I’m praying that the powers-that-be will see sense over the digital switchover and allocate some of the spare spectrum to broadcast high-definition TV channels over Freeview, writes Andy Clough. But given the politics, and money, involved I’m not placing any bets on the outcome.
The logic of such a move seems so obvious to me that I can’t believe industry regulator Ofcom is even thinking twice about it, but they’ve recently been forced to delay the sale of the spare spectrum, such has been the furore over what’s to be done with it.
I’m 100 percent behind the HD For All lobby, backed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel Five and numerous TV manufacturers and high-street retailers. Consumers have already bought HD-ready TVs in record numbers, and they shouldn’t be forced to pay for Sky HD or Virgin Media services just to get HD programmes in the future.
The current BBC HD trial has some fantastic programmes on it – who can forget Planet Earth in all its HD glory? – and if viewers are already paying the licence fee, they have every right to be able to watch BBC HD via terrestrial TV. The BBC's plans for expanding its HD service are already well under way (see News: BBC plans full-scale HD service).
Yeah, yeah, I know others have claim to the spare digital spectrum too, but surely there’s enough to go round? Seetha Kumar, head of HD at the BBC, has pointed out that at a time when games consoles, DVD players and even camcorders are going high-def, it would be perverse if free-to-air television didn’t do the same. I couldn’t agree more.
Kumar estimates there will be more than 10 million HD-ready sets in UK homes by the end of 2008. I can’t see why every household should have to subscribe to pay-TV channels to get the full benefit of the TVs they’ve already bought. Both the Government and Ofcom deny that their objective is to raise as much money as possible. Hmm, we shall see.
While I’m sure the mobile phone operators, wireless broadband providers and the organisers of outdoor concerts have a rightful claim to some of the spare spectrum, providing a free-to-air national high-definition TV service surely has to be a top priority. Do we really want the satellite and cable TV companies to be the only broadcasters who benefit from the HD revolution? I don’t think so.
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