Do you watch more than one BBC or ITV region?
Several people have recently expressed alarm that the digital switchover process may remove their long-standing ability to view more than one regional version of BBC ONE, BBC TWO, itv1 and Channel 4/S4C.
Whilst anyone who switches to digital satellite can choose from any of the BBC and itv1 variations, many people have been using two roof top (and sometimes a single set-top) aerial to provide them with additional viewing choice.
The ITV network has been around since 1955, and has been divided into different regions over the years. Some people have been watching the same company since ITV started - the Border, Grampian, Scottish and Ulster regions. Two other regions have the same company, but have changed size slightly: Anglia and Tyne Tees.
You can find out about your ITV region's history when viewing any of the transmitter details pages on ukfree.tv.
Up until relatively recently, there was considerable difference between the regions, even during the evening peak period. Often neighbouring regions would show different episodes of acquired programming at different times. The strong, local requirements of ITV provided at least several hours a week of local news and documentaries.
The BBC have more-or-less followed the same regional divisions as itv1; the most recent change was making the South East regions separate from London.
There are several reasons given for wanting to watch more than one region, depending upon where in the UK you live.
WalesFor viewers in Wales, there is a language issue. Analogue reception provides four channels that are different from the rest of the UK. BBC ONE Wales and BBC TWO Wales have a large amount of non-network programmes, in English. HTV Wales is almost identical to every other ITV region now, however S4C is provided in place of Channel 4 and is in the Welsh language.
Many non-Welsh speaking viewers in the principality can also watch from neighbouring transmitters, providing a BBC ONE and a BBC TWO with different programmes, and the English language Channel 4 in addition to (or instead of S4C).
In the south this means HTV West for itv1, in the north this is usually Granada. The mountainous central section of Wales does not provide a generous overlap with the itv1 Central area.
As viewers are compelled to convert to Freeview they will find that:
- They will be able to watch both Channel 4 as well as S4C from all transmitters.
- The digital service BBC 2W will replace BBC TWO Wales. This has considerable more Welsh English-language programming than on the analogue service
- Your existing aerials will be able to receive channels from any transmitter you can currently receive from, unless the change in channel numbers requires an upgrade to a wideband aerial.
As Wales will switch over after itv1 WestCountry, those in the south of Wales who watch itv1 WestCountry should be able to start doing this from early 2009. This will also provide the BBC ONE South West and BBC TWO England variations as digital channels (usually on channel numbers starting in the 800s).
However, for those who watch itv1 Granada (in the north) or itv1 HTV West may have to continue to watch BBC ONE North West/West and BBC TWO England for up to twelve months using their existing analogue service until these regions are switched over. This will be for around two years before itv1 Central and BBC ONE Midlands converts to digital.
For those interested in Welsh language programmes from outside Wales, the situation is in effect the same, but with different dates.
ScotlandIn the border area between Scotland and England, viewers have been able to choose from an English and Scottish itv1 from Border television for some years, but aside from half an hour of regional news a day, there is little difference between the itv1 versions.
The BBC provides national (English language) services for Scotland which encompass the itv1 areas for STV, Grampian and the Border (Scotland). These have some differences from the English schedule, but much less than the Wales service.
Those in the itv1 Border area are switching over to digital first. You can continue (for some years) to watch the analogue services from neighbouring areas, and should be able to watch the digital services from these regions as the power of these signals is increased when the analogue services are switched off.
When Scottish viewers transfer from analogue to digital reception, those in the south will find that any receivable neighbouring BBC or itv service will already be broadcasting digitally.
EnglandThe historic differences in the English regions have been obliterated by the mergers of the regional companies into a single ITV, and the only parts of the schedule that remains local is a nightly half-hour of news.
BBC TWO is a national service for England, BBC ONE has an evening news programme based on regions that are similar (but not identical to) those of itv1.
Those living near to the cities that are used as a regional base tend to be well served, those on the borders much less so. Even so, regional news from an adjacent transmitter may be of more interests if you work or have family there.
The BBC and ITV split some of their regions into two or more areas, either with totally different or reprioritised material. Sometimes there is a joint service with several minutes of local opt-out.
On the whole, if you can currently receive more than one BBC ONE region and more than one itv1 region, you will be able to do so via Freeview once the region has switched over. Some people, however, will be forced to buy a new wideband aerial. Exactly who is depends upon Ofcom finalizing the new frequency allocations.
Some people, I am sure, will consider that the large increase in channels provided by Freeview will compensate for any loss of regional news choice.
These BBC and ITV regions are identical:
itv1 WestCountry and BBC South West, itv1 HTV West and BBC West, itv1 HTV Wales and BBC Wales, itv1 London and BBC London, itv1 Granada and BBC North West, ITV UTV and BBC Northern Ireland.
These sub-regions match:
itv1 Meridian Maidstone and BBC South East, ITV1 Meridian Newbury plus BBC Southampton is BBC South (Southampton), itv1 Central (South) is BBC South (Oxford), itv1 Central (East) is BBC East Midlands, itv1 Central (West) is BBC West Midlands, itv1 Anglia (East) is BBC East (Norwich), itv1 Anglia (West) is BBC East (Cambridge), itv1 Yorkshire (Yorkshire) is BBC North (Leeds), itv1 Yorkshire (Lincolnshire) is BBC North (Hull), itv1 TTTV plus itv1 Border (England) is BBC North (Newcastle), itv1 Border (Scotland) plus itv1 STV plus itv1 Grampian is BBC Scotland.