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Freeview to get fifth HD channel, possibly by Christmas 2011

Following successful beta testing by BBC Free to View Limited, Ofcom is inviting the other public service broadcasters: ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, S4C, UTV and STV to apply for the fifth slot.

Following successful beta testing by BBC Free to View Limited,
published on UK Free TV

The BBC have undergone extensive subjective user testing with "a variety of HD content" and have concluded that the new version of the MPEG-4 (H.264) encoding software used for the Freeview HD multiplex can now handle five channels, up from the current four.

The material tested included:

  • A loop of critical Saturday night programming, including very difficult to code sequences from BBC programmes;
  • A combination of different sequences from the other Relevant PSBs;
  • Live content;
  • HD content from the last Olympics;
  • Very hard to code sequences on four and then all five channels.

Ofcom is now satisfied that five HD services can be run on the "BBCB" DVB-T2 multiplex by spring 2012, and possibly before Christmas 2011. This is in line with Ofcom's original plan for Freeview HD.

The possible channels that are currently broadcasting could be one from ITV: ITV2 HD, ITV3 HD, ITV4 HD; one from Channel 4: E4 HD, Film4 HD; one from Channel 5: Channel 5 HD.

The other possible applicants are S4C, which is unlikely given the broadcasters funding crisis, STV and UTV have no broadcasting HD channels.

Most of the above HD channels are under "exclusive" contracts with Sky, with the exception of Film4 HD which is "exclusive" to Virgin Media. Five HD was assessed by the regulators as unsuitable for Freeview HD last year.

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Comments
Monday, 5 September 2011
D
David
sentiment_satisfiedGold

2:13 PM

Interesting, but what about Freesat HD?
Also what about Channel Five HD on Freeview and Freesat won't Sky let them.

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David's 306 posts GB flag
T
trevorjharris
sentiment_satisfiedGold

2:53 PM

Clearly yet another drop in quality and so bad news for Freeview HD. Freeview HD already transmits a substandard 1440x1080 pixels and an even lower bitrate will make things worst. As anyone who has done this sort of testing the testing is totally insuffiecient. HD encoders have just not improved enough to justify 5 channels. In any case they should increase the definition to 1920x1080 first. This would also preclude any 3D on these channels as the side by side 3D does not work at 1440 pixels. All in all this is another case of lowering standards at the BBC leaving SKY to be the prefered choice for quality.

@David

Sky is not forcing Five HD to do anything. Five chose to transmit it's HD as FTV probably because of the low number of Freeview HD viewers partly due to the very limited coverage at the moment.

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trevorjharris's 367 posts GB flag
P
Peter
5:06 PM

@trevorharris

Like a needle stuck in the groove of a record, I was expecting your usual comments about 1920x1090 and 3D...

You've made it quite clear that you do not use Freeview HD and you mainly watch Sky Sports HD on satellite, so why do you have to keep on raising the SAME subjects, and make the SAME comments that very few others on this forum appear to agree with?

I agree that the PQ of current HD is no way like it was when HD first started, but it the BBC (and others) had stayed with 1920x1080 and 19.2 mbit/sec we would only be getting 2 HD channels on a transponder from the BBC and Sky.

Personally I am very pleased that there is going to be another HD channel made available as part of Freeview HD (when it arrives down south).

I appreciate your VIEW that the encoders have not improved enough for 5:1 compression but what DATA do you have to back up this assertion?

Brian - if you count this as being disrespectful, please feel free to delete it.

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Peter's 18 posts GB flag
T
trevorjharris
sentiment_satisfiedGold

5:58 PM

@peter

Your post is not disrespectful and you are certainly entitled to your view. You clearly think the trade off of an extra channel is worth the decrease in quality. One of my concerns is that the BBC uses the Freeview HD quality as a benchmark for satellite so we will probably see a decrease in satellite bit rates as well.

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trevorjharris's 367 posts GB flag
P
Peter
8:13 PM

@trevorjharris

I understand your concerns, but 5:1 has not been implemented on Freeview yet, so perhaps let us see what happens with the encoder improvements are implemented before assuming we will see reduced PQ. Perhaps the BBC are correct in the result of their tests?

Perhaps this increased "squeezing" will allow more HD in the future on satellite as well which may be a good thing?

Just for my background - how do you know that testing done by the BBC is "insufficient"? Do you work in the broadcast television industry?

BTW - I'm personally pleased that this change might preclude 3D (stereoscopic) until they find a way to do it that does't require 2X bit rate in a non-compatible manner as at present. After all 1920x1080 would only give half this (960x1080) to each image and you are complaining about 1440x1080 as being "substandard", so is 3D also "substandard". Do you need 2x1920x1080 (or 3840x1080) transmission to get proper 3D?

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Peter's 18 posts GB flag
T
trevorjharris
sentiment_satisfiedGold

10:52 PM

The BBC claims extensive subjective testing. The first thing to notice is that the range of material is actually rather limited. The BBC made the same claims when they made the massive reduction of bitrate on BBC HD. There was a alot of complaints and photographic evidence that the change produced massive amounts of artifacts. It also turned out that the methodology used by the BBC in subjective tests was very poorly designed. For instance the smallest viewing distance was 4 times the picture height. The ITU recommend 3 times the picture height because that is what is needed for the human eye to resolve 1080 lines. The EBU tests which were more thorough recommended a much higher bitrate. There are other issues in the way the BBC do their tests.

Of course picture quality is subjective and people will differ in what is acceptable. I consider that even the EBU standard is too low.

One of the problems of the BBC's low standard has been that many people cannot see any significant difference between SD and HD for some material and so have been put off of investing in HD.

You are right about 3D hopefully side by side will be a temporary solution. I would prefer something like MVC as used in 3D Blu-ray which only require a 50% increase in bitrate. It is also backward compatable with current 2D HD receivers.

The BBC are also going to waist money on broadcasting some of the Olympics in super high definition for the Japanese. I think that they should get HD right in the UK first.



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trevorjharris's 367 posts GB flag
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Briantist
sentiment_very_satisfiedOwner

6:57 AM

David: There is no link between Freeview and Freesat, if whichever channels wins the Freeview slot wishes to also broadcast on Freesat, that is down to the broadcaster.

Channel 5 was not making a profit when it entered into an "exclusive" deal with Sky for Channel 5 HD, but since being taken over by Northern and Shell the situation has changed.

Given the animosity between N&S and Sky, Channel 5 may well go free-to-air at the end of the "exclusive" period.

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Briantist's 38,910 posts GB flag
D
David
sentiment_satisfiedGold

11:59 AM

Freeview is managed by DTV Services Ltd, a company owned and run by its five shareholders - BBC, BSkyB, Channel 4, ITV and Arqiva.

Freesat jointly owned by ITV and the BBC.

From the 2 respective websites.

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David's 306 posts GB flag
Briantist
sentiment_very_satisfiedOwner

2:00 PM

David: Yes. DTV Services only promote the Freeview service, they do not provide any channels.

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Briantist's 38,910 posts GB flag
Briantist
sentiment_very_satisfiedOwner

2:02 PM

Peter: Yes, good points. I have worked in the industry for many years and most people regard such work done by the BBC as the benchmark.

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Briantist's 38,910 posts GB flag
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