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The Freeview Years: 2006

On the 30th October 2012, Freeview will have been on air for ten years. Take a few moments to revisit highlights from Freeview's first ten years on air:

Highlights from 2006

And it started with the BBC grabbing the now defunct ITV News Channel's channel number 81 for BBC Parliament. The channel still broadcasted in quarter screen mode, with text around the sides of the picture, as it had done so from the start of Freeview in October 2002. The text on the left of the screen covered over the two BBC News multiscreens, which in turn were accessible by pressing red on any of the other BBC channels. This was seen as an innovate way of using scarce bandwidth on the digital platform.

By November 2006, the BBC found that it too could launch an extra slot on Freeview's multiplex B - following the example of National Grid Wireless who then controlled Multiplex C and D, who had added extra channels using improved compression technology. The extra slot was then given to BBC Parliament, who could go full screen. And BBC News Multiscreen on Freeview was doubled to four miniscreens - still two short of the six multiscreen service on Sky. Apparently, the quarter screen BBC Parliament annoyed many viewers, as this blog post from the time shows:

ITV launched its own children's channel: CITV. It used capacity on multiplex 2, previously allocated to ITV News Channel. As now, the channel broadcast from 06:00-18:00. Shortly after the CITV Channel launched, ITV's long standing afternoon children's slot began to disappear.

It was a big year for ITV, which saw its channels receive new logos, idents and revised presentation, most of which has survived until today. Enjoy the 2006 version of the ITV logo still on air today - it will all change in 2013...

ITV removed Men&Motors off Freeview in 2006 as it sought to join the quiz show revolution, which was turning overnight schedules on numerous channels into live premium rate phone-in extravaganzas. ITV Play launched on 19th April 2006. What participants at the time didn't know was how they were being screwed, with some competitions deemed to be impossible to win. For example, ITV were found in breach of the broadcasting code for a competition aired on the channel in September 2006, after viewers complained that two answers to the question "what items might be found in a woman's handbag?" were revealed to be "balaclava" and "rawplugs". The quiz was found to be in breach of the rule that "competitions should be conducted fairly".

More 4+1 held a slot on multiplex D until May when the slot was needed for the Big Brother red button channel on 305. Once Big Brother was over, the slot was free for the free-to-air launch of Film 4 on 23rd July. The channel initially launched on channel 31, later moving to channel 15.

Film 4+1 began its short life on Freeview from November, when the channel replaced Quizcall on multiplex 2.

The autumn of 2006 saw Channel 5 - then called "Five" -  reclaim two of its slots on multiplex A that it had allowed Top Up TV to use. The broadcaster had bought a 20% stake in Top Up TV, which was thought to have been done to help it get back some slots. Channel 5 had seen how ITV and Channel 4 had paid millions for slots to enhance their channel offering, and Channel 5 realised how much its slots on multiplex A were actually worth.

Channel 5 became the last major broadcaster to launch digital offshoot channels in 2006. On the 15th October 2006 at 8pm, Channel 5 launched "Five Life", which later become "Fiver" and is now known as "5*". It's first programme was "Inside the Priory".  24 hours later, "Five US" launched, now known as "5 USA" with its staple diet of US movies and dramas.

launch of five life
launch of five USA 

As for Top Up TV: without slots to transmit linear channels, it closed much of its existing service and replaced it with an Anytime service, which consisted of selected programming that was downloaded to compatible PVRs overnight for viewers to watch later. Sky subsequently took the name "Anytime" for its own download service.

On Radio, Virgin Radio (later renamed Absolute Radio) launched on the 18th July 2006 on Freeview channel 727. Heart made its debut on Freeview (except in STV and UTV regions) in December 2006. Viewers could hear the London version on Freeview channel 728, except for viewers... or listeners... in the Central region who could listen to their local version. In the Central East region transmitted from Waltham, the Heart 106 service was relayed, and in the Central West region, the service on 100.7 FM was relayed. In later years, the Central East service was withdrawn, and East Midlanders temporarily got the West Midlands version, before all regional variations were phased out in 2010, when Heart moved multiplexes.

Videos from YouTube - copyright retained by the broadcasters, with availablity of the above videos subject to the broadcasters and uploaders permitting continued access to the clips. 

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  1. Many thanks for this very interesting series of articles on the Freeview years, the end of analogue tv and the closure of the Ceefax service. I remember the animated Advent Cards they used to produce every Christmas using the famous Ceefax block graphics. Does anybody have those stored away I wonder? Keep going with your excellent blog, it's a constant source of useful information.