Big names fight for HDTV on Freeview - add your support!
Although we at DVD Times are primarly concerned with films on optical discs - be they DVD, HD DVD, or Blu-ray - many of our visitors, especially those interested in High Definition video, are likely to also be interested in High Definition television broadcasts, too. Many of them are also likely to have paid large sums of money for the necessary HD display equipment.
Currently, the only way to receive HDTV broadcasts is by subscribing to a service such as SKY HD or NTL/Telewest (recently renamed to Virgin Media), and unless OFCOM revise their latest plans, it's likely to stay this way. Many TV license payers, presumably, will take for granted the idea that they will one day be able to receive HDTV through their roof-top aerial without the involvement of a Satellite (SKY) or cable company, as is currently possible in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Australia, Japan, and in the future, will be possible in Ireland.
The UK telecommunications regulator, OFCOM, has other ideas. As most of our readers will be aware, 1080 line HD pictures require more air-space than the existing digital 576-line Standard Definition ones that are the norm on Freeview. The extra space for this higher quality was expected to come from space left over from the closure of the five bandwidth-hungry analogue TV channels (which are expected to cease broadcasting in 2012). OFCOM instead plans to auction the air-space, meaning that it will most likely be used for mobile phone services. OFCOM claims a lack of interest for HDTV and essentially classes it as premium, niche technology. This decision means that if you expect your television license fee to deliver you HDTV in the future, you may well be out of luck. (It is interesting to note that Sony, who have a joint presence in the mobile phone market, support the HDForAll campaign, perhaps giving some insight into what the industry thinks of 3G mobile phone services, not to mention consumer interest in them).
Given the pace that the consumer electronics industry moves at, and the rate in which prices crash, OFCOM's proposal, to put it bluntly, is stultifyingly ill-informed and outrageously short-sighted. Even with the currently high prices, sales of HD Ready TV sets have been massive. The idea of aerial-delivered broadcasts in the UK continuing to be in Standard Definition, whilst other countries move with the times, is shocking.
During the limited trial run of HDTV over Freeview that took place during Summer 2006 in London, 86% of the respondents - some of them previously sceptical of the benefits of HDTV - said that HDTV over Freeview was "very important" to them, and 90% said that they deemed it important that the BBC, ITV, C4 and Five be "at the forefront" of offering HD services, making OFCOM's plans even more questionable.
Fortunately, it's not too late, as the plans have not yet been set in stone. If you're interested in getting HDTV through Freeview and want to voice your support, visit the HDforAll campaign, which has been set up with the involvement of the BBC, ITV, Channel Four, Five, Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, as well as retailers Comet and Dixons. You can register your support on their main page, which also links to a petition at 10 Downing Street.
If you have any interest in high quality TV pictures at all, DVD Times recommends that you support this campaign. Steve Dowdle, the Managing Director at Sony UK Ltd., quite correctly says: "Don't assume someone else is doing it".