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Freeview will not survive another 16 years

On the 2nd Nov 2036, the television will become 100 years old in the UK. There are several questions that will device if Freeview will be around to celebrate this milestone.

2036  Photograph: Shutterstock
2036 Photograph: Shutterstock
published on UK Free TV

There are several signs that Freeview will be taken off air – and replaced with more 5G-type services – by 2036. 

There are three types of TV channels on Freeview: those without ads provided by the BBC, those provided for advertisers to capture viewers and shopping channels.

All three kinds of channels have been crucial to Freeview (and Freesat), but there are existential threats to all three.


The BBC is not going to make it the end of 2036 in the current form.  There are two possible routes ahead, both of which will mean the end of Freeview.   The BBC could become a subscription service, which would require the content that it produces to be unwatchable to those who do not pay and require a move to a pay-iPlayer.

The second possibility for the BBC is that it will become a “Guardian-like” organization, where the provision of video and audio is paid for by willing supporters, but the rest can access it with  wither adverts or a guilty conscience.  However, such a system is unlikely to be able to support the ongoing costs of old-style broadcasting

The public service ad-companies

On of the successes of Freeview is that ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 continue to produce and provide ongoing quantities of free-to-air high-quality video content.  This means news, drama, soaps, documentaries that get shown on the top page of the EPG.

The problem, for Freeview, here is that it unlikely that the economic conditions that makes these channels a “public service” can continue in the longer-term.  Dwindling audiences for peak-time shows makes the cost-per-viewer rise.    

There will reach a point where the expensive but little-watched shows will disappear, but Ofcom will be faced to pick from 3 to 5 being demoted in the EPG or let these channels show what they want.    These channels will dwindle to best-of (repeats) of their old content.

The non-public service ad channels

Most Freeview channels are just standard ad-funded ones.   This means they show almost entirely content that has been shown elsewhere first.  This may be on another channel (including the BBC ones), on an online service or the TV in the USA.

Most of these channels generate a small amount of new material like Abandoned Engineering on Yesterday or Taskmaster on Dave to provide a shine to the channel which would otherwise be about repeats of repeats of repeats.

The challenge here is that it far more fun to watch these old shows without adverts on Netflix or Britbox, so there will come a time where these channels have so few viewers it makes them uneconomical to run. 

Shopping channels

The concept of a shopping channels verses on online shop is hard to sustain in the long term.   The interactive elements on online shopping will make the shopping channels redundant in the short term.

Reasons for current use

One of the main reasons that people use Freeview (and Freesat) is that there Is no cost to the user at the point of usage.   The BBC channels are funded from the License Fee (and, pre CV19 from overseas sales) but everything else is pay for by the adverts shown.

This is vulnerable to change as TV sets are filled with free-to-access services such as those got by from a Chromecast, Android TV, or Amazon Alexa.  This means that fewer sets are plugged into a TV aerial

One feature of TV has been Event Television where a live event is broadcast to a grateful nation.  This might be a sporting event or a shiny-floor Saturday confection of singing and dancing.   However, such events are part of the online world – this has removed a Unique selling point of Freeview.

 So, Freeview is left with people habit of watching live television.

Freeview HD for everyone

At some point between now and 2036 it will be possible to switch over all of Freeview to the better DVB-T2 system [2].   This will provide several benefits for the Freeview user.   This could be more channels, or better HDTV pictures.  

The savings of about 30% for everyone would make it worthwhile.  This would also allow Freeview to stick HD channels (BBC One HD) on the main channel numbers, rather than in a semi-detached list. 

However, to do this everyone needs to have upgraded their box or TV to one that was created in 2009 or later.

Multiplex license

The renewal dates for the seven main multiplexes are currently [1]:

  • Multiplex BBCA - 31 December 2027
  • Multiplex 2 – 19 December 2022 (twelve years from 20 December 2010)
  • Multiplex A -15 November 2022 (twelve years from 16 November 2010)
  • Multiplex B -15 November 2026 (twelve years from 16 November 2014)
  • Multiplex C - -15 November 2026 (twelve years from 16 November 2014)
  • Mux D - -15 November 2026 (twelve years from 16 November 2014)
  • Multiplex Com7 - longstop date of 30 June 2022



All questions
BBC Three Linear channel re-opens1
Removing all barriers to communication between diverse cultures2
How do I get a test card with Freeview3
What can I do when my Sky Digibox says 'No Signal' or 'Technical fau4
Can I receive UK TV in Ghana?5
In this section
Saorview and the NIMM - Ireland fixes on UK Free TV1
Lake district and Isle of man last to switch off 700MHz Freeview2
Final Freeview retunes to allow 5G mobile at 700MHz listed3
Will I need a filter when the 5G mobile broadband services start in 2020?4
Current Freeview changes make it a little less reliable5

Saturday, 22 August 2020
11:41 AM

Brian..... possibly to the rescue, or demise of all Gods,
it might be noticed that we have become blinkered to all but Bayesian thinking.

