to other parts of Sky... We will decide whether to reactivate the project when we have more certainty over the Picnic TV proposal".

10 September 2008

Smile TV 2 launches

Just when you thought the reputation of a) Freeview being the home of some truely dross, capacity-wasting channels; b) late night, premium-rate phoneline-revenue-grabbing trash television; and c) low-bitrate DTT channels couldn't get any, well, lower... along comes Smile TV 2. The channel has been launched as a tenth stream on multiplex A in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, broadcasting at just 880kbps. It's not available in Wales, because they use the capacity for a text service. If you really want to watch this depressing new service, which appeared on Monday, you can find it on channel 46.

05 September 2008

Switchover Help Scheme ads to launch

A national advertising campaign, promoting the digital switchover help scheme is to launch this weekend. Television trails for the service (which offers financial and technical assistance with the switch for the most vulnerable) will air on BBC One and BBC Two from Saturday. The Border region begins digital switchover in 62 days.

04 September 2008

PlayPhone Hits to launch on DTT

A new channel called PlayPhone Hits will launch on Top Up TV on Saturday, September 6, according to this report. A licence for the channel was awarded by Ofcom on Tuesday. Programming will apparently include "music videos, competitions and a constant PlayPhone presence on screen, offering ringtones... and other content". In other news, Top Up TV Anytime 4 began broadcasting test programming last night: it suggests that the stream will only be used to carry free content, freeing up capacity on multiplex A.

Teachers TV extension delayed

The hour-long extension of Teachers TV on Freeview has been delayed. The channel was due to broadcast between 16:00 and 18:00 from Monday, but due to "circumstances beyond [their] control", the change will now take place later this month (they hope).

BT Vision launch HD content

Programming in High Definition is now available via BT Vision, the Freeview-plus-broadband service. HD movies cost £2.95 for a day's viewing.

31 August 2008

Sky Three becomes... Sky 3

Sky Three has become Sky 3 today. Along with Sky 1 and 2, the channel has also been given a new look. It remains on Freeview channel 11.

28 August 2008

Teachers' TV to extend Freeview hours

Teachers' TV will extend its broadcasting hours on Freeview by 100% from September 1.

Q1. If Teachers' TV currently broadcasts for one hour a day, how many seconds per day will the channel broadcast after September 1?

The channel's new broadcasting hours will be 16:00 to 18:00 daily.

Q2. UKTV Gold currently starts at 17:00, and ends at 23:30. Express as a percentage the reduction in hours the entertainment channel will suffer.

Teachers' TV will remain on Freeview channel 88.

Q3. If a train leaves Glasgow at 10:10am, travelling at 45mph going South and another train leaves London at 2:05pm travelling at 75kph going North, how far will each train travel and at what time will the two trains meet?

Show your working.

27 August 2008

Top Up TV Anytime 4 appears

Top Up TV Anytime 4 has appeared on channel 41. It is being broadcast on multiplex D, and not alongside the other subscription channels on multiplex A. This suggests it could be using spare capacity on the Film4 stream, estimated to be the four hours between 04:45 to 08:45 daily. Earlier this month, Top Up TV were awarded a license for a fifth "Anytime" service.

25 August 2008

BBC Parliament returns

BBC Parliament has returned to Freeview, after a three-week absence. Its capacity had been used to broadcast an additional "interactive" video stream of Olympic Games coverage. Parliament is currently in recess.
Edit: The Community Channel, also forced off-air by the Olympics, has also returned to Freeview today.

17 August 2008

PS3 Freeview box launch date announced

Playstation 3 owners will be able to watch and record programmes from Freeview on their games consoles from September 19, Sony has confirmed. Their new PlayTV device is a Freeview receiver which turns the PS3 into a PVR and allows content to be streamed to a PSP. The unit will go on sale for £70.

15 August 2008

4Music launches on Freeview

4Music, the new channel from Channel 4 has launched on Freeview channel 18. 4Music is C4's fifth channel, and replaces The Hits which closed this morning. Unlike it's predecessor, the schedule of 4Music is dominated by music-related programming rather than music videos: tonight, it will broadcast the "music task" live from Big Brother house, for example.

The Hits ceases broadcasting

Music channel The Hits has ceased broadcasting. The station has been available on Freeview since the platform launched back in October 2002, and has stuck to the format of playing music videos (as opposed to music documentaries or general entertainment programming) ever since. As a result, it was one of the UK's most popular music stations. It will be replaced at 19:00 tonight by 4Music, a new channel from Channel 4.

14 August 2008

ITV and Channel 4 submit HD plans

ITV and Channel 4 have submitted their proposals for the proposed forthcoming HD offering on Freeview to Ofcom. ITV plan to simulcast channel 3 broadcasts between 18:00 and 23:00 each evening, with a focus on sport and drama. They also propose to sub-let their capacity during the day to other broadcasters, and offer an overnight HD service aimed at those with HD PVRs. Meanwhile, Channel 4 propose launching their existing 4HD channel in England, Scotland and NI. A new high-def version of S4C will be available in Wales. Teletext will also offer a data service, using an enhanced version of Freeview's existing MHEG system.

Top Up apply for fifth Anytime licence

Top Up TV have received a licence for Top Up TV Anytime 5, according to Ofcom's latest update. They have previously been awarded licences for "Anytime 4" and a data service, although none of these have yet appeared on-air.

