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Ofcom wants four Olympic HD channels

13 March 2008

Greg Bensberg, principal advisor on broadcasting at Ofcom, told last week’s Digital Television Group annual summit that he was confident UK HDTV will be available on the Freeview DTT platform in time for the London Olympics in 2012, writes Richard Dean.

“I can see no reason why London won’t be switched over to digital with up to four HD channels by April 2012, giving plenty of time for people to invest in the relevant products to enjoy the games,” he assured delegates at London’s BAFTA.

London will be the last major area to cut analogue TV broadcasting in 2012, with the Channel Islands completing the digital switchover project in early 2013.

An expert group within DTG (which is due to publish its official response to Ofcom’s Digital Dividend Review within the next few weeks) revealed a separate proposal to operate initially two national single frequency networks (SFN) on Freeview to accommodate eight additional HD channels. If the platform were to migrate totally to HD and SFN, the platform could accommodate up to 40 HD channels, using just 22 frequencies rather than the 32 currently in use.

However the authors acknowledge that this increased capacity would be at the expense of regional opt-outs for both programming and advertising, and will require renegotiation of the 2006 WARC frequency planning agreement signed in Geneva. It may be possible for the UK to discuss moving individual frequencies directly with other member countries, they added.

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