STV: still "working with ITV" to make satellite HD channel possible
STV HD is actually broadcasting on satellite, but requires viewers to manually tune the channel in. Following Northern Irish UTV's updated viewer information on the matter indicating a satellite launch before the end of June, a516digital was intrigued to see if STV's official line had also been changed.
Alas no. STV continue to respond to enquiries with the line that they are "working with ITV to make [their] HD signal available", despite the signal being available on satellite, just not on an official Sky or Freesat channel number. No time frame for a possible future launch is given.
On the STV HD page of the STV website, STV provides an alternative statement, omitting any involvement from ITV: "We are very keen to make STV HD available on Sky and Freesat and are working with them to make this happen as soon as possible. We’ll provide an update on this in due course."
Meanwhile, UTV have stated that "contractual reasons" are holding up the launch of its HD channel on satellite.
Both STV and UTV broadcast in HD within their own licence areas on Freeview and cable platforms.
Legally, HD versions of Channel 3 stations do not (yet) enjoy the same status as standard definition broadcasts, and are not covered under the current Channel 3 licences, which are based on terrestrial transmission areas only, but are in the process of being revised and renewed. For example, STV and UTV in standard definition are only licenced to broadcast between 9:25am and 6:00am in a throw back to the 1980s when TV-am held the licence to broadcast at breakfast. Currently, "ITV Breakfast" holds the licence in the morning. These licences do not apply for HD broadcasts and so, for the first few years on air, STV HD did not carry GMTV/Daybreak.
Legal technicalities relating to HD channels like the above example and other new ways of distributing media including "+1 channels" were reportedly ironed out in an agreement signed last year between the last three remaining Channel 3 licence holders, and originally raised hopes that STV and UTV HD would become available on satellite before the end of 2012.
Realistically, a detailed explanation for the delays may never be released given commercial sensitivities. However, for the time being UTV and STV viewers wanting to watch top ITV shows in HD on satellite via a regular Sky or Freesat channel number will need to wait a little longer.
Manual tuning details for ITV/Channel 3 stations, including HD >