As confirmed by website listings from DMOL, the organisation that oversees the channel allocation on digital terrestrial / Freeview, the Movies4Men bouquet of channels on the Channel M multiplex for Manchester has been withdrawn.
Digital Spy forum member OnMacca reported on the 31st January 2012 that the channels had stopped broadcasting, with a caption stating they would return soon.
Movies 4 Men started broadcasting to the Manchester area on the 3rd May 2011 on channel 201, next to Channel M. On the 1st November 2011, Movies4Men's sister (or should that be brother) channels launched, including timeshift versions and "Men and Movies". The addition of further channels in November co-incided with a mode change on the Channel M multiplex increasing capacity on the local multiplex.
Local Freeview channels for Manchester
Channel M is so far the only former analogue local TV service that has made the transfer to digital terrestrial television and becoming part of the Freeview platform. In order to broadcast digitally, a special local digital multiplex was set up from Lancashire's Winter Hill transmitter, beaming the signal to Greater Manchester only.
Owners GMG however made dramatic cutbacks to the channel, axing the regular local news programme, for instance. Since then, the channel has been a shadow of its former self.
To gain extra income, capacity was made available for other channels to broadcast alongside Channel M in Manchester. However in order to create enough capacity for more than 2 channels, a transmission mode change had to be made, which reduced the area in which a reliable signal could be received. Viewers in marginal reception areas, or with indoor aerials lost the Channel M multiplex when additional channels launched at the beginning of November, according to internet forum reports.
Controversially, local TV channels and channels attached to them on their local multiplex were allocated the 200s on the channel numbering system. This places them at the bottom of the list behind all the adult channels and text and IPTV services. The proposed new local TV services are to gain a higher channel number, according to the government's local TV plans.
In January, the operator of the Men and Movies/Movies 4 Men channels - Dolphin Broadcasting - was acquired by Sony Pictures Television. Shortly thereafter the channels went off air from Freeview in Manchester.
Reasons for the removal of the services could be the poor coverage, the poor channel number, the distribution cost and low returns (low viewing figures) or simply that Sony did not consider local distribution in the Manchester to be part of their ongoing strategy.
In the meantime, Channel M continues to just about exist, as Ofcom prepares to allow another local TV service to enter the Manchester market, as part of a chain of new local TV services championed by the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Channel M may in the long term not survive, but valuable lessons will have been learnt about transmitting local TV via Freeview and the importance of a good sturdy signal reaching the coverage area, the need to have a good channel number and how to use additional capacity to help fund the core local TV service pay for the running cost of the multiplex and transmitter.
Recommended reading:Website of the Digital Multiplex Operators Limited. An organisation set up by the BBC, ITV/4 (D3&4), SDN and Arqiva - the digital terrestrial multiplex operators. DMOL is the guardian of the channel numbering system on digital terrestrial system, affecting where you can find Freeview, Top Up TV and IPTV channels in the EPG.