250,000 Freeviewers affected by changes

Nearly one-quarter of a million Freeview viewers were forced to buy new equipment following the roll-out of new transmission standards, it has been reported. The changes meant that some "legacy" boxes – those manufactured before the digital tick certification mark was launched – would no longer be able to receive channels. Freeview had estimated that around 1% of the total number of receivers in use would be affected.

05 August 2008

Final transmission changes take place today

The final stage of a nationwide roll-out of new transmission standards for Freeview channels will be completed today. The remaining transmitters yet to make the switch (those in the Anglia, Meridian, Yorkshire, Wales, Westcountry, Central and West regions) will be updated. Some obsolete Freeview receiver models – estimated to be around 1% of the total number in use – will no longer function after the changes.

Teletext boosts digital pages

Teletext will carry more pages from its analogue counterpart from tomorrow (Wednesday). The TV Guide will only carry listings for nineteen channels to make room for the new content, according to an on-screen message.

04 August 2008

BBC World Service moves multiplex

The BBC World Service is now available on multiplex B. Previously carried on D, the radio station was the last-remaining BBC service to be carried on a commercial mux. The station's channel number, 710, is unaffected, but listeners will need to re-scan their receivers.

Switchover help scheme "a Trojan horse"

The government's digital switchover help scheme has been fiercely criticised by a coalition of consumer groups and equipment manufacturers, who claim the scheme is "stressful, confusing and unfair". The contract to carry out the scheme was awarded to Sky earlier this year, but is funded by the BBC licence fee. Critics argue that this has given the satellite broadcaster an unfair advantage and an opportunity to promote its pay-TV services to the most vulnerable members of society. It provides satellite dishes and set-top boxes to claimants, but also provides free Sky+ services and two months free viewing of many subscription channels.

03 August 2008

BBC Parliament suspended for Olympic recess

Broadcasts of BBC Parliament were suspended on Freeview today, in preparation for enhanced coverage of the Olympic games. The channel's capacity will be used to provide an extra interactive stream of coverage from Beijing. Parliament is currently in recess, but broadcasts continue online and via other digital platforms. The channel will return to Freeview on August 24. Meanwhile, according to EPG listings, the Community Channel will also be off-air between August 9 and August 25 for the same reason.

01 August 2008

Free Setanta for Top Up TV customers

Setanta Sports are giving free subscriptions to new and existing Top Up TV subscribers in time for the new football season. Under the terms of a new deal, announced today, new customers will receive a free Setanta "Season Ticket" (although a £20 connection fee applies), whilst existing subscribers to Top Up can get three months free.

29 July 2008

Life & Times to become Sports Xtra

Life & Times will be renamed Sports Xtra on Top Up TV from August 5, according to a statement on their website. Programming won't be changing dramatically, but the new name will better reflect the sports documentaries and factual shows available.

28 July 2008

Tenth multiplex A stream advertsied

The oft-predicted and long-awaited arrival of a tenth 24-hour stream on multiplex A will be available from the beginning of next year. In a press release, SDN (owned by ITV) are inviting bids for the new stream, which can be used for free-to-view or subscription purposes. Multiplex A is currently the home of Top Up TV and Setanta Sports' channels, as well as Five and CITV.

Top Up TV software update released tomorrow

Top Up TV subscribers affected by problems receiving certain channels as the result of transmission changes will be able to download a software update which corrects the fault from tomorrow.

25 July 2008

Transmission changes: rollout continues

Technical changes to the way Freeview channels are broadcast continue to be rolled out across the country. On July 23, transmitters in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Hampshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Devon and Cornwall switched to the new format. On July 29, transmitters in Cheshire, Greater London, Lancashire and South Yorkshire will follow suit. The changes have proved controversial because around 1% of Freeview boxes will no longer work after the change.

17 July 2008

The Hits becomes 4Music on August 15

4Music will replace The Hits on August 15, broadcasting exclusive live coverage of the V Festival over its first weekend, it has been confirmed. The station will carry music and entertainment programming from Channel 4 including Live from Abbey Road and The Sunday Night Project as well as music videos.

15 July 2008

World Service on the move next month

The BBC World Service will switch multiplexes on August 4, according to an on-screen message. Listeners will need to re-tune after this date to continue receiving the channel, which is the last-remaining BBC service to be broadcast on a commercial multiplex (D). With the exception of the national stations for Scotland, Wales and NI, all other BBC radio stations are broadcast on mux B.

S4C to launch English sport commentary

Welsh-language broadcaster S4C is to begin broadcasting English commentary during selected sports coverage via the red button. The service will be available on all digital platforms, and online where rights allow.

12 July 2008

Setanta price rise from July 30

The monthly subscription fee to Setanta Sports on DTT will increase by one pound (to £10.99) from July 30. From next season, Setanta will be broadcasting more football than ever before, having secured the rights to the FA Cup, Community Shield, World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies.

Warner Bros: VOD coming to Top Up TV

A selection of "video on demand" feature films from Warner Bros will be available to Top Up TV subscribers "in the next few months", according to a press release. Programmes from the movie studio launched on Top Up TV last month. The new service will offer new releases including I Am Legend, The Bucket List and Sweeney Todd.

10 July 2008

Gems TV launches on Freeview... again!

Gems TV have launched on Freeview channel 44... despite the fact they already broadcast on Freeview channel 43! It appears that the shopping channel has taken over the slot previously occupied by The Jewellery Channel between 19:00 and 21:00, but they have had to launch these new hours on a new channel number because their original slot (09:45 to 12:45) is located on a separate multiplex. It's not technically possible for a single LCN (channel number) to be associated with streams from two different muxes, hence the addition of "GemsTV1" tonight.

