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Failure to launch Freeview HD will cost the UK billions

March 20th, 2007 · 4 Comments

The BBC says that a failure to mandate spectrum for terrestrial high definition broadcasting could delay the introduction of terrestrial HDTV in the UK for as much as 18 years and could cost the country billions.
In a response to Ofcom’s public consultation on the Digital Dividend Review, it argues that Public Service Broadcasters should be allowed to develop free-to-air, universally available high definition channels and says that the findings of independent consultants that indicate that the loss to the UK in private and social value is likely to range from 4.1billion to 15.6billion pounds.
“There are compelling reasons to believe that HD will become a technology with widespread appeal,” it said in a statement. “To ensure its long-term future viability and to enable it to compete with other platforms, Freeview must be able to offer a critical mass of HD services. There is not enough capacity on the existing six multiplexes, after Switchover, to carry this critical mass without removing existing services or eroding their quality. Furthermore, there is no business model for free-to-air HD on DTT at this stage that could enable free-to-air broadcasters to sustain likely auction prices.”
The BBC advocates that a minimum of one third of the Digital Dividend due to be reaped when the analogue spectrum is sold off should be allocated to Public Service Broadcasters to enable them to launch a strong free-to-air offer (one DTT multiplex can provide three HD channels). The broadcaster also states that such a move would kick-start a migration to more efficient MPEG4 receivers which could, over time, be used by standard definition services and greatly improve spectrum efficiency on DTT.
Mark Thompson, the BBC’s Director General, said: “High Definition is already a consumer reality, and it’s one that really adds value for audiences. It’s a technological advance that we think can and should be available as far as possible to all viewers of digital television, whether they watch through cable, satellite or an aerial, and whether they choose pay or free-to-air services. If pure market mechanisms are applied to the whole Digital Dividend, our fear is that it will jeopardize the success of universal access to high quality public service broadcasting, free-to-air on all main platforms and also lead to an erosion of the digital terrestrial platform and its ability to compete.”

Tags: Broadcasting · High definition TV · Trade

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Harry Mackinnon // Mar 25, 2007 at 10:54 am

    I am a Sky HD subscriber so the issue will not affect me as much as some. However, the recent moves to sell off the analogue spectrum without consideration of the future of HD on Freeview is scandalous and extremely short-sighted. It is akin to the major mistakes that have been made with DAB, where quality standards have been continuosly eroded by the decision to go for ‘Quantity’ rather than ‘Quality’. A plethora of loq quality (both in terms of content and bandwidth) now dominate DAB, and teh reduction in bandwidth has made some previously excellent channels (e.g. Radio 2 and Radio 4) almost unlistenable on decent hi-fi equipment. Some types of music such as organ, bagpipes and to a certain extent piano suffer from a burbling effect because of the bandwidth sacrifice.
    Britain is in danger of falling behind all other countries in Europe in respect of HD in the same way that it has sufefred from mismanagement of the DAB and Broadband roll-outs. Please do not allow this to happen!

  • 2 Mike Smith // Mar 25, 2007 at 5:52 pm


    I e-mailed Ofcom to say that I considered their ‘none of our business’ attitude was a dereliction of their purpose – to safeguard the public interest.

    I did not receive the courtesy of a reply.

    Sky is predatory and has monopolistic apetites. They have already bought out and shut down BSB, and then used their financial muscle to see off the ITV competition.

    They are currently attacking Virgin, and are seeking regulatory approval to discontinue free broadcasting and institute pay-per-view on Freesat.

    Freeview is the only facility capable of preventing a future near monopoly with consequent linited programming and Sky high prices.

    If Freeview is crippled by not being able to convert to HD in due course, the viewing public will have been utterly betrayed.


  • 3 david // Apr 1, 2007 at 4:59 am

    The released spectrum could be used very well for the public good if they were to allocate a good slice for HDTV.
    But also rememeber to include a slice of spectrum for a NEW ‘publicly owned’ country wide Wimax TCP:ip backbone that could also be used for totally indipendant hi bandwidth wireless/WiMax ‘return path’ for the future DVB-H(2) and DVB-T(2) AVC Encoded IPTV and STBs (with included as standard cheap WimMax/network chip)without needing to pay BT (£11) ,cable or any LLU 3rd party for a phoneline.
    A NGO/NFP company to oversee this new UK wide innovation could then take any profits generated to expand into other innovations that bring and encurage UK invention and export, ratehr than sell off the UK to the highest bidders in other countrys as a one off.
    Better to own your own home as it were, than have no options left but to rent off other people because your chancellor wanted a quick profit.
    Public review of any NGO/NFP company every year or two at most, and a simple and effective way to bloke any controlling interests taking hold long term.

  • 4 david // Apr 1, 2007 at 5:05 am

    One small point harry, when you say ‘it won’t effect me’, thats not quite right when you think about it, is it?
    The fact is if there’s HD PSB TV and indeed my new WiMax PSB tcp:ip then that means there’s more PSB that will get aired on your sky and other paid-for IPTV services of the future.
    HD PSB is go for you and everyone like you too, or are you happy to have paid out all that money for the HDTV set and nothing being made of UK quality programming, there’s always upscaled US imports The Simpsons etc i supose)

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