Broadcasters scream for more HD channels

The broadcasting industry is embracing high definition in a big way – but is desperate for more free-to-air HD channels, writes Dominic Dawes.

As things stand, we've been assured of getting a number of free high-def channels on the Freeview service, once the digital switchover is complete.

The trouble is, according to current Government plans that number is... four. And industry experts are convinced that isn't enough.

However, new plans for distributing bandwidth – including a nifty scheme to combine the use of SFNs (Single Frequency Networks) and MFNs (Multiple Frequency Networks) – could allow us an eventual total of up to 40 high-definition channels on Freeview. Now, that's more like it.

And forty, by the way, is far closer to the total number of channels offered by Freeview when it launched.

The point is: to drive mainstream demand for a new technology – rather than leaving it as a specialist niche – you need a large and diverse range of content. And to make it truly popular, forty channels is a more realistic figure than four.

Despite the problems, the industry is bullish that high-def is the future. Toby Syfret, senior analyst at Enders Analysis, predicts that all TV broadcasts in the UK will be high-def by 2017.

What we need is for the Government and Ofcom to listen carefully to what broadcasters and content creators are saying: if high definition is to be a success, we need plenty of content free-to-air – and plenty of channels for us, the consumers, to choose from.

Otherwise, there's always the lingering danger that high-def could end up in a specialist ghetto, sharing cans of cheap lager with SACD or DVD-Audio, and muttering, 'I could have been a contender, I could have been somebody...'

And none of us want that, do we?

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