19/09 Freeview EPG reshuffle: Q&A

a516digital.com | Terrestrial
This Q&A refers to the retune event that took place on the 19th September. A separate Q&A about the 17th October retune is available at the following link click here. A news article about the 17th October changes can be seen by clicking here.

Questions have been asked about the forthcoming Freeview channel reshuffle. Originally planned to be implemented in full on the 19th September, some further changes are now confirmed to happen on the 17th October.

So what is now changing and when?
On the 19th September 2012, the originally planned changes to the Freeview channel number system affecting children's, news, adult and HD channels will now not take place. However, previously unannounced changes to UKTV's channels (Dave, Really and Yesterday) will take place.

Changes are due around or shortly after midday on the 19th. The changes still taking place are:

  • The launch of Argos TV at LCN 55
  • Channel moves:
    • Dave (from 19 to 12)
    • Really (from 20 to 17)
    • Yesterday (from 12 to 19)
    • Gold (from 17 to 20)
    • Food Network (from 49 to 48)
    • Jewellery Channel (from 60 to 49)
  • Text and streamed channels genres allocated LCNs 200 to 299
source: DMOL

If you live in Manchester, additional services will go live shortly in the 50s channel range.

HD and adult channel changes are now expected to change on the 17th October - the date isn't set in stone yet. Current proposals state that the HD channels will move to 101 upward, and adult channels to 170 upward.

Channels 51-54 are reserved for extra channels in Northern Ireland and Manchester from October. Initially Manchester's extra channels will occupy channels 56-59. In Northern Ireland, viewers with a Freeview HD receiver will gain access to TG4 and RTE1 and 2, whilst in Manchester there will be new channels on the former Channel M digital multiplex. Channels 8 and 45 have now been formally reserved for local TV channels, although they won't be on air for a while yet. Only two of the local TV channel licences has been awarded to date.

Want more details? See the Freeview Channel List section of the website, where you can have an overview of the changes, based on currently available information.

I live in the Tyne Tees or Ulster TV region. Do I need to retune on the 19th September and the 17th October as well as on switchover dates?
  • If you live in the Tyne Tees region just retune on the 26th September (switchover stage 2) and the changes made to the EPG on the 19th September will find their way to you. a516digital.com is currently not sure if you'll temporarily lose Al Jazeera between 19th September and 26th September, as its moving to a 24 hour slot, which may or may not be using extra capacity that's only available in post-switchover regions. If a retune does materialise on the 17th October, you'll need to retune then in order to have HD and adult channels in the right places. Watch this space, as they say!
  • If you live in Northern Ireland, just retune on the 10th and 24th October at the two stages of switchover. Changes made to the Freeview EPG on the 19th September and possibly 17th October will be reflected in your channel line up when you retune on your switchover dates.

I live in West Sussex. Don't I have another retune date to remember?
Yes - viewers receiving their TV signal from the Midhurst transmitter need to retune on the 3rd October 2012. Two digital multiplexes are changing frequency on that date as part of the clearance of the part of the TV frequency band that will be used for 4G mobile broadband services from next year. The Steyning relay transmitter is also seeing a frequency change. There's no changes to services from other transmitters that cover the edges and coastal parts of West Sussex.
Why aren't the changes taking place as planned on the 19th September?
Broadcasters have objected to being moved. Sky objected to having Sky News moved to channel 133. It didn't believe there was any need for a channel reshuffle, and new channels should have just taken the next available number, rather than being ordered in genre like on Sky's own EPG. Another broadcaster, thought to be an adult station, has also lodged an appeal. Adult channels fear a drop in revenue if they are pushed backwards down the channel list.

Are my recordings safe?
Most channels are not changing numbers, and not changing multiplexes. So if you're not in Tyne Tees or Ulster TV regions or receiving from Midhurst transmitter (see above), most recordings will be fine. Dave, Really, Yesterday, Food Network and The Jewellery Channel are moving numbers, but most PVRs will be fine with this. If you are not going to be around on the 19th September, some devices will keep the old channel numbers until you do retune. Update: Humax boxes may lose scheduled recordings and series links when doing a full retune. In all cases, with all PVRs (Freeview+ boxes) a "factory reset" will erase your channel settings and generally also your scheduled recordings.

Is there actually a need to change channel numbers?
There's no easy answer to this one, but since Freeview first launched ten years ago there have been periodic reshuffles of its channels. Notably in 2005, BBC News and other news channels moved from channel 40 to 80 and children's channels moved from 30 to 70. Radio moved to the 700s. In 2009, there was another major retune and reshuffle when Channel 5 and S4C (Wales) moved multiplexes and gaps in the EPG were filled.

In all cases, DMOL and its predecessor organisation decreed that the reshuffles were needed to tidy up the EPG and allow space for channels to launch. The move of children's and news channels from 30/40 to 70/80 has in the past seven years allowed the zone between 30 and 69 to be used for more general channels. Had a move not have taken place, new channels would have had to have launched mixed in with news and children's channels. In 2005, ITV3 and E4+1 were sandwiched between children's and news channels in the listings. Between reshuffles, services have left the platform leaving gaps in the channel numbering.

In 2012, DMOL wants to future proof itself again by moving channels out of the pre-100 range. It wants to move HD channels to 101 onward, children's channels to 121 onward, news to 131 onward and adult channels to 170 onward. The freed up space would allow for more channel numbers lower down without channels having to pop up around the news, children and adult channels. Already three extra channel numbers are needed in Northern Ireland for RTE/TG4 channels, upto six are needed in Manchester, two will be needed in locations where local TV channels are on air, and there is still available capacity on the commercial multiplexes for more channels. With the 600 MHz band in the UHF spectrum potentially available for more multiplexes with more channels, more numbers would be needed. Moving HD out of the way, for example, stops channels being split in the "general entertainment" section.

