Around lunchtime on 5th April, local TV channels are due to move to their new channel numbers as part of a shuffle-up following the closure of the BBC Three online promo service at the end of March.
In England and Northern Ireland, local TV channels were given the opportunity to stay on channel 8 or move to channel 7. Latest TV in Brighton, That's TV, Notts TV and the Made TV network of channels have now confirmed the move to channel 7, with further announcements expected. Stations in Scotland and Wales are due to move from channel 23 to channel 8.
For Freeview viewers in local TV coverage areas, this will be the third retune event in three weeks. This week, viewers had to retune for True Crime, which launched on channel 60 and for children's channel Kix on channel 127. Next week, on 30th March, most Freeview viewers will be affected by "background technical changes" to ITV3+1 and CITV. Then on the 5th April, local TV channels make their move.
For many local TV operators, the move to channel 7 constitutes a major U-turn in policy.
Only a couple of months ago, Latest TV's CEO Bill Smith told Digital UK, the organisation responsible for allocating Freeview channel numbers, that if Latest TV had to move, his channel should be given compensation for "essentially having to market ourselves from scratch again." Latest TV shouldn't be "forced to change our channel number through no fault of our own", he added.
Made TV's Chief Operating Officer Dave McCormack told Digital UK back in the winter that the broadcaster "strongly agrees" with the move to extend the local TV reservation on channel 8 to all of the UK. Today, the company is billing the move as a "fantastic opportunity", but leaves the company's Cardiff channel on a different number to the rest.
During the consultation, held during December and January, most other big local TV operators had voiced their support for a single destination for local TV across the UK.
With the move, local TV has foregone the opportunity to market itself to viewers and advertisers as a network of stations on a single channel number, with local TV set to be split across channel 7 and 8 in different parts of the UK. For Freeview users in England and Northern Ireland outside of local TV coverage areas, channel 7 and 8 will be unused. In Scotland, channel 7 is due to be used by BBC Alba in Scotland and Channel 4 in Wales, according to proposals published by Digital UK on 1st March.
- For more information on retuning Freeview, Digital UK has advice for viewers at http://www.digitaluk.co.uk/howtoretune
How are the changes being promoted, and does it stack up?
"These new channel positions will be see us placed directly between ITV2 and BBC4 which is really exciting." – Jamie Conway, CEO of Made Television
In fact, had no changes taken place, their channels would still have been found between ITV2 and BBC Four on the EPG. Numerically, there will be a gap between Made in Bristol, Leeds, Tyne & Wear and BBC Four, had they stayed on 8, the gap would be between ITV2 and them. Made in Cardiff is not directly between ITV2 and BBC4, rather it looks set to be sandwiched between Channel 4 and BBC Four, but still the main beneficary of the change.
Latest TV's position in the Freeview listings would be the same regardless of whether or not the channel was on 7 or 8. Why? Without BBC Three, the channel will be the seventh channel on the list behind BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV2 regardless of actual number. Channel 7 is due to be allocated to Channel 4 in Wales and BBC Alba in Scotland.
This was the original decision by Digital UK on the local TV channel number situation, published 1st March (click to enlarge). To emphasize the scale of the U-turn, Digital UK said 16 local TV channels supported "Option 2", with just four opposing it, arguing they should be offered channel 7.