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TV channels demand free-to-air future for HD on Freeview

Ofcom must act to prevent subs-service domination

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Broadcasters the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, along with manufacturers Sony, Samsung, Toshiba and Alba, and Dixons owner DSGI have begun lobbying UK regulator Ofcom to guarantee bandwidth on the Freeview digital TV system for HD broadcasts. And they want consumers to help.

Centered on the HDforAll website, the campaign calls for punters to register their demand for free-to-air HD TV on Freeview, and to contact Ofcom to express their views.

It's an argument about bandwidth. The HDforAll coalition maintains that HD can't be delivered over Freeview's existing spectrum without dropping a number of services that are currently available on the network. There's simply not enough space for all the standard-definition channels and HD ones too.

When the analogue channels are turned off by 2012, there'll be room aplenty for HD services, but the HDforAll folks don't want to wait that long and, more to the point, fear that broadcasters with deeper pockets will be able to outbid the free-to-air channels in the auction Ofcom is proposing to host to divvy up the spectrum made available by the digital switchover.

Now, we'd note that there are plenty of channels we'd happily ditch to make room for HD: Freeview bandwidth is already taken up with too many scrambled channels you have to pay for, running contrary to the whole freeview ethos, not to mention the various channels existing only to offer viewers cheap jewellery...

HDforAll appears to want to avoid that particular debate, preferring to push Ofcom to ensure free-to-air HD TV has a future. While the group didn't say as much explicitly, it's clear they want Ofcom to give them a place at the table no matter what. Given the 9m homes have Freeview receivers, and the system has been promoted so strongly as the main way for consumers to 'go digital', it should get one.

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