Rewind 2013: part 3

The final months of the year saw free-to-air HD TV take off, following announcements from Al Jazeera, STV, UTV and the BBC about future HD channels.

DAB meanwhile ended the year with local DAB launching in more areas, a pledge to add 162 more transmitter sites to the BBC's national DAB service and a confirmation that remaining areas where local DAB had been licenced, but hadn't launched yet would see local DAB rollout during 2014 and 2015.

Here's a sample of what a516digital covered during the final four months of the year:


First announced in September, AJE HD launched 26/11/2013
In September, Al Jazeera English HD was announced. The Doha-based news channel would launch on Freeview HD, as part of the extra multiplex capacity announced in July. As of now, the HD version of Al Jazeera English HD is only broadcast on Freeview HD in the UK, and on the New Zealand Freeview service.

UTV confirmed it would be bringing its HD channel onto satellite in November - and it would become the first of the main five channels to put its HD channel on the standard definition channel number on Sky HD. BBC One Northern Ireland HD and BBC Two [England] HD followed suite by the end of 2013. Freesat will be facilitating similar moves in 2014, but Digital UK confirmed such swaps would not be permitted on Freeview just yet.

The Communications Act 2003 would not allow an HD channel that isn't a direct simulcast of the standard definition version to swap places on digital TV platforms - so most of the main channels fall foul of this, due to not all regional variations being available in HD.

The BBC confirmed that it would be presenting plans to add English regional versions of BBC One HD in early 2014.

The waiting game for STV HD on Sky and Freesat
STV meanwhile confirmed in September that Sky and Freesat viewers would get STV HD added to their channel list in April 2014, although the channel is already broadcast on satellite, but hidden away from the majority of satellite viewers.

Away from HD TV, terrestrial pay TV operator Top Up TV announced it was shutting up shop at the end of October, with the end of its subscription service.

a516digital continued "watching the neighbours", and reported that Irish broadcaster RTÉ had announced ambitious plans to launch a channel for the UK in the future, despite ongoing concerns over funding.

Also in September:

There were some big changes to satellite services at the beginning of October. Satellite TV and radio for the UK and Ireland is provided from satellites owned by SES (Astra) and Eutelsat. The two companies have been at loggerheads for years over who has the right to use a band of frequencies. Court proceedings in Germany resulted in SES being given the rights to use the frequencies, forcing many TV and radio stations to move frequencies.

Over two stages, TV and radio services broadcast on the affected frequencies on Eutelsat's 28A satellite were moved to Astra satellites - first on to neutral frequencies outside of the disputed range, and then, once SES had taken over, to new frequencies within the band.

Complicated? a516digital provided a guide as to what was happening, and which services were affected.

Most Sky and Freesat viewers noticed no changes, with their channel guide being updated by the platform operators so that receivers were being pointed to the right frequencies.

On digital radio, Choice FM became Capital Xtra, with the new station launching across the UK on DAB.

Sky gave its free-to-air channels a new look. The second new look to Challenge since it launched on Freeview in 2011.

The BBC's Director-General Tony Hall announced that there would be a timeshift version of BBC One coming our way in "due course".

The BBC's Dr Alix Pryde meanwhile confirmed 162 extra transmitter sites for the BBC's national DAB digital radio multiplex, boosting coverage across the UK by the end of 2015.

a516digital was the first to reveal details of Plusnet's plans to offer BT Sport to its subscribers with Sky TV.

Over in Ireland, a second multiplex of channels launched on Irish terrestrial service Saorview - paving the way for RTÉ One HD and prompting a retune event.


Also in October

November was a month of launches and launch announcements:
Northern Ireland's UTV announced it was going to be launching a channel for the Irish Republic.
Eagle Radio announced it would be launching new station Eagle3 on local DAB in December.
ITV announced it had launched a new service allowing holidaymakers and expats in most European countries to catch-up with Emmerdale and Coronation Street

Technical changes meant a retune for some Freeview households in the Border TV region, as a result of preparations ahead of the reinstatement of an opt-out for viewers north of the Border in 2014. ITV Border Scotland will allow ITV to screen more programmes of relevance to viewers in the Borders ahead of the Scottish Referendum, while viewers in Cumbria get to keep network programming from London.

Border Scotland won't be carried on Sky, Freesat or cable services at the moment.

Just days before its closure, the BBC Red Button HD channel arrived on Sky for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special in 3D.

Channel 5 revealed it was intending to launch its latest channel 5 Later in January. It's been holding Freeview channel 55 since August. No further details have been revealed yet...

New streamed service VuTV launched on Freeview channel 238. a516digital showcased the new service, which offers extra pay TV channels to Freeview households with a compatible TV.

The first local TV channel, Estuary TV launched on 26th November in North Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire on Freeview channel 8. On the same day, a new multiplex of Freeview HD channels began rolling out across the UK, with Al Jazeera English HD the first new service to launch.

Also in November:

December started with a blackout for ITV on Freeview. Viewers in ITV's Border, Central, Granada, Tyne Tees and Yorkshire region lost ITV just as X Factor results were being announced, with the blackout continuing into the 1st December edition of I'm a Celebrity. a516digital was on the scene with the latest reports.

Freeview users in Scotland got some of their missing BBC Radio stations back in the evenings. Since 2011, most BBC Radio stations had to switch off Freeview during the evenings to make way for BBC Alba. The BBC's Alix Pryde (pictured) explained that there had been a reduction of some audio bitrates meaning that all but the services widely available on FM are now available on Freeview Scotland 24/7.

The BBC launched five new HD channels on the 10th December, three of the channels - BBC Four HD, CBeebies HD and BBC News HD are only available in some locations on Freeview HD. a516digital explained...

As 2013 drew to a close, the Communications Minister Ed Vaizey declined to announce a switchover date to digital radio. But transmission infrastructure provider Arqiva warned of the costs to radio stations if they wanted to stay on FM, rather than switch to DAB.

Also in December


a516digital hopes you've found this showcase of what this website has covered in the past 12 months useful: stay with a516digital for the latest on what's happening on digital terrestrial TV, Free-to-air satellite and digital radio.














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