Ofcom seeks input on Freeview changes: 20 million will need to retune

Up to 20 million viewers will be affected by Freeview frequency clearance retunes in the next four years. Now Ofcom has invited comments on how these changes to Freeview frequencies should be managed and funded. 

Up to 160,000 viewers will also need to change their TV aerials, as a result of the clearance of the 700MHz frequency band, which will be used for mobile networks from 2020.

Ahead of the planned changes to frequencies, the Government has said it is considering whether there is a case for making public funding available to support viewers and wireless microphone owners with these changes. In order to aid its thinking on this matter, it has requested advice from Ofcom on the effects the changes will have on stakeholders, the options for addressing these effects and the associated costs. Ofcom has now requested comments from stakeholders, including viewers using Freeview, consumer groups and industry organisations.

Ofcom estimates that an information and advice campaign for viewers could cost up to £5.5 million.

Viewers served by the following transmitters (also shown on the map) are likely to be worst affected, due to the frequencies used by local Freeview transmitters and the types of aerials traditionally installed for reception in these areas:
  • Angus (Perth/Angus -STV North region)
  • Carmel (Carmathenshire -ITV Wales region)
  • Dover (SE Kent - ITV Meridian region)
  • Huntshaw Cross (N Devon - ITV West Country region)
  • Limavady (NW Northern Ireland -UTV region)
  • Mendip (Avon & Somerset - ITV West Country region*)
  • Midhurst (W Sussex - ITV Meridian region)
  • Oxford/Beckley (Oxfordshire - ITV Meridian region^)
  • Pontop Pike (Tyne&Wear, Co. Durham - ITV Tyne Tees region)
  • Selkirk (Scottish Borders - ITV Border Scotland region)
  • Winter Hill (Manchester, Lancs, Merseyside, N Cheshire - ITV Granada region)
*the former ITV/HTV West region ^was previously part of the ITV Central region

The call for input document is available on the Ofcom website and is open until 13th May 2016.

As previously outlined by Ofcom, the first retunes are likely by the end of next year. Frequency changes could be completed by the end of March 2020. In order to accommodate technical work at transmitter sites, some sites will have temporary masts erected in order to keep Freeview services available to viewers.

At the end of the process, it is envisaged that coverage of the main channels will be about the same as now, with coverage of the full set of channels as close as possible to current levels. A very small number of viewers, not specified by Ofcom, may lose coverage.

Work is underway to identify alternative frequencies across the UK. As part of the call for input, Ofcom has confirmed that Freeview services from the Winter Hill transmitter (ITV Granada region) could move to the following frequencies in the next few years - all channels would move to new frequencies triggering off a retune event in this region.

UHF channel
Proposed UHF channel
COM5 (ArqA)
COM6 (ArqB)
- Local multiplexes to be confirmed.
- COM7/8 are scheduled to be moved, then closed by Q1 2020, subject to the outcome of an Ofcom consultation.

Further details and re-tuning timescales are due to be released by Ofcom closer to the time. Some channels will have to change multiplexes and it's likely further services will be transferred to the newer DVB-T2 broadcast standard used by Freeview HD channels by the end of the decade.

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  1. Who on earth thinks it's more important to be able to watch content on a mobile than a HD TV.

    Annoyed to Winter Hill is targeted again. The last couple of frequency changes resulted in us having to fix up our aerial.

  2. I don't think moving PSB1 & 2 to Channels 32 and 34 are a good idea.
    They're already in use by COM7 & 8 from Moel-Y-Parc as there's some people (not myself though) who receives a strong signal from both Winter Hill & Moel-Y-Parc.
    Unless the plan is to move 32 & 34 from Moel-Y-Parc to other frequencies in turn from moving PSB1 & 2 from 50 & 59 from Winter Hill to 32 & 34?

    1. COM7 and 8 won't be around after the changes are completed.


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