Time is running out for the future of Freeview. Industry watchdog Ofcom’s decision not to put aside frequency space to extend the digital terrestrial service into high definition broadcasting when the analogue network shuts down in 2012, has consumer electronic companies and industry watchers despairing.
Danny Churchill, deputy chair of the Digital TV Group and consultant to Dixons maintains that the BBC and commercial broadcasters will not be in a position to bid for any spectrum space in Ofcom’s proposed auction process. Talking to trade magazine ERT, he says the BBC will find itself short of cash because it has not received the license fee it lobbied for and collapsing advertising revenue will weaken the commercial channels. Churchill adds that the Ofcom report, which is based on research conducted in May 2006, before HD services had begun, does not take into account the recent boom in sales of HD Ready sets. Samsung’s sales and marketing director Andy Griffiths agrees, claiming that Ofcom has totally underestimated demand for HDTV.
Managing director of Sony UK Steve Dowdle has even urged his own dealers to write to Ofcom director-general Ed Richards and Secretaries of State Tessa Jowell and Alistair Darling requesting their support for a Freeview HD service. Dowdle says that come the completion of the digital switchover, consumers will have invested up to 26 billion pounds converting their homes for digital TV. He says that it’s only right that a proportion of that spectrum should be given back to the public in the form of public service HDTV. Ofcom’s consultation period ends on March 20.