Feeds

Freeview lobby cries foul on Ofcom HDTV plans

Haves and have-nots

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

A group of broadcasting industry firms has criticised Ofcom's plans for high definition TV on the Freeview platform, warning they are built to fail and risk undermining the future of terrestrial TV.

Ofcom has proposed that when the analogue switch-off completes in 2012, the spectrum should be sold off for new uses. It favours a plan that would see HDTV channels squeezed into the existing Freeview bandwidth using superior MPEG4 compression technology and the as-yet-incomplete DVB-T2 broadcasting standard. It would mean consumers buying new receiver equipment.

According to the Digital Television Group, a consortium that includes all the main broadcasters and several manufacturers, the plans "could seriously compromise Digital Terrestrial Television's long term viability". It reckons Ofcom is putting too much early faith in DVB-T2, for example. "These 'forward-looking' assumptions about timing, technology and transition are still to be convincingly demonstrated in practical systems", it said in a statement.

A public consultation on the Ofcom blueprint, which would aim to provide space for three or four HDTV channels, closed last week. A regulatory ruling will follow soon.

Ahead of the final decision, DTG has claimed the scheme is headed for the same scrapheap as ONdigital, BSB and BT Movio. These services were all hamstrung by their relatively low number of channels, the lobby said, and Ofcom could similarly doom Freeview HD by skimping on bandwidth in the face of dozens of HD channels that could be carried by Sky, Virgin Media and future IPTV services.

The DTG insists that spectrum should be available for at least the five main terrestrial channels to broadcast simultaneously in high definition, to avoid establishing an underclass of HD have-nots among commercial channels. The demand for multi-channel terrestrial HD from consumers is established, said DTG's director general Dermot Nolan. "Flat panel sales are huge now. Terrestrial broadcasting needs to offer HD to compete [with satellite and cable]," he said.

The blueprint proposes that channels be rejigged on the current Freeview broadcast system to allow transmitting hardware to be upgraded for DVB-T2. Nolan said that DTG was "not averse to a reorganisation", but he warned that the reach of standard definition channels could be hit in remote areas by shifting channels off their current signal. "That... is at odds with the implied Universal Service Obligation of Public Service Broadcasters," DTG said.

There are six signal multiplexes in use for Freeview. Ofcom wants to clear the decks on multiplex B, which is operated by the BBC and carries BBC Four, BBC Parliament, interactive and radio services in preparation for HD Freeview rollout beginning in 2009. It would mean massive contractual headaches for DTG's members.

The group called for regulators to develop a coherent national strategy on HDTV across all broadcasting platforms. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
NSA man: 'Tell me about your Turkish connections'
Spooks ask Dabbsy to suggest a nice hotel with pool
Carlos: Slim your working week to just three days of toil
'Midas World' vision suggests you retire later, watch more tellie and buy more stuff
Motorist 'thought car had caught fire' as Adele track came on stereo
'FIRE' caption on dashboard prompts dunderheaded hard shoulder halt
Yahoo! Japan! launches! service! for! the! dead!
If you're reading this email, I am no longer alive
Plucky Rockall podule man back on (proper) dry land
Bold, barmy Brit adventurer Nick Hancock escapes North Atlantic islet
Russia sends SEX-CRAZED GECKOS to SPAAAAACE!
In space... no one can hear you're green...
Brit Rockall adventurer poised to quit islet
Occupation records broken, champagne corks popped
Accused! Yahoo! exec! SUES! her! accuser!, says! sex! harassment! never! happened!
Allegations were for 'financial gain', countersuit claims
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.