Freeview channel number changes planned for next year
UPDATED | Freeview channel numbering system looks set to be rejigged next year, with children's and news channels likely to move to new numbers in the 200 range.
Digital UK, the organisation responsible for allocating these channel numbers - which are also used for YouView based services (BT TV, Plusnet TV, TalkTalk TV), as well as EE TV and Now TV (smart box) - is consulting on the proposed changes, which will trigger a retune event, expected during summer 2017.
To create more room for general entertainment channels, which currently threaten to overspill out of their current allocated channel range, children's services would be reunited from their current fragmented positions to a new section starting at channel 200 with CBBC (SD). Entertainment channels would then be free to take over most of the 100 channel range, with HD channels remaining in the middle from channel 101 to potentially channel 139.
News channels would follow from channel 230, starting with BBC News (SD).
Channels 250-299 would be available to text services and streamed channels, such as Vision TV. Adult services could either move into this section or be added just under BBC Radio 1 from channel 670-699 under two options being considered.
Channels 300-599 remain reserved for BT TV, TalkTalk TV and Plusnet TV services, but could also be allocated to channels available on the Freeview Play platform.
Radio stations alongside Red Button services would stay put. There would be no segregation of shopping and entertainment channels as is the practice on other TV platforms.
Digital UK also proposes to stop channels holding channel slots if they broadcast for less than two hours a day or 14 hours a week, although it plans to give affected channels a generous amount of time to adjust to the rules.
The changes will, once confirmed, be preceded by an information campaign led by Digital UK, Freeview and affected channel operators.
A number of procedural changes to allocation rules that will affect how channel numbers are allocated and reshuffled are also planned.
The last time news channels faced a channel number change, Sky News objected, forcing a delay. Digital UK said that the last set of changes had no medium term impact on viewing figures.
Stakeholders in the digital terrestrial TV platform, as well as Freeview viewers, are invited to participate in the consultation, which closes on 6th January 2017. Changes to channel numbers are slated for summer 2017.