Events, dear Boy, .... Events !

Replace Bayes with Covid inspired Watch Out! ... and wachet auf, ruft uns .....

Move away from the ever increasingly fine needle craft, ...
(and that's everywhere)

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Peter's 16 posts GB flag
Sunday, 23 August 2020
6:11 PM

there are several questions that will device??????

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Michaelbiram's 3 posts GB flag
Wednesday, 11 August 2021
Willie Bone

10:48 AM

Let's pretend that nothing will change for the exception of the platform of service delivery for Freeview. That is, replacing the traditional land based transmission kits carrying Freeview with telco owned transmission kits carrying 5G Broadcast. Telco regulations would have to dictate the carriage of 5G Broadcast programming.

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Willie Bone's 57 posts GB flag
Willie's: mapW's Freeview map terrainW's terrain plot wavesW's frequency data W's Freeview Detailed Coverage
Tuesday, 17 August 2021

8:51 PM

Freeview should continue until at least 2034 as all the multiplex licences have been extended until then

Future of channels such as ITV2 and Dave secured as Freeview licences renewed for another decade - GOV.UK

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Chris.SE's 3,697 posts GB flag
Friday, 20 August 2021
Willie Bone

7:59 AM

Chris.SE: I do foresee a gradual phase in of more and more internet based Freeview services as live tv viewing continues to decline over time. The Freeview EPG could gradually transfer over to a front window for Internet protocol service listings, giving a good impression that Freeview could also be a home for 4k-UHD viewing via app access!

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Willie Bone's 57 posts GB flag
Willie's: mapW's Freeview map terrainW's terrain plot wavesW's frequency data W's Freeview Detailed Coverage
Monday, 6 September 2021
10:47 AM

The problem with most Freeview channels is and always has been that there are far too many of them with the smae repeats 24/7 with more frequent and longer advert breaks and promotions taking six minutes or more. I lost the will to live trying to watch the TOUR DE FRANCE on ITV 4 which missed out significant chunks of the race due to adverts. Even MORSE has been heavily edited from the original and fits in the same time slot but with more and longer adverts and is no longer a CENTRAL PRODUCTION plc production for ITV which it was when it first aired but is now made by ITV Productions ot ITV Studios which did not exist in the late 80s and 90s ? This is why BRITBOX and NETFLIX are so popular as they broadcast programmes advert free and try (mainly) to show them in full and in their original content. THey do however have an annoying SKIP INTRO button and squeeze end credits into a tiny box before programmes and films have finished, which is so annoying. THere should be a button to stop this from happening EVER !!

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Spreadsheetpete's 4 posts GB flag
10:58 AM

Much fewer channels in HD would be my preferred option. The BBC waste a tonne of HD repeating the same programmes on BBC TWO HD / BBC ONE HD & the BBC NEWS CHANNEL HD. A total waste of HD as everyone who gets BBC ONE HD & BBC TWO HD can receive the BBC NEWS CHANNEL in HD & SD.

SD should be phased out soon, total waste of money. Just like VHF TV was in the 80s when UHF came in in the mid 60s and colour in 1967 (BBC 2) and 69 (BBC 1 & ITV) on UHF only.

Britbox & Netflix are logo free unlike Amazon Prime sadly (an outrage as you are paying 7.99 a month or 79 a year = 6.66 a month), often without your will or knowledge. They have enrolled me in PRIME eleven times without my permission !!

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Spreadsheetpete's 4 posts GB flag
11:04 AM

Having said that I think your piece is very pessimistic. I think the BBC will end up being funded by out taxes not commercials which is my preferred option. I hate adverts with a passion. EE were offering BRITBOX free for 6 months. I got it free for a year as I could only see it on a computer as HUMAX promised to take it, then changed their mind. I now get it via the very slick and easy to use Amazon Firestick (for a 29.99 one off payment). Supereb quality and no aerial required.

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Spreadsheetpete's 4 posts GB flag
Sunday, 17 October 2021
Keith john Alger
7:24 PM

To be honest, it's already changing. Since the fire at the Bilsdale transmitter, there seems to have been little commitment to restore a RELIABLE service to TEESSIDE. Serving Middlesbrough and the immediate area there is a 3W public service transmitter, where the MUXes available on any one day are pot luck and constant retuning is required. I fully understand that the fire was not predictable, but the response has been completely underwhelming.

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Keith john Alger's 2 posts GB flag
Keith's: mapK's Freeview map terrainK's terrain plot wavesK's frequency data K's Freeview Detailed Coverage

11:06 PM

Keith john Alger:

There has been plenty of commitment by Arqiva, they have had some difficult "hurdles" to over come. I suggest you have a good read of many of the posts on the Bilsdale Freeview Transmitter page and the links within them to dedicated pages from Arqiva and Freeview as well as pages in the local press etc.
That should give you a better understanding of the complexities involved in restoring services.

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Chris.SE's 3,697 posts GB flag
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