DTG: HD proposals compromise DTT viability

Filing its response on the deadline for the Ofcom consultation period for upgrading Freeview to HD, the Digital TV Group has said “the regulator's current proposals could seriously compromise DTT's long term viability.”

Dermot Nolan, the new director general at the DTG, believes there should be a comprehensive national strategy for HDTV encompassing all TV platforms to ensure that the UK doesn't end up with first and second class HDTV services. The DTG has concerns in the following areas among others:

Ofcom's proposals only allow for a very restricted HDTV service on DTT (3-4 channels). Implementing those services is likely to compromise the picture quality and reach of the existing standard definition channel line up.

Ofcom's proposals are entirely reliant on the reconfiguration of existing services on the existing multiplexes. That process is likely to require considerable investment and may be very difficult due to long-term contractual arrangements. Furthermore some services may be lost entirely to certain UK Nations.

Ofcom proposals call for a lower quality HDTV service – operating at approximately half the current transmission rate of established UK HDTV services now broadcasting on cable and satellite.

The 3-4 channel HDTV service proposed by Ofcom for the Freeview platform significantly undermines the Public Service Broadcasters' ability to deliver a common, simultaneous sustaining HDTV service to each of the competing UK delivery platforms (cable, Freesat, Freeview, IPTV, and Sky). It removes the possibility of delivering the economies of scale that a common sustaining service would deliver and may compromise PSB's competitive position in what is now a burgeoning international HDTV market.

In 2012, when the digital switchover is complete, Ofcom's own modelling indicates Freeview holding a 50 per cent share of the market. It is a platform that has been resoundingly endorsed by the consumer, as evidenced by their £15 billion + (E21bn) investment in digital equipment. That investment is seriously compromised if a 'two tier' system of public service broadcasting is created and is at odds with the implied Universal Service Obligation of Public Service Broadcasters.

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