Some argue that viewers should just buy a TV that lets them re-order Freeview channel numbers to their liking. Until retailers clearly flag this function in their product descriptions, this will be unreasonable to expect from viewers. Also, one might assume that major broadcasters and shopping channels wouldn't like it if that function became too widely available.

Who are DMOL?
DTT Multiplex Operators Ltd - a company run by the digital terrestrial television multiplex operators, namely Arqiva, the BBC, ITV plc, the other Channel 3 licencees and Channel 4 through "D3&4" - the company that runs the ITV/STV/UTV/C4 multiplex. ITV plc also own SDN, the multiplex that carries QVC and ITV3.

DMOL is responsible for managing the digital terrestrial television platform, of which Freeview channels make up the main part. Platform management includes ensuring that the correct technical data is broadcast across the terrestrial transmitter network to receivers and ensuring that changes made to services are done in a harmonious way. DMOL are also responsible for the 7 day EPG and channel numbering system.

Why should HD channels have their own section, they're not a genre? Can't they go on channels 1-4 instead of the standard definition channels?
Until the HD versions of the main channels have the same regional variants as their standard definition counterparts, they are not counted as interchangeable counterparts and are classed as separate channels. Channel 4 has regionalised adverts, but no regional programmes. The cost of providing every region in HD is currently prohibitive for the BBC and even ITV can't provide every regional version. In contrast, many Sky HD channels are national commercial channels (just one version) and are interchangeable in the Sky HD EPG with the standard definition counterpart.

On Freeview, once other commercial HD channels start to appear - lets say Dave HD for example, then these channels could appear on the channel number of their standard definition counterpart on HD devices rather than appear in the HD section. In the case of Dave HD, both SD and HD versions are identical all of the time.

Shopping channels should have their own section! Why won't DMOL create a shopping channel section on Freeview?
Quite simply, QVC and other shopping channels have powerful lobbyists to ensure that doesn't happen. Apparently jobs would be at risk if the shopping channels were moved down the EPG! A 35% drop in   revenue could occur!  QVC got its channel number through a fluke of history - it launched just as ITV Digital was falling apart.

You might find this Westminster Hall sitting from November 2011 interesting:

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Video: BBC Democracy Live

this page was last edited on 18/09/2012 14:11 - inclusion of information about Manchester's additional services and removal of text relating to Marketplace, which has now appeared on the Freeview listings, initially at channel 61. Line of text relating to shopping channels removed. Clarification about Recordings. Updates continue at www.a516digital.com
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  1. Actually QVC got a lower channel number as part of the Freeview launch, as existing channels were "shuffled up" or moved into genre groups, and the old LCNs reallocated (some were retained by the mux operators who used to own them).

    QVC moved from 19 to 16, which was the lowest completely empty LCN available.

    I wonder if a shopping genre had been proposed from the start, whether QVC would have agreed. The trend seemed to be to give existing channels the same or better LCNs, and no gap had been left where a shopping channels genre might have gone (there was a curiously large gap between text and radio though, so it could have been done)

    Launch channel list complete with pre-launch LCNs are on my website: http://www.unsatisfactorysoftware.co.uk/dtt/dtt.cgi?reg=UK&col=LoNMTC&hist=freeview

  2. As the retune date is almost upon us, a reminder that www.tvretune.co.uk contains useful information about retuning a Freeview box, PVR or TV.

    If you are having trouble as a consequence of the retune, please see the instruction manual or contact the manufacturer's helpline.

    Freeview are a marketing company to promote free-to-air television and actually not responsible for equipment or aerials used by individuals.

    Broadcaster are responsible for getting the signal out to you, and if you are having difficulties receiving a particular channel, you need to first check your own equipment is working correctly and that others don't have the same problem before contacting the broadcaster.

    You can comment using a Google Account. Don't shoot the messenger. a516digital.com is not responsible for the retune!

  3. Having to retune is an annoyance for me, as the page on which my scheduled recordings show goes blank & I have to input them all again. One or two other preferences I have in place also get undone & I have to remember to put them back. I rarely bother for a new channel - I didn't for 4Seven for example - but only when pushed by losing a channel I already watch.

    However, for someone like my Mum (80), who quite frankly wishes digital had never happened, does not understand how it works & cannot retune the box by herself (she took some time to understand about the EPG) it is more than an annoyance. She can't be the only one having to wait until a neighbour or relative can call in to do it for her. In the meantime, depending on the change, she could be without a favourite channel.

    These changes should be limited to those occasions when it is absolutely unavoidable, and not done for pathetic reasons such as "grouping similar channels together". In effect, we are all being made to faff about just so the broadcasters can get some sort of perceived benefit to their businesses. (A benefit which is probably non-existent - if I am looking for E4, for example, I just scroll till I find it. The fact that I might pass CBBC on the way is completely irrelevant!)

    1. If your mum does not have a device that autoscans, you can opt not to retune, but the services will be on a different number to that advertised in the media, including listings magazines.

      Today's retune was due to be the big 3-4 year EPG clean up which would push the Adult Channels out of the way among other things. Broadcasters who had been allocated channels behind the adult and Connect IPTV services were concerned, as viewers were not scrolling past these channels to reach them. DMOL were put under pressure to move adult channels to one block at the end of the TV channel list and to promote local TV services further up the EPG. DMOL also decided that it wasn't good if viewers were made to scroll through loads of IPTV channels that don't work on their TV, so they were moved to channel 225 onward.

      Sky and another unknown broadcaster appealed against the Freeview reshuffle, and so most of what should have been a big one-stage retune to future proof the platform has now turned into a mess.


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