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More questions answered
Brian Butterworth published on UK Free TV
Question I sit and watch an action scene degrade to digital mush as the provider is skimping on the bandwidth. I have no recourse on this. In the future, my ads may be unskippable, events unrecordable, recordings may come with forced expiry and it could be illegal to try and work around any of it. Who will be looking out for the viewer when digital broadcasting becomes compulsory, and will they have any voice?
Answer There are several bodies that could be there to defend the rights of the viewer. Ofcom feels that it place is to create a free-market, and dismisses issues like picture quality and viewer's rights. The BBC Trust should be looking into these issues for licence fee funded channels. Digital UK and the Digital TV group represent the digital switchover companies, not the viewer. The current ideology requires you to make a purchasing choice, which is your only redress.
QuestionThe advent of technologies like the Slingbox from Slingmedia will allow the individual to watch TV from the UK anywhere else in the world over a broadband connection - I could set up my digital TV in the UK and then watch the BBC programme here in Bratislava for instance - what are the implications broadcasters, their broadcasting licences and their revenues?
Answer We asked the BBC, but in a freedom of information response from the BBC, it declined to comment about this saying that "exempt under section 31 (1) (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 ".
Question I have Sky+, but I can't use any of its recording features whilst using a BBC (or other broadcasters') interactive services. Are there any plans to sort this out, such as by giving the interactive feeds channel numbers, like on Freeview?
Answer Changing these services from interactive (and non-recordable) streams to full television services would require a modification of the licence.It would be a great idea to rename channel 301 to BBC Sport - they could even move the sports bulletins from News 24 to this channel.Perhaps they could use any spare time to promote sports for schoolchildren's and Olympic preparations.
Question TV on demand via broadband gets touted a lot nowadays. What will be done for those of us who have already reached the max speed for broadband due to distance limitations? (1mb in my case?)
Answer The restrictions are due to the limitations of using a single pair of copper wires to carry your broadband connection (and telephone wire).You may be able to change to a fibre-optical system later, where the speed is unlimited, or perhaps have it delivered by a high-speed public wireless internet service.
Question When will Sky and the cable companies allow users to install proper digital tuners in their PCs for watching TV? Currently the only option is to use a combination of set top boxes and IR "blasters" which is not only unreliable but also degrades the signal!
Answer It is unlikely because the security of the encryption system they use would be compromised by putting it within a PC. In addition, any such system would have to produce unencrypted, unprotected versions of the output signal which would be (in the company's view) compromise their security systems and agreements with film companies and sports bodies.
Question Why do services like Google Video and more importantly BBC IMP try to impose restrictions beyond those that exist in copyright law or existing TV systems? Aren't viewers, especially those that have already paid for the BBC through the licence fee, better off getting versions free of DRM from unofficial sources?
Answer This is because the broadcasters, TV production and film companies have lobbied parliament to make these new rules. Without any statutory body to defend the rights of consumers, these companies have sought a law and contracts that puts best possible financial exploitation of the consumer for their own gain.Yes, DRM provides no benefits for the consumer whatsoever.
Question In a world where every radio and TV station could conceivably be received anywhere on the Earth, via the internet or satellite technology, will local stations be able to survive? Will their unique services to the community warrant the efforts to keep them alive, in the face of competition from the bigger, more global players?
Answer On the contrary. In the past it has only been possible for TV and radio stations to define themselves by their transmitter regions. These fail to follow national or regional borders, and have left little room for true local TV.It should be possible to deliver true local news and information over the internet, either by the global corporations or by a community organization.
Question In the Isle of Man, although our Island is a separate country from the UK, we still pay the same TV licence fee as people in the UK. We do not, however, receive the same level of service as people in the UK. Nor do we receive the same level of service as those people in Guernsey and Jersey, who have their own radio station provided by the BBC whereas the Isle of Man does not. We do not have access to Freeview channels, or digital radio. We pay the same licence fee, will we eventually get the same level of service as UK citizens?
Answer This is a decision for the Isle of Man parliament.
Question We cannot get digital at the moment without changing our aerial which we cannot do as we are in a listed building. Even with a changed aerial plus boosters, a friend 2 miles nearer the transmitter says they switch back to analogue because the reception it is better. Will the coverage be improved before the switch?
