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Freeview
(DTV Services Ltd)
Type Free-to-air digital terrestrial television promotions company
Founded 2002
Headquarters United Kingdom London
Key people Ilse Howling (Managing Director)
Industry Media
Products Equipment to receive free-to-air digital terrestrial television channels
Revenue Not for profit
Website www.freeview.co.uk

DTV Services, trading as Freeview, is the name for the collection of free-to-air services on the Digital Terrestrial Television platform in the UK. The service is jointly run by its five equal shareholders — BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and transmitter operator Arqiva. DTV Services is designed to market changes to the platform. In association with the Digital TV Group, DTV Services is responsible for marketing specifications such as Freeview+, the PVR brand and Freeview HD — the roster of forthcoming HD channels.

Contents

Overview

Adoption of digital terrestrial television (green) across all television sets from 2006-2009. Source: Ofcom

Freeview officially launched on 30 October 2002 at 5 am when the BBC and Crown Castle (now Arqiva) officially took over the digital terrestrial television (DTT) licences to broadcast on the three multiplexes from the defunct ITV Digital (originally called ONdigital). The founding members of DTV Services, who trade as Freeview, were the BBC, Crown Castle UK (now part of Arqiva) and British Sky Broadcasting. On 11 October 2005, ITV plc and Channel 4 became equal shareholders. Since then, the Freeview model has been copied in a number of countries including Australia, New Zealand, France and Italy.

Service costs

Freeview provides no channels at all, the promotional efforts not extending to the consortium member's premium or pay-per-view channels and no subscription channels. The name distinguishes the service from ITV Digital, cable and satellite digital TV services. To receive the services that Freeview promotes, a set-top box (typically available from £15) or a new television with an integrated digital tuner is required. DTT reception cards for computers are also available for a similar price. Some viewers also need an aerial upgrade which can cost around £80 to £180.[1] In addition, the annual television licence must be purchased, as is required for all viewers of broadcast television in the UK irrespective of the method of reception.[2]

A subscription-based DTT service, Top Up TV, launched in March 2004 using unused channel space on Multiplexes that were owned by parties who, at the time, were not members of the Freeview consortium. The Top Up TV service is not connected with the Freeview service; it simply runs alongside it on the DTT platform. It was possible to receive Top Up TV selected Freeview set-top boxes or televisions equipped with a card slot or CI slot, however, this was discontinued in 2006 in favour of "Top Up TV Anytime", a service which depends on a proprietary set top box.[citation needed]

The Digital TV Group the industry association for digital television in the UK, is responsible for co-ordination between Freeview, Top Up TV, and other digital services.[citation needed]

Freeview channels

The Freeview service broadcasts free-to-air television channels, radio stations and interactive services from the existing public service broadcasters. Channels on the service include BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five terrestrial channels as well as their digital services. In addition channels from Sky, UKTV and Virgin TV, text services from Teletext and radio stations from BBC and Bauer amongst others are available.

The full range of channels broadcast via digital terrestrial television includes pay television services from operators such as Top Up TV and ESPN. These channels, requiring an extra subscription, are usually listed in on-screen Electronic Programme Guides alongside the various Freeview channels, although some set-top-boxes which are not capable of receiving encrypted channels may decide not to list these channels.

Freeview+

Freeview+ is a consumer brand for the specification of Digital Terrestrial Recorders which is laid out by the Digital TV Group. It is designed to "raise consumer awareness and promote sales" of Freeview-capable digital video recorders". Only approved digital terrestrial recorders (PVRs, DVRs and DTRs) which meet specified quality and functionality criteria are permitted to carry the Freeview+ logo. An advantage of the scheme is the benefit of joint marketing and consumer confidence.

