Highlights from 2009
2009 was a big year on and off Freeview screens. In fact so much happened in 2009 that the original draft for this article went on and on and on - so here are the edited highlights... Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin..
On screen, Price Drop TV was the sit-up.tv channel that lost out as a result of the company losing a Freeview slot on multiplex A to Discovery Communications. In January the channel left Freeview channel 24, Eight months later, the channel returned with a new carriage agreement with Arqiva on multiplex C, launching initially on Freeview channel 43, before being promoted to channel 37 at the end of September.
Discovery's new free-to-air channel was revealed to be Quest. A placeholder for the channel first appeared on the 5th January on Freeview channel 47. It was supposed to launch on the 14th May, but the launch was pulled at the last minute, having shown preview clips until just before the 10am launch. Explaining the delay, the Quest website at the time stated "Regrettably we have made the decision to postpone the launch of Quest. Due to a number of commercial factors we have had to make this difficult decision. We did not make this decision lightly and we are working towards launching Quest in the near future. We would like to apologise wholeheartedly to any of you that have been looking forward to this launch."
The channel eventually launched on the 30th September 2009, but on channel 38.
launch of Quest
2009 saw the launch of CNN in a four hour block, replacing short lived Nuts TV. From 15th January 2009, CNN broadcast on Freeview channel 84 from 9pm to 1am, later changing to a five hour block from 7pm to midnight. CNN left Freeview in November 2010.
Russia Today, the Moscow based news channel joined the following month. Initially on air from 6am to 8am, commencing on the 2nd February 2009, the channel later expanded its hours, running from 6am-8am and 6pm to 10pm, before going 24 hours on Freeview channel 85.
Film 4 moved to its current channel number (15) a day later on the 3rd February and government portal DirectGov appeared on channel 106.
A further reshuffle took place on the 24th February 2009 when ITV4, CITV, ITV2+1, E4 and E4+1 moved to the channel numbers that they still use in 2012.
UKTV History was renamed Yesterday on the 2nd March 2009.
Fiver and Five USA moved to channels 30 and 31 in May, where they still are in 2012, albeit under different names.
On 20th May 2009, Virgin 1 moved from multiplex D to multiplex A and went 24 hours. In Wales, the channel was only available between 09:00 and 19:00, due to there being a slightly different line up because of S4C and S4C2. However, a timeshift channel called Virgin1+1 was launched on Freeview channel 35 using its old capacity on multiplex D, available from 1800-0600 daily (excluding during premium rate phone shows), ensuring that Welsh viewers could continue to watch the channel in the evenings - but an hour later than everywhere else. By the end of August, the timeshift channel's hours had been cut to 1800-0100 to make way for an adult channel using the overnight capacity. Virgin 1 itself went down to an 18 hour service later in 2009, broadcasting from 0900 to 0300.
A week later, and Rocks & Co launched on Freeview channel 49, in place of shortlived TV channel Netplay TV. Rocks & Co secured long term carriage on Multiplex D later in 2009, with a five hour slot from 1300-1800.
June saw the end of Setanta Sports on Freeview/Top Up TV channel 34 having burnt its fingers on acquiring expensive Premiership Football rights. Top Up TV put ESPN America in its place for a short time before ESPN UK went live in August.
In July, Ideal World's sister channel Create & Craft acquired a morning slot on Freeview. And a new channel, called Big Deal made its first appearance on Freeview, with a live premium rate phone in quiz show from 10pm nightly.
Viva replaced TMF on 26 October 2009 and Teletext abandoned its news and information provision in December.
Off screen, technological advances meant that Freeview HD was on its way, using the new DVB-T2 broadcast standard. Following tests, the first regular DVB-T2 transmissions started in London and North West England in December. No normal household could watch the HD channels - initially BBC HD and ITV HD - the first consumer models didn't appear in the shops until 2010.
The decision to clear a multiplex of services to give room for HD channels resulted in a major multiplex clearance exercise, culminating in September 2009 when S4C and Channel 5 moved from multiplex A to multiplex 2, ensuring that the channels would be available on relay sites, which were not designated to carry Multiplex A. S4C moved on the 09/09/2009 - the date of the completion of the first digital switchover in Wales, in the Swansea area. Channel 5 moved on the 30/09/2009, on the day of Freeview's second big EPG reshuffle. With Freeview on low power across a lot of the UK, the retune caused many headaches and viewers flocked to internet forums complaining of lost channels.
To clear multiplex B for HD, ITV3 and ITV4 were sacrificed from multiplex 2 to give capacity to Channel 5, with ITV3 and Channel 5 swapping slots. ITV4 was moved to multiplex D, and ITV2+1 moved to multiplex 2 in preparation for ITV1+1. BBC Red Button services excluding Red Button 301 were ditched in October. Many viewers were mad about the changes, with viewers on relays disappointed at the loss of ITV3 and ITV4, with some viewers wondering why text dating services had survived the chop on relays, but not ITV3 or 4. Viewers on relay sites had previously received Channel 5 via post-switchover multiplex BBC-B, as a temporary solution until 30/09/2009. BBC-B remained blank in most areas from October 2009 through into 2010, when those regions who had gone through switchover early were retrospectively upgraded to Freeview HD.
- Freeview EPG in late 2009 (a516digital.com is not responsible for the content of external links)
2009 saw the decision to clear more of the UHF broadcast spectrum for 4G/LTE mobile services. With digital switchover well underway in 2009 across the Westcountry, Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway, Isle of Man and parts of Wales, plus North West England and already too far in planning for much of the rest of the UK, the decision to clear UHF channels 61 and 62 as well as channels 63-69 resulted in early plans to launch a second retune exercise, which in 2012 got underway at Midhurst transmitter, to be followed by numerous other transmitter sites across the UK.
And 2009 saw the introduction of a split Network Information Table to cope with the increased data resulting from all of these channel changes. The "split NIT" caused many older Freeview boxes to stop working correctly, who couldn't handle the change in the way the data was being transmitted.
By 2009, more than 18 million UK homes had Freeview on at least one of their TV sets, and it is the main TV provider in 10 million of them, according to Ofcom
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