Ofcom Announces Freeview HD Plans

Free-to-air High Definition TV

I imagine, this being the future and all, that most of you reading this will have a high definition television. Thus, Ofcom’s newly announced plans for rolling out digital terrestrial HD broadcasting will be of much interest to you. This is especially pertinent as I imagine that a large majority of you still primarily watch standard definition TV using the Freeview tuner built into your set!

This news follows on from proposals set out last year and is basically a confirmation that said proposed plans are to be implemented. For those who don’t remember, or know, this will see a change to the newer, better, MPEG-4 codec for broadcasting alongside a reorganisation of the current multiplex layout.

In layman’s terms, there will be space for four ‘slots’ for HD Freeview broadcasting. One of these will be allocated to the BBC while the other three will be placed up for grabs to commercial broadcasters, including ITV, Channel 4, S4C and Five in a bidding process. Hopefully common sense will prevail and we’ll see Five’s better programmes, including CSI and House available – not that we wouldn’t want to watch Coronation Street in high definition given the chance, obviously.

Also, given the switch from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 video transmission, most existing tuners – whether settop box, inbuilt, or PC card – will need to be upgraded or replaced to enable viewing of the new channels. Don’t get too dismayed if you’ve just splashed out on a new TV with inbuilt tuner, though, because there’s every chance your tuner can be upgraded or could even already have the ability to view these channels – you’ll just have to wait until they start broadcasting to find out.

As for the timescale, apparently all that is needed now is for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to approve changes to the Broadcasting Act to allow the process of rolling out this change to start. Assuming that approval is given, a rollout would take place from 2009 as the digital switchover also takes place.


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