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Third retune as local TV stations do a policy U-Turn and move to fill BBC Three slot

UPDATED | One-by-one, local TV operators are confirming they are moving channel numbers on Freeview on the 5th April, triggering what will be for some viewers the third retune on the platform in as many weeks.

Around lunchtime on 5th April, local TV channels are due to move to their new channel numbers as part of a shuffle-up following the closure of the BBC Three online promo service at the end of March.

In England and Northern Ireland, local TV channels were given the opportunity to stay on channel 8 or move to channel 7. Latest TV in Brighton, That's TV, Notts TV and the Made TV network of channels have now confirmed the move to channel 7, with further announcements expected. Stations in Scotland and Wales are due to move from channel 23 to channel 8.

For Freeview viewers in local TV coverage areas, this will be the third retune event in three weeks. This week, viewers had to retune for True Crime, which launched on channel 60 and for children's channel Kix on channel 127. Next week, on 30th March, most Freeview viewers will be affected by "background technical changes" to ITV3+1 and CITV. Then on the 5th April, local TV channels make their move.

U-Turns Galore
For many local TV operators, the move to channel 7 constitutes a major U-turn in policy.

Only a couple of months ago, Latest TV's CEO Bill Smith told Digital UK, the organisation responsible for allocating Freeview channel numbers, that if Latest TV had to move, his channel should be given compensation for "essentially having to market ourselves from scratch again."  Latest TV shouldn't be "forced to change our channel number through no fault of our own", he added.

Made TV's Chief Operating Officer Dave McCormack told Digital UK back in the winter that the broadcaster "strongly agrees" with the move to extend the local TV reservation on channel 8 to all of the UK. Today, the company is billing the move as a "fantastic opportunity", but leaves the company's Cardiff channel on a different number to the rest.

During the consultation, held during December and January, most other big local TV operators had voiced their support for a single destination for local TV across the UK.

With the move, local TV has foregone the opportunity to market itself to viewers and advertisers as a network of stations on a single channel number, with local TV set to be split across channel 7 and 8 in different parts of the UK. For Freeview users in England and Northern Ireland outside of local TV coverage areas, channel 7 and 8 will be unused. In Scotland, channel 7 is due to be used by BBC Alba in Scotland and Channel 4 in Wales, according to proposals published by Digital UK on 1st March.

How are the changes being promoted, and does it stack up?

"These new channel positions will be see us placed directly between ITV2 and BBC4 which is really exciting." – Jamie Conway, CEO of Made Television

In fact, had no changes taken place, their channels would still have been found between ITV2 and BBC Four on the EPG. Numerically, there will be a gap between Made in Bristol, Leeds, Tyne & Wear and BBC Four, had they stayed on 8, the gap would be between ITV2 and them. Made in Cardiff is not directly between ITV2 and BBC4, rather it looks set to be sandwiched between Channel 4 and BBC Four, but still the main beneficary of the change.

“We now appear on the first page of everyone’s Freeview listings alongside some of the nation’s top broadcasters. It not only works for us and our viewers, but also all the local businesses we work with and want to work with in the Greater Brighton area.” - Latest TV channel manager Erik Selby

Latest TV's position in the Freeview listings would be the same regardless of whether or not the channel was on 7 or 8. Why? Without BBC Three, the channel will be the seventh channel on the list behind BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV2 regardless of actual number. Channel 7 is due to be allocated to Channel 4 in Wales and BBC Alba in Scotland.

This was the original decision by Digital UK on the local TV channel number situation, published 1st March (click to enlarge). To emphasize the scale of the U-turn, Digital UK said 16 local TV channels supported "Option 2", with just four opposing it, arguing they should be offered channel 7.


  1. Can't even get local tv in Colne Lancashire

  2. Questionable whether any local channel has shown enough PSB value to justify such a high position on the EPG.

  3. It's very disappointing that DigitalUK gave way on what was a very solid and logical proposal to unify local TV. 7 or 8... it doesn't make a difference in the EPG listings, and only serves to disrupt more viewers in the retune. Especially laughable is Made TV, who have decided to throw consistency out the window and keep their network of channels on different LCNs (Cardiff on 8, Leeds/Bristol on 7).

    1. Talking of retunes I definately think they need to be limited - ideally no more than once a month other than in exceptional circumstances. Channels should surely know with a months notice of any changes to their broadcasting so not unreasonable to ensure any changes in a given month happen on the same day rather than forcing 3-4 retunes, especially as most retunes are for channels people will never actually watch.

  4. Anyone have a list of proposed new local television stations in the UK(if any)?

      Anything in yellow hasn't launched yet.

  5. The only thing is, a516, is that there'll be a fourth retune unless they do this on 5th April too:
    Channel 23 will become vacant across the UK. ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and UKTV will be poised to get it:

    ITV: reshuffle ITVBe or ITV4 or ITV2+1 from 26, 24, or 27 respectively
    Channel 4: reshuffle E4, E4+1 away from 28 and 29 or Film4+1 at 45 or move up 4seven (4 7 at 23? yuck!)
    Channel 5 / Viacom: move up 5STAR or Spike from 30 or 31 or bring up Channel 5+1, Channel 5+24 or to bring back Viva into the 20s from 57
    UKTV: Bringing back Dave ja Vu to sit next to or near Home, Drama

    Any thoughts? It looks like we need a retune day like 30th September 2009... hehe

  6. I am glad that I found the A516digital blog to keep up to date with all these retunes!


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