AnswerThe power of the digital transmissions will be increased significantly when digital switchover starts.
Question Why should the licence fee payer have to pay all the costs of helps schemes and communications when the Government will pocket massive proceeds (at least ?5bn) from the spectrum released through switchover.
Answer Because it's a new Labour policy that treasury benefits from the switchover process, not the viewer and certainly not the BBC.
Question I get my digital TV service from ntl, and have recently received their 'On Demand' service that allows me to watch movies and the best of the week's BBC TV when I want. Some of my friends live outside of a cable area and I wondered if this sort of service will be available nationwide by 2012?
Answer On Demand services are only possible over cable TV networks or using a internet system. Neither digital satellite nor Freeview will be able to provide this system, so it will only be available to those with cable or a broadband internet connection. However, a PVR can provide a similar service
Question What does Sky think about the ever increasing availability of good quality free premier league streaming over the internet? Because of broadband streaming is now of a much higher quality making it comparable to watching a small television. Are their any plans to offer a legal internet based service when the new contract is negotiated?
Answer Sky and the Premier League expect to make millions of pounds of profit from these kind of services, and therefore will not be providing them for free.
Question What is the real fate of Internet TV ? Is an I-TV transmission watched simultaneously by millions going to be feasible in near future? The SD signal in already lossy MPEG4 format takes up to 3Mb/s of a bandwidth. Imagine a mere million of viewers scattered around the world and across a plethora of ISPs each one of them sucking 3Mb/s at the same time from the same source. It's a whopping 3Tb/s of upload. Does it sound doable at all considering existing technology and infrastructure of the networks?
Answer Both IPTV and persistent peer-to-peer file sharing provide convenient solutions to this problem. Also Moore's law will always be at work, reducing the prices of transmission systems by half every 18 months.
Question Is the timetable for switch off of analogue radio signals the same as that for analogue TV, and will the bitrate/sound quality issue be resolved before of after the switchoff has occurred?
Answer Analogue radio will survive until after digital television switchover, until which there will be no frequencies to increase the quality or number of services from the BBC or other suppliers.It is unlikely that Ofcom will supply bandwidth just to increase the quality of the services, because it places consumer choice above quality of service.
Question Why is the bandwidth of the terrestrial digital channels lower than that of their equivalent analogue counterparts (after decompression)? Why do the terrestrial broadcasters chop the top and bottom off the original 4:3 aspect ratio images to create an illusion of 'widescreen'. Is this done to reduce the data rate and consequently reduce the compression artefacts in the digital transmission?
Answer The analogue transmitters are fed from a "motion JPEG" digital system that is around 8MB/s.When a programme is produced in widescreen format (as most are these days), the programme is broadcast is 14:9 ratio on analogue television (with small bars at the top and bottom of the screen), but in full 16:9 on Freeview, digital satellite and digital cable.The use of MPEG-2 for these transmissions takes the full 16:9 picture without any "black bars".
Question I have been asking questions of the BBC, my MP and others for about 2 years: Digital Reception FAILS in certain weather conditions, whilst analogue and FM radio may become snowy or hissy they have never failed to be watchable or audible. Whilst there are "benefits" in digital in terms of quality and interactivity it is in my opinion inferior since reception is not guaranteed. I strongly suspect that in a few years we will have to "pay to view/listen", achievable for digital broadcasts but not so for FM and analogue... Just another tax.
Answer The nature of the digital system - a bit stream that multiplexes together audio and television pictures for many sources - requires perfect reception of this digital information to provide uninterrupted viewing and audio.As the power of Freeview signals will be improved at digital switchover, reception problems for the majority will be reduced.
Question DAB claims to have more radio stations, but where I live I can pick up stations from as far as Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire, Cheshire and Staffordshire. Will I still be able to pick up the 20 or so radio stations which aren't for my region through DAB?
Answer DAB is broadcast using a network of local transmitters. If you can receive a signal for these transmitters, then you can listen to the service. The larger your FM aerial and the higher it is positioned, the more stations you can choose from.
Question For all the early promises about DAB radio, its sound quality does not come close to that of FM. Accepting the fact that in any response to criticism of DAB quality the BBC invariably fudges the answer by mixing reception quality and audio quality, can you state whether BBC digital radio audio quality will ever be allowed to match that provided by FM?