Freeview HD

With two channels (BBC HD and ITV1 HD), Freeview HD completed a "technical launch" on 2 December 2009 from Crystal Palace and Winter Hill and operates on multiplex BBC B (aka Multiplex B or PSB3) from that date in regions that switched-over on or after that date, with the service coming to all regions by the end of 2012.[3]

Channel 4 HD was expected to be available at launch but has been delayed.[4] S4C HD is expected in March 2010 in Wales, where Channel 4 HD will not launch.[5] Five HD was due to launch during 2010 but was unable to reach 'key criteria' to keep its slot.[6][7] Spare allocation on multiplex B will now be handed over to the BBC but Ofcom intends next year to give the Commercial Public Service Broadcasters another opportunity to apply to provide an additional HD service from 2012. A fifth HD channel may be able to launch during 2013.[8]

Freeview HD is the first operational TV service in the world using the DVB-T2 standard, which will require the purchase of new compatible reception equipment.[9] Freeview HD set-top boxes and televisions will be available at the consumer launch of the service in early 2010. In order to qualify for the Freeview HD logo, receivers will need to be IPTV-capable and display Freeview branding, including the logo, on the electronic programme guide screen.[10]

On 2 February 2010, Vestel became the first manufacturer to gain Freeview HD certification, for the Vestel T8300 set top box.[11] However, Humax released the first Freeview HD reception equipment, the Humax HD-FOX T2, on 13 February 2010.[12] A whole range of other manufacturers Philips, Panasonic, Sagem will soon release their own HD recorders in Spring 2010

It was announced 10 February 2009 that the signal will be encoded with MPEG-4 AVC High Profile Level 4, which supports up to 1080i30/1080p30, so 1080p50 cannot be used.[13] The system has been designed from the start to allow regional variations in the broadcast schedule. Services will be statistically multiplexed – which means bandwidth is dynamically allocated between channels, depending on the complexity of the images – with the aim of maintaining a consistent quality, rather than a specific bit rate. Video for each channel can range between 3Mb/s and 17Mb/s. Dolby Digital audio will be transmitted at 320Kb/s for 5.1 surround, with stereo audio at 128Kb/s; audio description takes up 64Kb/s, subtitles 200Kb/s and the data stream, for interactive applications, just 50Kb/s.[10]

The Ofcom proposal, the consultation responses (21 November 2007 - 30 January 2008), and related documents can be found at "The Future of Digital Terrestrial Television - Ofcom". http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/dttfuture/. Retrieved 2009-08-01. .

Coverage and reception

77% of the UK population can currently receive the full Freeview service, with more able to receive a selection of channels now and all channels after digital switchover.[14] Coverage is being increased as digital switchover takes place across the UK.[15]

Ofcom estimates that the coverage level of the three public service broadcasting multiplexes will reach 98.5% of the population (the same as analogue television) and six-multiplex reception will cover 90% of the population once the digital switchover has been completed in 2012.[16] The full package of 60 Freeview channels (six-multiplex) will only be available via the main transmitter in each transmitter group. Those who rely on a local relay transmitter for reception will only receive around 18 channels (three-multiplex) after digital switchover.[17]

Approximately 27% of households were in a location that couldn't receive Freeview broadcasts.[18] Maximum Freeview coverage of the UK whilst analogue and digital services were running in tandem was reached in the years before digital switchover in the UK began.[19] Digital UK, the body backed by the UK government and UK broadcasters is currently switching off the analogue TV services in the UK, region-by-region. Digital Switchover in the UK In 2007, the Whitehaven transmitter in Cumbria switched to digital. Then in 2008 viewers in the Scottish Borders had their analogue signal switched off and their Freeview signal boosted, and coverage increased to minor relays. In 2009, Freeview coverage increased: The South West of England switched to digital between April and August; Cumbria, Dumfries&Galloway and Isle of Man switched in June. Wales is currently in the process of digital switchover, with existing analogue services being replaced by high powered digital signals carrying the Freeview service.[20]

