Rules governing Freeview picture quality to be relaxed
The long-awaited move to change the terrestrial TV technical code, first mooted over a year ago, follows similar relaxations to the technical code governing DAB digital radio.
With no complaints received in the last three years about the quality of pictures on Freeview, Ofcom now proposes to drop the requirement that forces the main commercial channels including ITV and Channel 4 to broadcast their standard definition channels with a minimum resolution of 720x576 or 704x576 pixels. Other commercial channels on Freeview are already not bound by these rules, neither are services on satellite and cable platforms.
Ofcom stresses that despite these proposed changes, these channel operators will still be "subject to a requirement to demonstrate that they have procedures in place for maintaining high standards of technical quality, and Ofcom would retain the ability to investigate complaints or emerging issues relating to technical quality matters as necessary. "
Explaining the rationale behind the change, Ofcom said: "We believe that the PSB broadcasters are best-placed to make their own judgements about the picture quality they achieve on DTT, as they already do on other distribution platforms. While removing the resolution requirement will provide more consistency with these other distribution platforms, we expect that the PSBs will continue to be mindful of audience expectations of the quality their services."
The relaxation of the rules could allow additional standard definition channels to be launched on the ITV/Channel 4 Freeview multiplex, benefiting viewers in areas with a reduced line-up of Freeview channels, given the 98.5% coverage enjoyed by the multiplex, as it's possible to broadcast more channels on a multiplex if resolution is lower. These changes may come in handy when services are rearranged in the coming years as part of bigger changes to Freeview as services on the platform change frequency and migrates more services to the newer DVB-T2 standard used by Freeview HD and Freeview Play devices. HD services, which are being used by more and more viewers are unaffected by these changes.
Other proposed changes to technical requirements include adjusting transmitter fault reporting requirements and updating the technical code to remove references to analogue TV.
The consultation is available here and is open until 3rd June 2016.