Answer FM radio uses a form of audio compression that also distorts the signal. This is different from the data compression techniques that allow many radio channels to be carried on the same frequency as a single FM radio station. Until these FM transmissions are turned off these is no frequency that can be used to improve the bandwidth, and hence the quality of DAB transmissions.
Question When I watch a DVD on my PC monitor, the picture is superb - even when viewed from short distance. Will HDTV be as good?
Answer Actually you DVDs are at the same quality as standard Freeview or digital satellite - around 720x572. HDTV pictures have at least four times more pixels and will be far superior to anything you have watched on DVD on the PC.If you want these quality pictures from a television, choose a HD-ready one with a DVI input!
Question Many people are sure to find the switch-over to digital TV confusing, unnecessary and expensive - how can the Government and TV industry justify switching off the analogue signal?
Answer It is government policy to make as much money from the tax-paying public by making them pay for resources that they already own.
Question If the BBC music and film archive was built up using the licence fee, when will it become available for download? What are the reasons behind not offering it to the British public who have effectively paid for it?
Answer Those people at the BBC regard this archive as a cash-cow for those performers who created them in the first place.
Question When will HDTV be introduced to digital services, will I need a new decoder to receive and use HD, and if so, how much would he receiver cost?
Answer Yes. New decoders will start at around ?300.
Question What do you expect the effect of the BBC IMP (that will allow downloading of BBC programmes up to a week after broadcast) will be on commercial broadcasters? Can we expect a similar advertising funded totally free service from the other broadcasters, or do you think that the current ridiculously overcharging (about ?1) to download (from a currently limited selection of) already aired programmes or short "specials" to remain?
Answer Commercial broadcasters are in a different position, because their programmes are not pre-paid by the licence-fee payer.The non-BBC broadcasters are required by their shareholders to make as much profit from their programmes as possible.
Question Traditional broadcast media is usually governed by a geographical copyright e.g. a broadcaster buys the rights to show a movie in the UK only. Given that digital media respects no such boundaries are there any plans to move towards a subscription based copyright model which would allow people to (legitimately) access broadcasts from abroad?
Answer The EU Television without Frontiers directive already directs that there is a single market for TV rights in the EU.However the companies that make huge profits from denying this principle, and have used national contractual laws to undermine this directive.
Question Personal Video Recorders (PVR) systems have always been prevented from employing systems to automatically skip or not record adverts by media companies. The reason cited for product placement in TV programmes is because PVRs make it a lot easier for a viewer to "fast forward" through the advertisements. Now that product placement is to be allowed in the UK shouldn't we have the choice to buy technology that skips adverts? Are media/advertising companies having their cake and eating it to the detriment of the general public as usual?
Answer Yes. Product placement will simply add to the "most toxic advertising environment ever devised" and has been pushed though by Ofcom. Ofcom represents the interests of the broadcaster, not the consumer, so was easily bounced by the (small proportion of) PVR owners which acted quite legally in skipping the adverts.
Question Regarding Interactive services: Will there ever be one standard software application for the running and access of Interactive services across all the Digital TV platforms (ie Cable, Freeview and Satellite), eventually?
Answer Because of the difference between cable TV (with a return path) and Freeview/satellite (which is just broadcast) it is hard for a single standard across all platforms. BSkyB has made a considerable investment in the open-tv standard (which is not a open-standard), and is unlikely to change.
Question As part of the "ex-pat" community, I would warmly welcome the chance of being able to keep closely in touch with my cultural roots. I and many others of my ilk worldwide would love to take advantage of any opportunity to benefit from English television programmes. Pay-per-view via the internet appears to be a very viable option and would be revenue generating for the industry and open to the international community as a whole. Are there any plans afoot to provide such a service and how long before it is made available?
Answer The BBC is planning to make you pay thought the nose to have these services.
Question I want to know what Sky doesn't allow Freesat customers to watch the same channels as Freeview? Especially when those who cannot get Freeview will then have to pay for the same channels which are free on Freeview.