History

Following the collapse of ITV Digital, the Independent Television Commission re-advertised the licenses for the three multiplexes (MUX B, C and D) that had been used by ITV Digital. On August 16, 2002, the licenses were granted to members of the Freeview consortium, with BBC getting multiplex B and Crown Castle getting multiplexes C and D.[21]

Although all pay channels had been closed down on ITV Digital, many free-to-air channels continued broadcasting, including the five analogue channels, the BBC channels and ITV2, ITN News Channel, S4C2, TV Travel Shop and QVC.[22]

Freeview launched on 30 October 2002. Sky Travel, UK History, Sky News, Sky Sports News, The Hits (now 4Music) and TMF (now Viva) were available from the start. BBC Four and the interactive BBC streams were moved to multiplex B.[23] Under the initial plans, the two multiplexes operated by Crown Castle would carry eight channels altogether. The seventh stream became shared by UK Bright Ideas and Ftn which launched in February 2003. The eighth stream was left unused until April 2004 when the shopping channel Ideal World launched on Freeview. There are now 14 streams carried by the two multiplexes, with Multiplex C carrying 6 streams, and Multiplex D carrying 8. It has recently been announced that more streams are now available on the multiplexes, and that bidding is under way.

Technical problems

In August 2008, a change was made to the broadcast parameters to allow future expansion of the network. This caused approximately 250,000 DVB-T receivers to stop working altogether due to incompatibility. The boxes affected were mainly manufactured before 2004. The problem was caused by an increase in the size of the Network Information Table (channel list) which exceeded the memory available in some set-top boxes.[24] Freeview had warned consumers in advance of the update, which was phased over a three-month period.[25] Affected consumers were advised to buy new set-top boxes.[26][27]

Other boxes have been obsoleted by the change to "8k mode".[28] And some boxes fail to work in mixed 2k and 8k environments.