08 July 2008

West and Westcountry switch dates confirmed

Digital UK, the body responsible for coordinating digital switchover, has released details of the timetable for the switch in the West and Westcountry regions.

In the south-west, Beacon Hill starts the process on 8 April 2009, followed by the Stockland Hill transmitter on 6 May 2009. Switchover at these two transmitters will be completed within two weeks. Later in the year, Huntsure Cross (1 July), Redruth (8 July) and Caradon Hill (12 August) will switch, but analogue will continue to broadcast for the full four-week period.

In the West region, Bristol's Ilchester Crescent and Kings Weston transmitter groups will switch between January and March 2010, followed by Mendip between April and June, and Ridge Hill (West) between January and March 2011. Full details are available on the Digital UK website.

04 July 2008

Freeview Playback becomes Freeview+

Freeview Playback, the brand name for Freeview-enabled personal video recorders, is to be replaced by "Freeview+". Playback devices offer near-identical features and services to "rival" devices such as Sky+ and (Virgin Media's) V+ boxes; the name change is designed to capitalise on consumers awareness of these more established concepts. The name change, to be rolled out in the coming months, will be supported by a marketing campaign.

03 July 2008

Freeview transmission changes continue

Changes to Freeview transmissions which will render around 1% of existing receivers obsolete have continued to be rolled out across the country. Last month, the West Midlands was the first region to be affected: the changes have now been made in the STV Central, STV North, Ulster, Tyne Tees and Border regions. Affected models include the Daewoo DS608P & SV900, Labgear DTT100, Triax DVB 2000T, Portland DP100, and Bush IDVCR01.

02 July 2008

Ofcom advertises HD slots

Ofcom has begun advertising for applications to launch high definition services on multiplex B. There will be a maximum of three HD channels available, one of which has already been reserved for BBC HD. In total, Freeview's HD services will share "at least" 30Mbps using the DVB-T2 standard.

27 June 2008

BBC begin DTT-HD testing

The BBC have begun broadcasting test high definition broadcasts from the Guildford transmitter, in preparation for the launch of high definition services on Freeview. Unlike the previous HD trial in London, the newly-approved DVB-T2 codec is being used – a more efficient technology which allows for more data to be broadcast in the same bandwidth.

24 June 2008

Warner Bros added to Top Up TV

Programmes from Warner Bros TV will be available on Top Up TV Anytime from June 30. According to on-screen advertisements, subscribers can look forward to shows like The West Wing, Studio 60..., Supernatural and Nip/Tuck. Meanwhile, it's rumoured that UKTV Gold could shortly be switching to a downloads-only service (rather than the current, "live channel" system), as one of several big changes to the Anytime service.

13 June 2008

BBC Sport interactive goes permanent

The BBC's interactive sport service will become a permanent fixture on digital television after the Olympics, according to Broadcast. The move is designed to make greater use of the corporation's sports rights, from television (including US basketball, next year's Formula 1 season and Premier League highlights) and radio (such as the scorecard service available during Test cricket matches), as well as their extensive archive and news operations.

12 June 2008

Ofcom investigates selling off "white space"

Ofcom has launched a consultation into the feasibility of using "white space" – small blocks of spectrum only available in certain tightly-defined geographic areas – for broadcasting low-power regional services. The move could create the opportunities for local multiplexes, carrying regional channels like Manchester's Channel M.

Top Up issued with data broadcast licence

Ofcom have issued a licence for a data service on DTT to Top Up TV, suggesting they have successfully bid for some of the spare capacity on multiplex A. It is not yet known what the service will be used for.

09 June 2008

Setanta extends weekend broadcast hours

Setanta Sports 1 will extend its broadcast hours at the weekends, according to the latest electronic programme guide information. Saturday night broadcasts will now cease at 05:00 (on Sunday morning), two hours later than at present. The capacity is being taken from Top Up TV Anytime 1.

Discovery channels shake-up on Anytime

Animal Planet has been removed from Top Up TV Anytime today, and has been replaced by a re-vamped Discovery channels line-up. On-demand content has been aligned with the Discovery and Discovery Real Time channels (rather than being filed under "Lifestyle" and "Factual").

04 June 2008

Virgin 1 goes widescreen

Virgin Media Television channels are now available in widescreen. Channel presentation, adverts and selected programming is now available in 16:9 format on Virgin 1 for Freeviewers, and on Living for Top Up TV subscribers.

02 June 2008

Q Radio re-launched

Q Radio, from the people behind Q magazine, has re-launched. The station now features live presenters and shows, and is also available on DAB in London, having been a “jukebox” service since launch.

Freeview changes kill Brum’s old boxes

Around 1% of digital terrestrial receivers in Birmingham and the West Midlands can no longer receive DTT services, due to transmission changes at Sutton Coldfield. The effected boxes, which include models by Daewoo, Labgear, Triax, Portland, Bush and SetPal, were all released before official Freeview specifications were released, and can’t cope with the latest “network enhancements”. Freeviewers hit by the change will just have to buy new boxes.

01 June 2008

Ravensbourne College raves on air

The Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication has become the latest academic institution to begin broadcasting via DTT. The College, based in Chislehurst, South East London, has the capacity to broadcast three television channels and one radio station (along with EPG data). The project is part of the “Rave On Air” event, run by the college each year to showcase student talent, and is being supported by multiplex-operator Arqiva.

