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Broadcasters have their say on Freeview HD channel proposals

To swap or not to swap HD channels with SD counterparts...
Arqiva has said "no" to the facility which would substitute a standard definition Freeview channel with a high definition channel in the Freeview channel line-up, but the BBC would like the option to allow a future swap on a nation-by-nation, region-by-region basis. Channel 4 wants to allow a swap, but not where the standard definition service shows different regional adverts to HD.

These are some of the public responses by broadcasters to Digital UK's recent consultation on how it should allocate HD channels on Freeview HD in the future, ahead of next year's extension of the service, which will see channels including BBC Three HD and BBC News HD join Freeview.

Digital UK has been considering various options, including allowing an HD channel swap, where channels such as BBC One HD would swap from channel 101 to channel 1, or keeping a dedicated HD channel section (channels 101-119). Also in question was whether HD channels would be assigned numbers on a first-come, first-served basis or not. Unsurprisingly, the public service broadcasters confirmed that they would rather see due prominence given to their channels, while the commercial operators who responded wanted to opt for "first-come, first served" channel allocation.

Where they stand
Yes or No to HD channel swaps on Freeview

Prefers ‘HD destination’ in EPG.

Unsure how Freeview Recorders would cope.

On a region-by-region basis

Except when SD version not identical to HD.

Current HD section removes viewers from SD channels.

DTG would modify receiver spec to allow this.

But not immediately. Do it once the HD channels are established.

Does not believe in HD genre.

Defending its stance against introducing an HD channel swap, multiplex operator Arqiva said: "Arqiva supports the HD genre [the current zone from channel 101] as an “HD destination genre” for HD content. SD / HD genre swapping or substitution not only dilutes the HD genre but also has the potential to create consumer confusion. It is not clear what the benefits of substitution would be to the consumer or whether consumers would welcome the imposition of an HD simulcast. It is also unclear how a DTR [Freeview+HD device] would behave in these circumstances and whether the capacity of consumer’s DTR would be diminished by the imposition of HD recordings. SD substitution would also unfairly discriminate against any new HD channel, with a new HD channel launching in the HD genre whereas HD simulcasts of existing SD channels would be “gifted” a lower LCN (i.e. higher position in the listings). This would be counter-intuitive to encouraging new HD channels on to the platform.

Arqiva believes that consumers are best served by a clear HD genre as the destination for all high definition content and that Freeview viewers are able, willing and capable of navigating to the HD genre without having to resort to serving HD content to consumers when it has not been requested."

Al Jazeera also stated that it supported the option to keep all HD channels grouped together between channels 101 and 119. "SD / HD genre swapping or substitution would dilute the HD genre and also create consumer confusion", it said in its response, further adding that it preferred the "first come, first served" basis of allocating channels, "which has been the basis of all LCN allocations for channels in other genres to date, and we do not see any reason why this should be changed for the HD genre."

In favour of the move, the BBC replied: "The BBC believes that Digital UK should allow an SD channel to be substituted by its HD version. In our response to the May 2012 consultation, the BBC said that EPG swapping “could be the best way to ensure that audiences enjoy the full benefit of the substantial investment that HD channels have made in the production and distribution of their services, and indeed the viewer has made in his or her choice of television receiving equipment”. The BBC understands why Digital UK has not presented EPG swapping as an option in this consultation (since it would introduce SD channels into the HD section), but believes that EPG substitution offers the same benefits without the drawbacks."

Channel 4 also supported the swap option, proposing that "HD channel swapping should be mandatory, except where the HD channel is not an exact simulcast of the SD channel", which would currently be the case on its main network, where the standard definition serves regionalised advertising.

Channel 5 reaffirmed its commitment to bring Channel 5 HD to Freeview "in the next few years", despite losing out on the opportunity to launch its channel on a fully nationwide multiplex for the foreseeable future. The broadcaster confirmed it wanted channel 105 reserved for Channel 5, but then voiced its support in an HD swap, stating the existing section "removes viewers from the General Entertainment section of the EPG where the most popular SD-only channels are to be found."

With the imminent launch of two new multiplexes for Freeview HD next year, shopping channel QVC asked "Why not 30 SD channels rather than 10 HD ones?".

Digital UK will post its response to the consultation and outline its future plans for the Freeview (and YouView) channel numbering system later this summer.

  Minor update 12:55 20/07/2013.


  1. So where can the full report be viewed?

  2. Digital UK has released the non-confidential responses on its industry website.

  3. more movies channel freeview

  4. "Why not 30 SD channels rather than 10 HD ones?".

    Well yes, QVC would say that. There are enough junk channels on Freeview already like QVC and worse, I dread to think what we'd get if there were 30 more SD channels.


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