2009 retune

The Freeview service underwent a major upgrade on 30 September 2009 which required 18 million households to retune their Freeview receiving equipment.[29] The changes led to several thousand complaints from people who have lost channels as a result of retuning their equipment. The Freeview website crashed and their call centre was inundated as a result of the problems. The change involved an update to the NIT (Network Information Table) which some receivers could not accommodate, in total many thousands lost access to some of the channels. This includes 460,000 fed from relay stations who have permanently lost access to ITV3 and ITV4. Updates are being broadcast to enable firmware changes but in some cases the receiver must be left on and receiving broadcasts to accept the updates and not all householders are aware of this. [30][31]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Confederation of Aerial Industries Ltd. http://www.cai.org.uk/asp/faq.asp. Retrieved 2006-06-22. 
  2. ^ "TV Licensing - TV Licence Information". http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/information/index.jsp#link1. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  3. ^ "BBC announces timetable for Freeview HD signal availability". BBC. 2009-11-16. http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2009/11_november/16/freeview.shtml. 
  4. ^ "Freeview HD begins UK transmissions". Digital Spy. 2009-21-02. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/digitaltv/news/a189609/freeview-hd-begins-uk-transmissions.html. 
  5. ^ "Broadcasters awarded licences for HD programmes on Digital Terrestrial TV". Ofcom. 2008-10-17. http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/news/2008/10/nr_20081017. 
  6. ^ "Channel 5 set for licence for high definition programmes on digital terrestrial television". Ofcom. 2009-06-11. http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/news/2009/06/nr_20090611a. 
  7. ^ "Ofcom hands Five's Freeview HD slot back to BBC". Tech Radar. 2010-05-15. http://www.techradar.com/news/television/ofcom-hands-five-s-freeview-hd-slot-back-to-bbc-676901. 
  8. ^ "Now it's five channels for Freeview HD". What Satellite & Digital TV. 2009-07-14. http://blog.wotsat.com/page/whatsat?entry=five_channels_for_freeview_hd. 
  9. ^ "More choice and new services on digital terrestrial TV". Ofcom. 2008-04-03. http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/news/2008/04/nr_20080403b. 
  10. ^ a b "Freeview HD goes live". Register Hardware. 2009-12-03. http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2009/12/03/freeview_hd_launch_report/. 
  11. ^ "Vestel Receives First FreeView HD Certification". PressReleasePoint. 2010-02-02. http://www.pressreleasepoint.com/vestel-receives-first-freeview-hd-certification. 
  12. ^ "First DVB-T2 receiver in UK stores". Broadband TV News. 2010-02-15. http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2010/02/15/first-dvb-t2-receiver-in-uk-stores/. 
  13. ^ "Ofcom opts for AVC 4.0 for UK HD DTT". The Digital TV Group. 2009-02-10. http://www.dtg.org.uk/news/news.php?id=3270. 
  14. ^ "reception". Freeview. http://www.freeview.co.uk/freeview/Help/Getting-Freeview-and-Coverage2/Freeview-reception. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  15. ^ Digital UK: www.digitaluk.co.uk
  16. ^ "Ofcom sets Digital Switchover related licence conditions". Ofcom.org.uk. http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/news/2006/12/nr_20061207. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  17. ^ "Freeview TV Explained". Digitaluk.co.uk. http://www.digitaluk.co.uk/what__and__why/tv_explained. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  18. ^ "Freeview Facts: When will I be able to get Freeview?". http://www.gettingfreeview.com/freeview-facts.php. Retrieved 2006-12-06. 
  19. ^ "Freeview FAQ: I have no coverage, what can I do now?". http://www.freeview.co.uk/help/getting-Freeview/q7. Retrieved 2006-12-06. 
  20. ^ "When do I switch". Digital UK. http://www.digitaluk.co.uk/when_do_i_switch. Retrieved 2010-03-17. 
  21. ^ "Crown Castle SEC filing, 2002". p. 4. http://www.crowncastle.com/investor/10K/Crowncast2002k.pdf. 
  22. ^ "UK DTT Channel List (free-to-view including yr2002 dtt trials)". Unsatisfactorysoftware.co.uk. http://www.unsatisfactorysoftware.co.uk/dtt/dtt.cgi?reg=UK&hist=ftv. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  23. ^ "UK DTT Channel List (Freeview)". Unsatisfactorysoftware.co.uk. http://www.unsatisfactorysoftware.co.uk/dtt/dtt.cgi?reg=UK&by=mux&type=VRDIPTSAG&mux=12ABCD&hist=freeview&data=&col=LoNMTC&disp=1&grp=&oair=. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  24. ^ "Freeview boxes destined for landfill". FrequencyCast. http://www.frequencycast.co.uk/freeviewlandfill.html. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  25. ^ Sweney, Mark (2008-08-14). "Freeview upgrade leaves set-top boxes obsolete". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/aug/14/digitaltvradio.television. Retrieved 2008-08-25. 
  26. ^ "Complaints from Customers who were affected". FrequencyCast. http://www.frequencycast.co.uk/blog/2008/07/more-freeview-boxes-become-obsolete.html. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  27. ^ "TVs and boxes that do not support the 8k-mode - ukfree.tv - independent digital television and switchover advice, since 2002". http://www.ukfree.tv/fullstory.php?storyid=1107051492. Retrieved 2009-08-01. 
  28. ^ Digital UK 8k incompatible equipment - Official List http://www.digitaluk.co.uk/2kequipment
  29. ^ "18m Freeview homes in TV retune". BBC News. 30 September 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8280067.stm. Retrieved 30 September 2009. 
  30. ^ "Complaints over Freeview retune". BBC News. 30 September 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8283452.stm. Retrieved 30 September 2009. 
  31. ^ "Viewers enraged over Freeview retune debacle". Absolute Gadget. 1 October 2009. http://absolutegadget.com/200910012671/news/television/viewers-enraged-over-freeview-retune-debacle.html. Retrieved 1 October 2009. 

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