31 May 2008

The Jewellery Channel leaves Freeview

The Jewellery Channel appears to have ceased broadcasting on Freeview channel 44. The channel, which has been available on a dedicated channel number between 19:00 and 21:00 for six months, is still broadcast in the mornings on Five US. The capacity previously used by The Jewellery Channel is owned by Turner, the people behind Nuts TV.

21 May 2008

Setanta move to capitalise on Picnic delay?

Setanta Sports are considering plans to enhance its presence on DTT – and possibly even Freeview – in the wake of Ofcom's decision to further delay a ruling on Sky's Picnic plans. According to a senior Setanta source, the company is now looking to exploit this advantage, although they declined to reveal specifics: "We are looking at some developments in the coming months, not around pricing, but to do with content".

Freeview spec update includes HD, broadband

The Digital Television Group, who are responsible for creating and maintaining technical standards for Freeview receivers, are poised to release the latest version of the specification. According to their technical director, Simon Gauntlett, the new document includes standards for an Ethernet (broadband) connection (like all of the new Freesat boxes), and many of the requirements for potential HD services (there's still some issues surrounding the DVB-T2 standard to sort out).

15 May 2008

Rabbit launches on Freeview

Teletext's new chat and dating service, Rabbit, launched on Freeview channel 102 this morning. The service, available daily between 11:00 and 04:00, allows users to send in text and picture messages (at 50p-a-pop) which are then displayed on-screen. Some receivers, such as the Netgem I-Player, are incompatible with the service.

14 May 2008

BBC Parliament to take Olympic recess

The BBC will replace BBC Parliament with an extra interactive stream for the duration of the Olympic Games on Freeview. On digital satellite, up to eight individual interactive streams are available, but this number is limited to just two on DTT. As Parliament will be in recess during the Beijing games anyway, this will increase the number of ‘red-button’ video streams to three.

13 May 2008

Sky’s Picnic postponed again by Ofcom

Sky’s plans to launch a subscription television service on DTT by replacing their three existing channels on Freeview with programming from Sky Sports, Sky Movies and Sky One have been dealt another blow by the media regulator Ofcom. Two separate consultations – on the state of the pay-TV market as a whole, and of Sky’s proposal – have already been carried out, but now a third has been announced to examine the impact the move could have on the UK television market as a whole. The consultation will last until the end of the summer, pushing any Picnic launch back to Summer 2009.

08 May 2008

Rabbit hops on to Freeview

A placeholder for Teletext's new "chat and dating" service Rabbit has appeared on Freeview channel 102. The service, which replaces Teletext Cars, will allow users to set up profiles with pictures sent in by mobile phone.

06 May 2008

Freesat launched

Freesat, the satellite television service with no monthly subscription, launches today. Backed by the BBC and ITV, the service is based on Freeview, but is available to a much larger percentage of the population – 98% compared to Freeview’s 75% coverage. Around 80 television channels are available from launch, including the High Definition service BBC HD; E4 and More4, both of which began broadcasting FTA on satellite from this morning; plus a wide selection of channels not available on DTT including Pop, The Vault and EuroNews.

03 May 2008

ITV’s Grade attacks Ofcom’s HD plans

ITV chairman Michael Grade has attacked Ofcom’s plans to launch HD service on Freeview by re-arranging existing channels, rather than providing new, dedicated spectrum. Grade said that “closing the door to HD on Freeview would undermine [efforts to ensure] that everyone has access to the same quality of broadcasting and to the main public service broadcasting channels”. ITV are currently developing their own HD channel in preparation for its eventual launch on Freesat.

28 April 2008

Five Life replaced by Fiver

Fiver launched on Freeview channel 36 this morning at 06:00, replacing Five Life. The channel is essentially just a re-jigged Five Life, with much of the programming staying the same, but with a new schedule and a few new acquisitions like series two of Dirt and the five-minute-episode My Space series Sofia’s Diary. Most digital receivers won’t need re-scanning, as only the channel name has changed. In other news, Teletext is now available from Channel 4+1.

26 April 2008

Sky considering launching Picnic on IPTV instead

Sky are considering launching their controversial subscription service Picnic via broadband, rather than wait for regulator Ofcom to make a decision over their plans to stop broadcasting on Freeview. According to reports, the broadcaster is in talks with software developers about launching a BT Vision-style IPTV service.

24 April 2008

Switchover transition period to be halved

Digital UK have announced the biggest change to the UK’s switchover plan to date. Feedback from the first UK region to switch to digital, Whitehaven and Copeland in Cumbria, has suggested that the four-week transition period was too long. Viewers had to switch between analogue and digital for over a month, just to receive the five basic terrestrial channels. As a result, the time between the first analogue channel being switched off to the last has been halved to fourteen days for the switchover at Selkirk and in the Westcountry.

22 April 2008

Teachers TV added to Top Up Anytime menus

Teachers TV has been added to the Top Up TV Anytime service today, amongst a few other changes. The channel names for UKTV Gold and UKTV Style have been capitalised, and British Eurosport now appears as “Eurosport UK”. Despite the fact it broadcasts on Freeview, and that the box simply records its one hour of programming each day, Anytime users can now add Teachers TV to their subscribed channels. The channel broadcasts using Top Up TV capacity.

