31 March 2009

CNN, Gems TV change Freeview hours

CNN will increase its broadcast hours on Freeview from tomorrow, 1 April, it has been revealed. The channel will now begin two hours earlier at 19:00, but stop one hour short of it's current end-time (from 01:00 to midnight). The move comes at the expense of Gems TV on channel 44, but the jewellery-hoiking channel will move over to Netplay TV on channel 49 and broadcast between 16:00 and 21:00. So everyone's a winner.

19 March 2009

Smile TV 2 leaves Freeview

The placeholder for Smile TV 2 has been removed from Freeview channel 46. The channel ceased broadcasting on Tuesday 17 March, just over six months after it launched. Trash-TV fans, fear not, however: to restore the delicate balance of tat currently being carried on DTT, Partyland (channel 50) is expected to launch on March 20, timesharing with Five USA.

12 March 2009

Partyland appears on Freeview channel 50

A placeholder for Partyland has appeared on Freeview channel 50 today. The channel is being carried on multiplex A, and was awarded a licence to broadcast by Ofcom last month.

07 March 2009

The Lowdown: Multiplex A

It's been reported recently that cash-strapped ITV are considering selling-off SDN, the company that operates multiplex A. It's a profitable business, but they obviously need the money.

In terms of the channels it carries, the number of "timeshares" in operation on these channels, and the regional variations between nations, multiplex A is the most complicated of all the muxes currently being broadcast in the UK. Here's a short guide:

First, a little bit of history. When the plans were being drawn up for digital television in the UK, it was decided to "gift" capacity to the analogue public service broadcasters (PSBs). The BBC were given a multiplex to themselves, ITV and Channel 4 were given one to share, but Channel 5, S4C and digital-only TeleG were given the rights to be carried on the commercially-owned multiplex "A". In the end, a consortium made up of S4C, Five's then-owners UBM, and NTL (now Arqiva) won the bidding process to operate the mux (under the name of S4C Digital Networks - SDN). ITV bought the company in 2005 for £134million (S4C have no involvement anymore).

Second, the channels. Five have been gifted the rights to 50% of the multiplex nationwide. Their half - which carries he bulk of Top Up TV's services and Setanta - carries the same channels nationwide; there are no regional variations.¹

S4C have also been gifted the rights to 50% of the multiplex, but only in Wales. They are entitled to broadcast their own channels in this capacity. The equivalent capacity in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland belongs to SDN, who lease this out to other broadcasters. Only one of these streams, Bid TV, is broadcast nationwide.

Neither CITV, Smile TV 2 nor NetPlay/Super Casino broadcast in Wales. After a great deal of jiggery-pokery, the capacity to carry the former has now become available, but there is no indication that the kids channel will be available any time soon. The absence of NetPlay and Smile TV 2 is because this space is used to carry S4C and its text and audio services. S4C Two timeshares with QVC.

SuperCasino is also absent in Northern Ireland. One reason for this is that gambling channels are illegal in the province; another could be that the space is being kept vacant for Gaelic channel TG4, which will be coming to Freeview when the region switches off analogue signals.

There are ten streams in total carried in England and Scotland. The only difference between the two nations' services is TeleG, which only broadcasts in Scotland for an hour a day (it's own gifted capacity), and timeshares with CITV/CNN et al. This Gaelic channel is expected to cease broadcasting come switchover, when BBC Alba will most likely become available (subject to approval from the BBC Trust).

Many thanks to Ray Cathode, who helped explain all this to me... twice.
¹Apart from the regional variations in advertising carried on Five.

05 March 2009

Quest to broadcast from 10:00 to midnight

Discovery's upcoming Freeview channel Quest will broadcast between 10:00 and 00:00 daily when it launches in May. According to reports, the remaining time will be sub-let to other broadcasters.

04 March 2009

Cardiff frequency may not carry DTT

Cube Interactive, the successful bidders for the rights to a small slice of spectrum in Cardiff and the surrounding area, may not use the frequency to broadcast services on Freeview, according to reports. It's suggested that they could attempt to launch mobile broadband services, rather than sub-let the space to broadcasters.

02 March 2009

History is history, as it's Yesterday today

UKTV History has been re-branded as Yesterday, er, today. The channel, which broadcasts between 06:00 and 18:00 daily on Freeview channel 12, will now show a broader range of programming.