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 Elsewhere, Teletext on 4 has been replaced by a placeholder for 1-2-1 Dating.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.