21 April 2008

BBC News 24 becomes BBC News

One of British television’s most iconic brands has been retired this morning. From today, BBC News 24 will be referred to simply as “BBC News”, in a bit to unify all news output across the corporation.

20 April 2008

Ofcom chief: Switchover could have been greener

The chief executive of Ofcom has said that if they’d have changed anything about the planned digital switchover, it would be the introduction of strict environmental regulations. Ed Richards recognised the “big power issue [some Freeview boxes consume 100% of their usual operating power when in standby] and a big obsolete box issue” in a speech last week at an Institute of Engineering and Technology event.

17 April 2008

Brunel University broadcasting on DTT

As part of a fascinating research programme, technical wizards at Brunel University in Uxbridge (West London) are testing new transmission methods by broadcasting Brunel TV on a low-power digital multiplex. Ofcom and National Grid Wireless have supported the programme – testing new methods for reducing set-top box power consumption – by lending the University spectrum and broadcast equipment respectively. Find out more here (PDF document).

15 April 2008

Bulletin: Channel changes and satellite signals

A few more details about forthcoming channel changes have come to light in the past week. BBC News 24 will be re-named BBC News on Monday 21 April, when all the Corporation’s news programmes will receive updated titles and sets. The following Monday (April 28), Five Life will become Fiver: the channel is already running on-screen promotions. In other news, the launch of Freesat appears to be drawing ever closer. Channel 4 began broadcasting in the clear earlier this week, and rumours suggest the service could start as early as the first-half of next month.

10 April 2008

Teletext dating service Rabbit to launch in May

Teletext will launch an “interactive dating service” on Freeview next month. The service, called Rabbit, will replace Teletext Cars (which has been devoid of any content for quite some time now).

03 April 2008

Ofcom confirm radical HD-plan intentions

Ofcom have today announced their intentions to launch High Definition television services via Freeview from as early as next year in some parts of the country. Under the proposals, all multiplexes will switch to 64QAM, allowing them to carry more services. These new slots will be filled by services from multiplex B, which will be vacated and used to broadcast three (rising to four) HD channels (at 16QAM using the DVB-T2 MPEG-4 standards). Broadcasters and the Digital Television Group had come up with their own plans, but these have been dismissed by the regulator as being anti-competitive (despite the fact it will be only awarding licences for HD channels to the public service broadcasters).

02 April 2008

Freeview launches in New Zealand

New Zealand’s very own Freeview service launched full-scale testing yesterday, ahead of a full launch on April 14. There’s already a satellite version of “Freeview” available, offering around a dozen channels to the entire country. The launch of the DTT service will reach 75% of the population, and offer channels in High Definition (so pretty much the opposite of Freeview and Freesat here in the UK!).

01 April 2008

New Top Up TV channels revealed

As reported back in March, Top Up TV Anytime will be adding more channels to its line-up at the end of this month, using capacity freed-up by the departure of Bloomberg and National Lottery programming. Shows from the God Channel will become available to download from April 21, with extra content from The Baby Channel and Channel M launching on the following Monday (April 28).

NHS Direct on the move

Text-based DIY-diagnosis health advice service NHS Direct has been removed from the pages of Sky Text in anticipation of it’s move to Teletext, scheduled for today. The move to a public service broadcasters’ multiplex will allow the service to be received nationwide after switchover.

31 March 2008

Regional multiplexes C and D planned?

National Grid Wireless has appointed a new Service Information Manager for it’s two digital terrestrial television multiplexes (C and D) which could enable the broadcasting of regional services. In other words, they’ve spent some money on a machine that will let them show different things on multiplex C or D in different parts of the country. At the moment, this can only be done on multiplexes 1, 2 and A (mainly for showing regional programming on the BBC and ITV, as well as regional advertising for the big commercial broadcasters).

30 March 2008

Digital now in 9 out of 10 households

87.6% of UK households now have access to multi-channel television, the majority through digital TV, according to the latest Ofcom report. Sales of Freeview in the last three months of 2007 were higher than ever, with around 4million receivers sold.

27 March 2008

More households to get commercial muxes

Ofcom have published details about the availability of commercial multiplexes after switchover. The figures show that the proportion of UK households able to receive multiplexes A, C and D will rise to "around 90%" (up from 75% now). The cost to commercial multiplex owners and broadcasters of extending their reach to all households able to receive digital television (expected to be 98.6%) is simply too high.

Towns could lose terrestrial TV after switchover

Changes in television transmitter patterns could leave up to 250,000 households without any form of terrestrial television signal after the digital switchover, according to Ofcom. Although the changes will provide approximately the same number of homes with signals they could not receive before, residents of Ardrossan in Ayrshire and Skelmersdale in Lancashire face losing out unless new (as yet unplanned) transmitters are built.

21 March 2008

ITV advertise new capacity on Mux A

SDN (owned by ITV plc) is inviting broadcasters to bid for new capacity on multiplex A (which it operates). Up to "1Mb of capacity" is up for grabs – so not quite enough for a new TV channel, but plenty for radio or interactive services. The deadline for proposals to be submitted by is Monday 7th April 2008. It is likely that the capacity will be made available immediately.

20 March 2008

Five Life to become Fiver next month

Five will re-brand their female-orientated lifestyle channel Five Life as Fiver at the end of April. The aim is to make the channel, launched in October 2006, "younger, faster [and] louder".

18 March 2008

Teletext Games becomes Teletext Casino

Teletext Games has been re-named Teletext Casino on the Freeview Electronic Programme Guide today. None of the games have changed, nor the channel number (103), just the title.