Answer This is because of the "encryption contracts" that BSkyB has forced on broadcasters. It is part of this contract that if a broadcaster wants to have one or more subscription channels, then they MUST place all their channels in this subscription system. BSkyB forbids broadcasters' access to their EPG for free channels if they have an encryption contract.
Question Despite living in one of the major towns in the south-east, according to the postcode checker I am still not in an area covered by Freeview. What is being done to ensure all major towns and cities are covered?
Answer At digital switchover three of the analogue TV frequencies will be changed to Freeview transmission. This will provide people in areas such as yours with around half of the full Freeview service.
Question I have never owned a TV and I don't have one now because I have no interest in watching television. My main concern is that as I own a computer and use the internet for study and shopping, I will one day have to pay for a licence.Is it really true that due to digital transforming, people who never watch TV will have to pay licence fees? Will computers need any modifications to watch online programmes and is it possible to use a computer online that will not receive digital programmes?
Answer Not without a change to the law. You don't require a valid TV licence to listen to the radio or use the BBC's existing online services.
Question My boyfriend and I have invested in a top of the range HD LCD screen especially for this year's World Cup - so I'm desperate to find out if the BBC and ITV coverage will be in high def, and if so how will I get it?? I've tried calling various TV companies but no one can give me any information.
Answer The BBC will be broadcasting its HDTV World cup services on a test Freeview transmission in London and from the Astra 2 satellites. You can buy a satellite box from Sky for around ?300 without a subscription to watch these games.
Question When HDTV comes out, I'm told that we will have to have TV sets which support HDCP (Copy protection) or we won't be able to watch. What's the point of this? If I record an HDTV programme, will I be able to watch it on a different TV? Will I be able to record my camcorder onto DVD-Rs and play them? I just don't see the point.
Answer The copy protection system simply allows the TV to be fed with a signal that cannot easily be recorded and redistributed.Your existing rights under the Copyrights and Patent Acts 1988 (as amended) will be violated.
Question As a British expat living abroad (Moscow)? will I be able to stream BBC or other British TV to Moscow by the Internet and so escape the banal and costly cable TV available here? I believe that many of us would be happy to pay a fee to receive such a service.
Question When High Definition (HD) television is launched later this year, will I need to buy a HD digital receiver and a HD ready TV to enjoy the service? If so, what will be the estimated cost?
Answer Yes. You will require a TV with a DVI (or similar input), capable of HDTV resolution. The satellite HD receivers are around ?300, but there are no Freeview versions on the market as yet.
Question Are we going to be dogged by Digital Rights Management for TV recordings in the future? The music industry is already cracking down on what we can do with our purchased music files... will there be a similar fate for PVR's? (Personal Video Recorder).
Answer Yes. DRM will violate your basic rights to record and playback television programmes as you see fit. This will be done to squeeze as much money out of the public as is possible.PVRs are fed from Freeview or digital satellite, and already use DRM for their content when required.
Question As purely a listening medium it is difficult to see where radio can improve beyond the excellent digital quality available at present. Can we expect any sea changes to the listening experience in the next 10 years? Is there any potential in exploring interactivity with the listener?
Answer DAB radio is still a broadcast system - a few broadcasters with millions of listeners. It is unlucky that it will become interactive itself, but may merge with mobile telephones at some point.
Question Will Sky be offering a system where programmes will be available on demand? I love Sky+ but find it really annoying when I miss programmes due to technical faults or power cuts, also sometimes there are more than 2 programmes on that I want to watch! Is the soon to be BT system going to really do this, and will the coverage of programmes be extensive or quite limited?
Answer Sky+ (and other personal video recorders) record from the many schedule broadcasts on digital satelite or from Freeview. True on-demand systems can instantly access (via the internet, IPTV or cable TV) file servers and downloaded whatever content you like. If you want more than 2 programmes, you might like to consider a Freeview PVR too.
Question Most people have about 3 television sets. The second and third sets are mainly portable TVs picking up signals via a portable aerial. These sets will become useless unless people invest in a set top box for each TV.My concern is that portable aerials are not able to pick up the digital signal. How do you propose to overcome this problem because I have found that the signal quality differs from room to room.
