Ofcom’s Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said yesterday that by 2012 Freeview could have up to four universal coverage high definition (HD) channels, and that this was ‘a prize worth aiming for’. The Comment came as part of his IEA broadcasting speech on developing successful regulation to support the future of British Broadcasting. Now, I feel for Ofcom – no really, I do – they, quite possibly correctly, want to have a market based, technology neutral approach to selling off the analogue spectrum come digital switchover, and have a desire not to ‘artificially advantage or disadvantage any one platform’.
But Ofcom (and/or the Government) really need to look at whether or not they want a digital terrestrial platform. Do they want Freeview, and more importantly do they want Freeview to be a substandard service offering little or no HD content? making it a digital second class citizen? If they do Ofcom doesn’t need to worry, if they don’t …
Let’s look at Richards’ comment again. There are five analogue terrestrial broadcasters, but come 2012 up to four of the five (so this is essentially a cap on four), will be able to broadcast in HD. Where does that the leave the one(s) left out?
A ‘prize worth aiming for’ ?? Is there going to a a premium rate phone in for the “prize” by any chance? I’m sorry but if Richards managed to say that line with a straight face then I wouldn’t like to play him a poker. A few sentences before he was stating that: “Of the 7.2 million sets sold in the last year, 41% are high-definition ready and these HD Ready displays are becoming pervasive across the world”. Spot on, and guess what, by the time 2012 rolls on around, or just after, people will expect HD quality to be the norm, not the exception on the digital platform. In many people’s minds digital tv and HD are interlinked and one of the reasons for going digital – a view the government is certainly doing nothing to dispel.
Are Ofcom there to protect to consumer or business? and can they be seen to be protecting the consumer if all 5 terrestrial broadcaster and not guaranteed enough spectrum to broadcast there channel in HD?
Richards’ speech also outlined the challenges Ofcom faced regulating in a converged linear and non-linear market and the question to be asked by the next public service broadcaster (psb) review.