14 March 2008

BT plan new Vision services

BT will be making a "significant investment" into new applications for the BT Vision Freeview-plus-broadband service over the next year. New games and shopping services are expected.

HD on Freeview plans crippled by indecision

The likelihood of seeing high definition channels becoming available via Freeview – or at least a plan to facilitate their introduction – appears pretty remote at present. The delegates at last week’s DTG summit all had their own ideas about how HD on DTT should work, with the result being confusion and indecision all round. The plans range from the technically-ambitious to the unnecessarily-complicated: all have proven to be controversial. Click here for a Digital Spy article on the subject.

12 March 2008

Transmitter tower owners get merger go-ahead

The Competition Commission has given Arqiva and National Grid Wireless – the UK’s biggest broadcasting transmitter tower operators – the green light to go ahead with their proposed merger, but with conditions attached. These include offering immediate reductions in carriage costs for channels broadcasting on low-power DTT multiplexes of over 3%. NGW is a shareholder in the Freeview consortium.

Top Up TV change encryption cards

Top Up TV customers will be sent new viewing cards over the next few weeks. Judging by the picture on the Top Up TV website, it would appear that the subscription service will be switching to the NagraVision encryption method after April.

11 March 2008

Freeview enjoys bumper Christmas boom

Sales of Freeview receivers – including digital television sets, personal video recorders and set-top boxes – broke 3.8million in the last three months of 2007, according to the latest figures. The record-breaking sales figures contributed to record sales for the year as a whole, which totalled 9.7million. For the first time, the number of people purchasing Freeview Playback devices outstripped the number of new subscribers to Sky+ last year, but the satellite box still leads the market overall.

Bulletin: Lotto launches, Bloomberg leaves

National Lottery Xtra officially launched on Freeview yesterday, according to the Top Up TV website. The channel broadcasts between 08:45 and 09:45 on channel 45 every day. In other news, and earlier than previously announced, Bloomberg has been removed from the Top Up TV Anytime service.

08 March 2008

DTG propose SFN HD multiplexes plan

The Digital Television Group, who slammed Ofcom’s plans to squeeze HD channels onto a vacated multiplex B last month, have put forward their own radical plans to launch high-definition channels on Freeview. Their suggestion involves the creation of two entirely new multiplexes, to be broadcast as single-frequency networks (SFNs, i.e. broadcast on the same frequency nationwide) which could carry 12 HD stations between them, rising to 40 (yes, forty) as technologies improved.

07 March 2008

Hauppauge unveil portable Freeview player

Hauppauge launched their first portable media player at the CeBIT computer expo this week, and it contains a Freeview tuner with EPG and text. The device has a 3½-inch screen, weighs 200g and will apparently cost around £115 when it goes on sale in April.

Teletext apologise for faulty programme guide

Teletext have apologised to viewers affected by an “intermittent” fault in the Teletext Extra electronic programme guide. The guide is only accessible from certain brands of set-top boxes which receive the necessary software via an over-the-air download. An estimated 3.5million receivers currently use the service, of which Teletext say only a “small proportion” are affected by the problems.

06 March 2008

ITV2 to broadcast 24/7 from March 17

ITV2 (and ITV2+1, not surprisingly) will begin broadcasting for 24 hours a day from March 17. It currently timeshares with GMTV 2, which will move to ITV4 on the same day.

05 March 2008

Bloomberg to leave Top Up TV Anytime

Programming from financial news channel Bloomberg will no longer be available via Top Up TV Anytime from next month, according to an e-mail sent to subscribers. Its Anytime slot – just one hour a week – and the space left vacant by Lottery Xtra will be used by “new channels”. It is likely that the Showcase channel will also be scrapped. Bloomberg originally broadcast in an early-morning slot when Top Up TV launched in March 2004. It was removed as a linear channel in September 2006. There have always been rumours suggesting the channel was looking to broadcast on Freeview, however at present there have been no indications that it will make the switch.

04 March 2008

National Lottery Xtra appears on Freeview

A placeholder for National Lottery Xtra has appeared on Freeview channel 45. The channel, which previously provided programming to Top Up TV Anytime (albeit free content) has switched to multiplex D, and will timeshare with Film4 and Gems TV between 08:45 and 09:45 daily.

01 March 2008

Bad weather delays digital mast build programme

Bad weather, especially the storms Britain experienced last summer, has delayed work to build new digital television masts in preparation for switchover. In the Granada region, which will start analogue switch-off in November 2009, all of the allocated contingency time has already been exhausted: engineers may resort to constructing a temporary mast to ensure the switch’s timetable is adhered to.

29 February 2008

S4C to launch new block of kids’ programmes

S4C will significantly increase its broadcasting hours from June with the launch of a new block of programming for nursery age children. The station will start broadcasting from 07:00 (rather than noon) to broadcast a six-and-a-half hour block of shows for pre-schoolers. Last year, the Welsh broadcaster launched a consultation on kids television, suggesting a proposal to launch a dedicated children’s channel. The channel could utilise sister channel S4C Two for programming aimed at older children, which will be extended in ‘phase 2’ of the channel’s plan.

27 February 2008

NAO: Switchover budget £250million too high

The National Audit Office (NAO) has claimed that out of the budget for switchover assistance – £603million, to be funded via the licence fee – up to £250million could be left over at the end. The figure is based on the switchover process in Whitehaven, in which only one-third of eligible applicants applied for financial assistance with the cost of converting to digital. Their report also warns that not enough is being done to warn viewers that video recorders will also need to be upgraded.

