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.