Richard Lindsay-Davies, Director General, of the UK’s Digital TV Group (DTG) the not-for-profit trade body formed to ensure the successful delivery and evolution of digital TV and associated technologies, has confirmed that the organisation will continue to safeguard the consumer experience of digital terrestrial television and connected TV.
Addressing delegates at the Westminster eForum seminar on ‘The future of free-to-air TV’, he advised that the DTG’s consultation, which was open to industry and public regardless of their membership of the Group, indicated that the DTT platform must evolve post switchover to achieve maximum consumer and industry benefit and above all, that the interest of the consumer must be placed at the heart of the industry’s thinking. Earlier, Ilse Howling, Managing Director of DTT platform Freeview, had warned that the future of the service was at risk should unfavourable decisions be made in terms of the reuse of UHF spectrum.
Lindsay-Davies suggested the industry would increasingly see the potentially disruptive effects of emerging technologies, with a key challenge being the management of the introduction of 4G mobile data services and the use of ‘White Spaces’ in the UHF spectrum.
He accepted that innovation remained vital and that the DTG recognised the economic and consumer benefits of 4G services. “Because digital switchover was fully funded, many underestimate the challenges of playing around with UHF spectrum. The carefully managed introduction of this new technology is in the best interest of everyone and we call on all stakeholders to manage this process carefully and successfully,” he said.
To this end, he revealed that DTG Testing, the digital television test centre founded by the digital television industry and operated on their behalf by the DTG, had agreed with the Government to use its state-of-the art test centre to simulate the effects of 4G interference on digital television receivers. “As with digital switchover, the results of these tests will be used to inform key decisions regarding the roll-out of this new technology and I am very pleased that DCMS is supporting this important work,” he declared.
Referring to close co-operation with industry, regulators, and Government to introduce new technologies from widescreen, to digital terrestrial television to Freeview HD, and the recent trials of broadcast 3D, Lindsay-Davies suggested the DTG was “expertly placed” to assist with improvements to the way UHF spectrum is used and to ensure the range of industries involved, existing DTT consumers and those wishing to take advantage of new services reap the benefits.
He confirmed that the DTG was already working as part of the Cambridge TV White Spaces Consortium in support of the introduction of a regime for the use of White Spaces in a way that was consistent with continued quality coverage of digital terrestrial television, while maximising the potential benefits to new users and to consumers.
He suggested that new broadcast and broadband ‘connected’ devices entering the market offered a fantastic opportunity for viewers to supplement high-quality broadcast content with a host of on-demand services and other applications, but cautioned that it was critical that the brand reputation of emerging connected television services was not eroded by a poor consumer experience.
Accordingly, he reported that the DTG had worked with its membership to enhance international standards for connected television to ensure that they meet the business requirements of UK service providers, and the high expectations of UK consumers. “The result is a profile, building on standards such as Open IP TV Forum and Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV but introducing the kind of enhanced features you would expect in a pioneering market such as the UK. These will include seamless ad insertion, access to Video on Demand content through traditional broadcast apps such as the programme guide, multiple Digital Rights Management support to ensure the provision of premium content and a richer user interface including HD graphics” he advised .
“The next stage is to achieve true convergence for connected TV by integrating home networking solutions and enabling second screen use of laptops, tablets and mobile phones,” he suggested.
Noting the DTG’s fifteen-year existence, he said that the DTG continued to build on the great British success story of DTT by carefully managing the introduction and coexistence of new and at some times disruptive technologies. “To ensure the UK remains a key player fifteen years from now, we have already begun to work with our membership on exciting new innovations, such as cloud TV, second screen technologies and Ultra high definition television,” he advised, suggesting that digital switchover was the beginning of the digital era and that the industry now had to build on the solid foundation of the “hugely successful” switchover programme and ensure the UK continued to take a leading role in the global development of emerging television technology with the interests of the viewer at the heart of its thinking.