17th October Freeview Changes: Q&A

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17th October reshuffle Q&A
Some updated Frequently Asked Questions relating to the second most recent nationwide Freeview Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) reshuffle, scheduled to take place around midday on the 17th October 2012.

DMOL, the organisation that manages the digital terrestrial television platform and the Freeview EPG released an announcement on its website on the 4th October 2012 that there would be further changes. The changes mostly affect HD and adult channels on Freeview. Read the news article click here.


Why is there another channel reshuffle so soon after the last one?
Originally, all changes were supposed to have taken place on the 19th September. Two appeals by broadcasters objecting to having their channels moved stopped many of the changes from happening in one single big reshuffle. 

These appeals have now been rejected by DMOL. Sky objected to having its News channel moved from 82 to 133 and an anonymous adult channel provider also complained. DMOL stated in its ruling: "Having independently reviewed the evidence put forward, the chair of DMOL does not consider that either party has presented a sufficiently compelling case that the moves should not go ahead. The original decisions will therefore stand."

Viewers in the Tyne Tees region had a separate switchover event with retune on the 26th September, and Northern Ireland viewers will have a separate switchover related retune on the 10th October.

Do I have to retune?
The changes affect the adult and HD channels. If you don't have Freeview HD and don't mind the adult channels staying where they are (91-100), don't retune. Devices that scan automatically may change the channel numbering without any human intervention. If you are in Northern Ireland or Manchester, see the sections below.

What's happening on the 17th October? 
Around midday on the 17th October, the following changes are scheduled to take place:
  • Channel moves:
    • BBC One HD (from 50 to 101)
    • ITV1 HD (STV HD in Scotland) (from 51 to 103)
    • Channel 4 HD (from 52 to 104)
    • S4C Clirlun [Wales] (from 53 to 105) Clirlun ceases broadcasting on the 30th November. On 1st December, C4HD is added on 104 in Wales.
    • BBC HD (from 54 to 102)
    • Marketplace (from 61 to 50)
    • TVX (from 92 to 171)
    • Smile TV 2 (from 93 to 172)
    • Smile TV 3 (from 94 to 173)
    • Babestn (from 95  to 174)
    • Party (from 96 to 175)
    • Blue (from 97 to 176)
    • Babestn 2 (from 98 to 177)
    • PlayboyTVChat (from 99 to 178)
  • In Manchester, the following additional moves take place:
    • Movies 4 Men (from 56 to 51)
    • Movies 4 Men+1 (from 57 to 52)
    • Sony SAB (from 58 to 53)
    • Argos TV 24/7 (from 59 to 54)
  • Another two channels are expected to launch on the Manchester Television Network multiplex, details to be confirmed.
source: DMOL


Are there going to be any on-screen prompts?
Yes, according to Dr Alix Pryde, Director of BBC Distribution:

 "There will be “pop-up” messages on your TV screen in the week or so before and after the change, just like the ones that have been used successfully during digital switchover to help viewers retune at the right time. We’ll be putting some messages about this on BBC One HD and BBC HD and on Freeview BBC Red Button page 998. The Radio Times will also have some information in its Digital Doctor column during the run up to this change."

I live in the Ulster TV region. Do I need to retune on the 17th October as well as on switchover dates?
If you live in Northern Ireland, just retune on the 10th and 24th October at the two stages of switchover. Changes made to the Freeview EPG on the 17th October will be reflected in your channel line up when you retune on the 24th October. Many of the changes relate to Freeview HD - which will not go live in Northern Ireland until the 24th October, anyway.

I live in Manchester. Do I need to retune on the 17th October?
If you can get channels including Movies4Men on 56 and SonySAB on 58, then you will need to retune to have the "Manchester Television Network" of channels in the right place (channel 51 onwards). Two more channels are expected to join the network (details to be confirmed) around the time of the 17th October reshuffle.

I live in Wales / Isle of Man / Cumbria. Don't I have another retune date to remember?
Yes - viewers receiving their TV signal from some transmitters need to retune later this month or during the course of next month (typically 31st October or 14th November), as frequencies change to clear the waveband for 4G/LTE mobile broadband services. More details are found at: http://www.a516digital.com/p/4g-clearance-retunes.html
 

Are my recordings safe?
Most channels are not changing numbers, and not changing multiplexes. So unless you are in Northern Ireland, where there will be frequency changes during October or in another part of the country where 4G frequency clearances are taking place (see previous question), you will be fine

Most of the channel changes outside of the Manchester area relate to adult and HD channels - all the main channels are staying put. If you don't have a Freeview HD PVR and don't live in Manchester, there will be very little impact.

