|New proposals could see HD and local channels given prominence|
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has confirmed it wants to add HD and on-demand services to the services covered in the Communications Act 2003 and review the status of local TV channels. The current rules hinder HD simulcasts of public service channels being given a prominent position in the channel line-ups of digital TV providers. The DCMS fears that as more viewers watch HD and on-demand content, the current prominence applied to standard definition versions of the main public service channels will be lost.
In the Impact Assessment published today, the Department also notes that the current rules "also fail to take account of the prominence needs of new local TV services", with the prospect of local TV channels being awarded a similar prominence afforded to national channels including BBC One and Channel 4.
The DCMS believes "that this will likely involve a number of changes to the current EPG regulatory regime set out in the Communications Act 2003 including:
- Redefining an EPG in primary legislation
- Introducing an Authorisation regime to replace the EPG licensing regime in line with European regulations
- Including on-demand and HD services in the list of Public Service Channels."
The DCMS has confirmed that it will consult on its proposals with relevant stakeholders, including the Public Service Broadcasters, commercial channel operators, TV platform operators including Sky and Digital UK (Freeview / DTT) to "make certain that both costs and burdens are minimised and that the proposals properly take into account future technological change and the impact on all parts of the broadcast value chain. Ofcom will also consult with the industry on the implementation of these
changes as and when the power is enacted."
Digital UK is expected to outline its policy on HD channel number allocations on Freeview in the coming weeks. In a recent consultation, most broadcasters supported the idea of an HD channel swap, allowing Freeview HD devices to replace standard definition channels with their HD counterparts in the channel listing.