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New Ofcom commits to UKs HDTV
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New Ofcom commits to UKs HDTV - 20-October-2008, 13:40

Ofcom commits to UKs HDTV

UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom has issued licences for terrestrial HDTV services to ITV and Channel 4. Services could start towards the end of 2009 in certain British regions, following local analogue transmission shut down.

Ofcom says their announcement follows a tender process and means that these public service broadcasters will join the BBC in launching three HD services on DTT, expected to start with the Granada region from late autumn 2009, with nationwide coverage by the end of digital switchover in 2012. Channel 5 is not included in Ofcom's decision.

To access the HD programmes and new services on DTT, viewers will need an HD Ready TV set and a new HD set-top box that is capable of receiving the new services.

Ofcom says it also believes that a fourth HD service could be launched on DTT as soon as 2010. We expect to outline the process for awarding the licence for that service by the end of this year.

Viewers in the UK will need a new MPEG4-equipped set-top box for the HDTV services. "Many of the leading UK and international manufacturers are now developing receivers that include these new standards. Although compatible receivers are not yet available we are aware from discussions with manufacturers that they are now developing suitable equipment with the intention of launching products in time for digital switchover in the Granada region in late 2009," says Ofcom.

Channel 4 made a joint proposal with Welsh-language broadcaster S4C which involves a simultaneous broadcast of the HD version of the Channel 4 service across the UK. In Wales, viewers will receive an HD version of the S4C Digidol service. This means popular Channel 4 shows such as Hollyoaks, and a third of S4C's productions will be available in HD.

Channel 4 and S4C have stated that their service will also include:

* a strong film component (4HD expects to broadcast over 150 hours of films in HD during the first twelve months, with the majority shown in peak-time);

* drama, comedy, science programmes and documentaries made in the UK in HD and programmes imported from the US such as Desperate Housewives; and

* viewers of S4C HD will be able to watch Welsh-language programmes such as children's programmes and European Cup Rugby games in HD.

In addition, the joint Channel 4/S4C proposal may offer in future an on demand service or sub-let during overnight hours. Channel 4 already broadcasts a HD service on Sky.

ITV have stated that they will simultaneously broadcast the current peak-time (18.00-23.00) ITV1 schedule in HD. This will mean that ITV1's most popular programmes will be available in HD. The new ITV HD service will also include:

* sport programmes, such as the FA Cup and the 2010 Football World Cup, in HD;

* newly-commissioned drama series such as Miss Marple in HD; and

* programmes about the UK's nations and regions in place of the early evening and late night regional news services.

In addition, and similarly to Channel 4, ITV proposes to offer on demand services and sub-let services outside of peak-time hours to allow other broadcasters to offer HD or other services on DTT. ITV already broadcasts a HD service on the BBC and ITV free satellite service, Freesat.
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