26 February 2008

Bulletin: Setanta cricket and DRM-free PS3 TV

After a frantic start to the year, it’s been a bit quiet in the world of DTT news this week. Setanta Sports have snapped up the rights to the Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket competition. All 59 games from the tournament, which runs from April to the beginning of June, will be shown live and/or in primetime. Setanta are looking to add more summer sports to their line-up as the end of the football season approaches (and subscribers consider dropping the service for a few months). Meanwhile, Sony have confirmed that their upcoming “PlayTV” PS3-PVR device will allow users to transfer recordings to other devices with ease, because it will not use any form of DRM.

19 February 2008

The Hits to be re-branded 4Music this year

Channel 4 will re-brand The Hits as 4Music later this year. Rumours last year suggested that the broadcaster would re-name the music channel last month. It has now been revealed that the change will occur later this year, when The Hits’ airtime sales contract with Sky expires. 4Music-branded programming will be shown on the channel from March.

16 February 2008

Sony launch Freeview add-on for PlayStation 3

As deeteetee.co.uk reported in July last year, Sony are to release an accessory for the PlayStation 3 which adds Freeview PVR functionality to the games console. The twin tuner device, called PlayTV, connects to the machine’s USB port, and allows gamers to stream live television to their PlayStation Portable (PSP) device. A software update, currently under development, will allow the device to record programmes even when the console is being used to play games.

12 February 2008

Rollercoaster week for digital radio

Digital radio has been dominating the headlines this week. GCap Media have decided to scrap DAB stations the Jazz and Planet Rock, leaving the future of DAB looking slightly less rosy than before. Stations Core and Oneword closed earlier this year. Meanwhile, Bauer (who bought out Emap’s stations last month) are considering launching their new station Closer on Freeview. A spin-off from the magazine of the same name, the station is due to launch on the new national DAB multiplex, but that’s been delayed and Bauer are keen to launch soon. They are also planning on re-launching Q (Freeview channel 716).

08 February 2008

Ex-Digital UK chief: public deserve more services

The former head of Digital UK (the body responsible for overseeing switchover), Ford Ennals, believes that spectrum freed-up by the switchover process should be used to provide more digital services. Speaking at a conference to discuss the successful switchover in Copeland: “The public should reap the benefits in the form of additional services. They see it as a by-product of the investment they have made in switchover”.

05 February 2008

CITV channel moves to multiplex A

The CITV channel has moved to multiplex A. The channel will remain on Freeview channel 75, but viewers will need to re-scan their digital receivers in order to continue watching the service… unless they receive the channel from a Welsh transmitter, in which case they will no longer be able to get the children’s channel from today. The move allows ITV4 to broadcast all day from tomorrow.

Emap radio stations change hands

Emap’s radio stations – identifiable on Freeview as those which share the same digital radio MHEG screen, and which include Smash Hits!, Magic and Q – are now operated by Bauer following their sale last year.

04 February 2008

Wales to lose CITV channel

Viewers in Wales will no longer be able to receive the CITV channel from tomorrow, February 5. The children’s channel will be moving into the space vacated by the defunct ABC1, which was also unavailable from transmitters carrying S4C. The “equivalent” slot in Wales is used by Bid TV between the same hours, 06:00 to 18:00. The move allows ITV4 to broadcast 24 hours a day nationwide.

02 February 2008

DTG condemns Ofcom’s HD plans

The Digital Television Group has condemned Ofcom’s proposals for squeezing High Definition services on to Freeview. Back in November, Ofcom revealed they would not be reserving any extra spectrum for HD channels, and instead suggested converting one multiplex (B) in a HD-only service using a new broadcast format (such as DVB-T2). Channels currently carried on B would then be slotted into free slots on other (already pretty full) muxes. The DTG have argued that this idea is highly flawed, as it could jeopardise any future developments, and because it relies on assumed advances in technology, rather than tried-and-tested methods.

31 January 2008

UKTV channels switch to widescreen

UKTV began broadcasting widescreen programming on its channels this morning. Although many widescreen programmes are still only available in 4:3 “letterbox” mode, the range of true 16:9 programming is set to increase over the next few months. Advertisement breaks and trailers are fully widescreen. DTT viewers with Freeview and Top Up TV will notice the changes on Dave and UKTVs History, Gold, Style and Food.

Switchover assistance: only 1 in 3 ask for help

Only one-third of Whitehaven and Copeland residents eligible for financial assistance with the digital switchover applied for help, it has been revealed. If such low take-up is replicated across the country, the final cost (being funded by the BBC) could be far less than the budgeted £600million: this could be returned as a licence fee rebate.

28 January 2008

ITV4 to go 24 hours, CITV to move multiplexes

As deeteetee.co.uk reported earlier last week, ITV4 will begin broadcasting 24 hours a day from February 6. The CITV Channel is advising viewers that they will need to retune on the 5th in order to continue watching, suggesting that the channel will be moving into ABC1’s old slot on multiplex A (owned by ITV). This space is only available outside Wales, however, so the kids channel could be replacing Bid TV in the principality. Possibly.

BBC Gaelic service will not launch on Freeview

The BBC Trust has given the BBC the green light to launch the new Gaelic-language service, but the corporation will not be allowed to launch it on Freeview because the cost – £4million for a slot in Scotland alone – is too high. The decision will be reviewed in 2010, when the service has been running for a while and Scotland approaches switchover.