Answer You should really use a roof-top aerial for Freeview reception, because a portable TV will be very unsuitable. The best solution is to run in an inexpensive RF cable from your main set to provide a stable Freeview signal to the portable TV.At digital switchover the power of the Freeview signals will be increased and this will provide a portable aerial a better chance of getting Freeview reception.
Question Will the BBC still be able to justify its tax aka licence fee in the future if its shown that its audience share is diminished significantly by the abundance of new channels funded commercially?
Answer The BBC will point to the reach of their programming - the total number of people viewing - rather than a share percentage. This is because share is more important to advertisers (it relates to the number of eyeballs they are buying) rather than the service to the licence-fee payer.
Question Will the way we record television ratings change?
Answer Digital technology will allow them to become more accurate.
Question Are there any plans to abolish the TV licence and make the BBC compete for viewers in an open market like all of their competitors? Do you believe that people will be more willing to invest in new digital technology when this unfair and unjust tax on television is abolished?
Answer The BBC is specifically designed to not compete for viewers as commercial broadcasters have. If the BBC was transferred to the commercial sector it would be a massive player and distort the existing balanced market.Commercial broadcasters existing to service their advertisers, not the viewers. Also the licence fee is a massively efficient and transparent way of collecting the revenue to provide the TV, radio and online services compared with the premium added to most products you buy to pay for them to be advertised to you in the first place.
Question At present I'm told that digital radio runs approx seven seconds slower than analogue making it impossible to give an accurate time reading with news etc. Is there any plans to change that?
AnswerBecause of the digital data compression techniques there is a different delay to analogue services. Digital satellite has the most delay, then Freeview and then DAB. It is feasible for the broadcaster to introduce a delay into each system to synchronise them together.
Question Why pay for a TV licence when non-UK residents can access live TV via internet or mobile phone? Specifically Eire which has always had this option and most of northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. How can it be managed if users can be anywhere in the world, ie a UK PC user in India?
Answer There is currently a bi-directional trust with the BBC: the corporation trusts you to pay the licence fee, and you trust the BBC to make decent programmes that you want to watch or listen to. If you wish to view without contributing then you violate that trust.
Question Digital radios are heavily advertised as the latest gadget to have and that the quality of sound is an improvement over FM.However, what is not revealed is that in some cases digital radio reception is worst than FM. This is certainly the case where we live. We have a digital radio but we can't get half the digital stations. Of those we do get we can only receive them when the radio is in the upstairs rooms and even then some e.g. Radio Two get severe interference.What is the industry doing to ensure: that areas such as mine get the reception that is promised in the advertising; how long is it going to take and; given the cost of digital radios make it clearer that there are problems (in some areas) with reception. I only found out after reading the literature that came with the radio and logging on to the web site.
Answer Your ability to receive television and radio signals will vary from place to place within the UK. This has always been the case. As the digital transmission signals use the same physical transmission signals, they provide little extra benefit if terms of reception areas.Because most advertising is national (or sometimes regional) it is impracticable to restrict advertisements for these new services as they are patchy across the whole of the UK.You have a choice when launching DAB radio services, you can provide more sound quality or increase the number of channels broadcast.
Question Once the UK goes 100% digital in terms of television, will the freeing up of BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five on Freeview offer more space for more channels, if so, roughly how many?
Answer After switchover the number of channels will be restricted to three multiplexes for many people, but it will be possible to add more. See....
Question Hi, I would like to know when we can expect to see an HDTV service launching in the UK and what channels will be available?
Answer The BBC will have a test service running this summer providing selected programming from BBC ONE and TWO.
Question What do you think of the plans to release the new Wi-fi radio?
Answer Listening to the radio is popular on the internet, Freeview, digital satellite and cable as well as DAB, so a wifi radio can only be success.
Question Regarding Freeview: When the analogue transmission ceases, will these channels (radio spectrum) be used for more digital channels or will the government sell it off to the highest bidder for any (non-TV) use?
Answer The government plans to sell these channels for non-television use.
Question Will HD TV have subtitles for the deaf?
Question What provisions are being made for high-definition content to be delivered with digital TV and when will we start to see it?
Answer Some BBC programmes have already been recorded in high-definition formats (Bleak House, Rome and The Planets). There is no practicable advantage to transmitting archive programme this way, unless it was originally recorded using film.
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