Most Freeview+HD boxes are designed to move the channels to the new position without any human intervention, although users have experienced some issues using Humax boxes, where scheduled recordings may be lost.  If you are not going to be around on the 17th October, some devices will keep the old channel numbers until you do retune.  In all cases, with all PVRs (Freeview+ boxes) a "factory reset" will erase your channel settings and generally also your scheduled recordings. This should be done as a last resort.


Wasn't there supposed to be a change to the channel numbers of the children's and news sections of the Freeview Guide?
Yes, there was. 

DMOL have now said that the children's and news channels will only move to channels 121 and 131 onward respectively, once the "general entertainment" section is nearly full. In fact, they have stated that children's and news channels will change on the Wednesday that falls 16 weeks after Freeview channel 65 is allocated to a new station - unless the Wednesday after 16 weeks falls within a "freeze period", then channels will move after the freeze period. Freeze period refers to times such as the Olympics, World Cup, Christmas and Easter, when broadcasters don't want major changes to occur.

With services able to "shuffle down" on the 17th October - for instance Marketplace will move down from 61 to 50 - there is still a while before the trigger for a reshuffle is set off. This may appease Sky, who didn't see any reason for their news channel moving from 82 to 133.


Is there actually a need to change channel numbers?
There's no easy answer to this one, but since Freeview first launched ten years ago there have been periodic reshuffles of its channels. Notably in 2005, BBC News and other news channels moved from channel 40 to 80 and children's channels moved from 30 to 70. Radio moved to the 700s. In 2009, there was another major retune and reshuffle when Channel 5 and S4C (Wales) moved multiplexes and gaps in the EPG were filled.

In all cases, DMOL and its predecessor organisation decreed that the reshuffles were needed to tidy up the EPG and allow space for channels to launch. The move of children's and news channels from 30/40 to 70/80 has in the past seven years allowed the zone between 30 and 69 to be used for more general channels. Had a move not have taken place, new channels would have had to have launched mixed in with news and children's channels. In 2005, ITV3 and E4+1 were sandwiched between children's and news channels in the listings. Between reshuffles, services have left the platform leaving gaps in the channel numbering.

In 2012, DMOL wants to future proof itself again by moving channels out of the pre-100 range. It wants to move HD channels to 101 onward, children's channels to 121 onward, news to 131 onward and adult channels to 170 onward. The freed up space would allow for more channel numbers lower down without channels having to pop up around the news, children and adult channels. Already three extra channel numbers are needed in Northern Ireland for RTE/TG4 channels, upto six are needed in Manchester, two will be needed in locations where local TV channels are on air, and there is still available capacity on the commercial multiplexes for more channels. With the 600 MHz band in the UHF spectrum potentially available for more multiplexes with more channels, more numbers would be needed. Moving HD out of the way, for example, stops channels being split in the "general entertainment" section.

Some argue that viewers should just buy a TV that lets them re-order Freeview channel numbers to their liking. Until retailers clearly flag this function in their product descriptions, this will be unreasonable to expect from viewers. Also, one might assume that major broadcasters and shopping channels wouldn't like it if that function became too widely available.


Who are DMOL?
DTT Multiplex Operators Ltd - a company run by the digital terrestrial television multiplex operators, namely Arqiva, the BBC, ITV plc, the other Channel 3 licencees and Channel 4 through "D3&4" - the company that runs the ITV/STV/UTV/C4 multiplex. ITV plc also own SDN, the multiplex that carries QVC and ITV3.

DMOL is responsible for managing the digital terrestrial television platform, of which Freeview channels make up the main part. Platform management includes ensuring that the correct technical data is broadcast across the terrestrial transmitter network to receivers and ensuring that changes made to services are done in a harmonious way. DMOL are also responsible for the 7 day EPG and channel numbering system.


Why should HD channels have their own section, they're not a genre? Can't they go on channels 1-4 instead of the standard definition channels?
Until the HD versions of the main channels have the same regional variants as their standard definition counterparts, they are not counted as interchangeable counterparts and are classed as separate channels. Channel 4 has regionalised adverts, but no regional programmes. The cost of providing every region in HD is currently prohibitive for the BBC and even ITV can't provide every regional version. In contrast, many Sky HD channels are national commercial channels (just one version) and are interchangeable in the Sky HD EPG with the standard definition counterpart.

On Freeview, once other commercial HD channels start to appear - lets say Dave HD for example, then these channels could appear on the channel number of their standard definition counterpart on HD devices rather than appear in the HD section. In the case of Dave HD, both SD and HD versions are identical all of the time.

  Got any more questions? Comment below!

  Related reading: Read the Director of BBC Distribution's blog on the changes at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/aboutthebbc/posts/New-Home-for-the-BBCs-HD-channels-on-Freeview-HD
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