Old-spec DTT boxes to lose services from March

An announcement on the Freeview website has revealed that pre-Freeview specification receivers will no longer be able to receive some services from the Sutton Coldfield transmitter from March. DTT receivers launched before the current set of standards for boxes was released (i.e. before the launch of Freeview) including models by Daewoo, Labgear and Triax, do not support newer transmission formats.

27 January 2008

S4C want national Freeview slot

Welsh-language broadcaster S4C is asking for the necessary capacity to allow it to broadcast nationwide on Freeview after switchover. The broadcaster, which claims 122,000 people outside the Principality currently watch S4C, is also still considering plans to launch a children’s channel (although it’s even less likely that this would make it onto DTT in the rest of the UK).

26 January 2008

ITV4 to broadcast 24/7

According to listings issued by the Radio Times website, ITV4 will begin broadcasting a 24-hour schedule from February 6. ITV4 currently timeshares with the CITV channel on all digital platforms, however the children’s channel is showing a full 12-hour schedule for the day, too. ITV have one spare stream on Freeview, currently used for ITV2+1 which could be used to carry both services on DTT.

24 January 2008

Confirmed: UKTV to broadcast in widescreen

UKTV have confirmed that they will begin broadcasting widescreen programming in widescreen from January 31. A statement on the broadcaster’s website reassures viewers that programming shot in 4:3 will not be stretched or cropped (which is an example that all broadcasters should follow, so let’s hope they’re not lying).

22 January 2008

Currys, PC World stop selling analogue TVs

Currys and PC World will no longer sell analogue television sets and DVD recorders without digital tuners when their current stocks run out, in favour of digital equipment. Which is nice.

21 January 2008

Top Up TV launch 250GB Anytime box

Top Up TV have released a higher-capacity version of their Anytime personal video recorder (PVR). The new model features a 250GB hard drive, and is available for £130. With a subscription, the Anytime box allows customers to receive programming from a wide range of the most popular digital television channels, but can also be used as a ’standard’ Freeview PVR. The original 160GB box is still available for £100.

Dave begins widescreen testing

UKTV channel Dave began broadcasting selected programming in widescreen over the weekend. The tests are in preparation for the network’s anticipated switch to broadcasting in 16:9 on January 31.

19 January 2008

Copeland Digital Group: Switchover a success

Last autumn’s digital switchover in Copeland was a success, according to a group of local organisations and services, the Copeland Digital Group. According to the results of their survey, practically all households managed to convert at least one of their sets to digital before analogue signals were switched off, and 95% of “second sets” were digital by mid-December. 60% of conversions were to Freeview.

The Hits to carry 4Music programming

The Hits is to broadcast a season of programming from Channel 4 from March. The announcement would appear to disprove rumours suggesting that Channel 4 – who have a 50% stake in The Hits’ owners, Box TV – would re-brand the channel under the 4Music name.

16 January 2008

BT Vision sign up Disney, ABC content

Broadband on-demand service BT Vision has signed a deal with Disney/ABC to carry its programming. The deal means Vision customers can choose to subscribe to, or pay-per-view, shows like Lost, Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty.

15 January 2008

Oneword ceases broadcasting

Speech radio station Oneword has ceased broadcasting on Freeview. Having been removed from DAB on Saturday, audio was cut on DTT at lunchtime yesterday. Oneword broadcast on multiplex D; there is no indication yet as to whether a replacement station will be found.

14 January 2008

Hidden testcard discovered on BBCi

Some clever sort on the Digital Spy forum has discovered a secret testcard hidden within BBCi on Freeview channel 105. It works on most modern boxes, so to see it for yourself: tune to channel 105 and press yellow when the BBCi background appears. Tune to a different channel, then turn back to 105 and press green when the BBCi background appears. The word “Secret” should appear in the corner. Wait for the status page to appear, then enter 3 3 5 8 2 red green yellow blue using your remote control. In a few seconds, Testcard W will appear!

10 January 2008

Oneword to close on Monday

Oneword will cease broadcasting on all platforms, including Freeview, on Monday 14. The station has been broadcasting a loop of repeats since late last year after its owners withdrew funding from the project. The station, once seen as the commercial rival to BBC Radio 4 and BBC 7, simply couldn’t compete against the Beeb’s better resources. Meanwhile, on DAB, Core, the radio station once seen as the commercial rival to BBC Radio 1, has confirmed that it will close tomorrow, Friday 11.

03 January 2008

Oneword on the verge of closure

This story was initially published under the headline "Bulletin: Oneword, two rumours"
Radio station Oneword (Freeview channel 717) looks certain to close, following the dismissal of its six staff and the suspension of its regular schedule. The station, owned by Channel 4 and UBC Media (both have withdrawn funding), is currently playing a selection of its best programming on a loop and closed its website earlier this week.

04/01/2007 10:00 - Channel 4 have sold their 51% stake in the station back to UBC for the nominal fee of £1. It would appear that the station is only being kept on-air because the search for a suitable replacement on the national DAB multiplex failed.

Bulletin: January rumours

This story was initially published under the headline "Bulletin: Oneword, two rumours"
Two unconfirmed changes affecting Freeview channels are set to happen in the next few weeks: UKTV and Virgin Media Television channels will reportedly switch to widescreen broadcasts on the 31st, whilst it was suggested some time ago that Channel 4 would be re-branding The Hits sometime this month.