Ofcom Invites Bids For April 2012 Launch Of 5th Freeview HD TV Channel

Richard Carlton

Thanks to a recent decision that has been made by the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom, British viewers may soon be able to enjoy even more free high-definition viewing with the use of a standard rooftop aerial. The organisation is looking for applications to fill a fifth high-def channel that is due to be made available alongside the other four digital terrestrial television (DTT) channels – BBC HD, BBC1 HD, ITV HD and 4HD – on the Freeview HD platform.

Freeview HD TV
Ofcom invites bids for 5th Freeview HD TV channel

Bids are being welcomed from commercial Public Service Broadcasters for the extra HD slot. This includes Channel 3 licences, Channel 5, Channel 4, and the Welsh Authority. The popularity of Freeview HD devices has soared since high-definition channels launched on Freeview in May of last year. Around 50 percent of UK homes currently have access to HD services and as the digital switchover continues (with completion scheduled for next year), the level of HDTV coverage is expected to increase.

Applications will be taken by Ofcom until the specified deadline of 17th October this year. A number of criteria will be used to judge the applications that are received for the additional HD slot. As part of the process, the media regulator will be looking at how the range and choice of high quality TV service through DTT (Freeview) will be enhanced.

The new HD channel is expected to go live April next year. High-definition content via Freeview has been rolled out in line with the schedule for the ongoing digital switchover, and by the end of next year it is thought that around 98.5 percent of households in the UK will have access to the technology. Previously HD was not available through DTT due to lack of bandwidth. However, extra capacity has been created for HD on DTT through the introduction of technologies like MPEG-4 and DVB-T2, as well as the re-organisation of existing television services.