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YouView to adopt Freeview channel list rules

Scheme to minimise EPG envy?

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Would-be standard IPTV platform YouView wants to order channels in its electronic programme guide (EPG) according to rules used by Freeview, an approach that puts the UK's main terrestrial channels at the top of the list.

The Freeview EPG channel order is specified by Digital Multiplex Operators Ltd (DMOL), which mandates so-called "public service broadcasters" (PSBs) be placed at the top of the list, which is why EPG slots one to five are used for BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, respectively.

Other "general entertainment" stations follow, then kids' channels, news channels, adult stations, "test services", interactive services and, finally, radio stations.

DMOL is jointly owned by the operators of the six digital terrestrial television (DTT) multiplexes. It was set up to manage these "Logical Channel Numbers" in an impartial way.

'Channel' in the digital era is a more nebulous notion that it was in the analague age. With individual stations bundled together into multiplexes the old idea of 'one station, one channel' is outdated. Today, channel numbering is more about a station's positioning in the EPG list than anything else.

Broadcasters inevitably want as lower an LCN as possible, in order to appear as close to the top of the EPG as they can. It's widely believed that, like Google search results, channels placed toward to the top of the EPG are more likely to gain viewers than those further down.

'EPG envy' has been the cause of much friction around the YouView initiative, with potential content providers concerned that the IPTV brand's key members - the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, BT and Talk Talk - would automatically get the prime slots.

YouView undoubtedly hopes that by adopting the well supported DMOL rules it will allay such fears before its services goes live early in 2012. Clearly, its broadcaster members will get the best slots, but it will be interesting to see where the others will come - and what other content providers will take part.

And someone may yet object. YouView's EPG policy decision only exists in a draft form. The organisation is asking stakeholders and interested parties for their tuppence worth in an industry consultation that runs to 4 November. ®

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