back to article Germany's RTL pulls free-to-air channels off terrestrial TV

Germany's largest commercial broadcaster is getting out of broadcasting, on Earth at least, citing spiralling costs and an uncertain future as mobile phone operators grab all the good spectrum. Broadcasting on Germany's terrestrial platform apparently costs "many times" what satellite transmissions do, and with satellite and …

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Big Brother

This is very shortsighted

The People own the spectrum and deserve vibrant free TV in return. No matter how much UHF spectrum you give to mobile, it will never be enough. WiFi is the future of broadband portable, not mobile spectrum.

In the USA our free TV is getting bigger, despite the FCC constant whining about spectrum. The US Gov't is sitting on tons of unused spectrum, as is AT&T. We like our TV without gatekeepers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is very shortsighted

"WiFi is the future of broadband portable, not mobile spectrum."

When even city centre properties are still throttled to 2002 speeds by ancient copper wires, it makes you wonder.

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Coat

Re: This is very shortsighted

"The People own the spectrum and deserve vibrant free TV in return"

Sadly, they usually receive vibrant-free TV instead.. :-|

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ITV leaves Freeview

And not a single fuck was given that day...

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Anonymous Coward

@AC, 15:27

"When even city centre properties are still throttled to 2002 speeds by ancient copper wires, it makes you wonder."

Oh yes, here I am desperately troubled by copper wires, in my town centre property, with my 80Mb down/20Mb up broadband running over...copper wires (for part of the way anyway, but that's no different to cable).

Ironically, the slowest part of my network is my wireless network - my n-capable wireless network, hampered by the 30+ wireless networks I can see around me, all vying for the same space. I'm lucky if I get more than 2Mb most of the time.

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@AC, 18:49

That's nice for you but here I sit in my just outside city centre property with 12Mb down/1Mb up and that's the best I can get. Despite being the city with the largest population in my part of the UK, 30 minutes walk from the city centre and with lots of businesses in the area there's no fibre, no cable and I can't even get the 20Mb broadband I was sold even though I'm less than 1km from the exchange.

And when are BT going to install FTTC? That's anybody's guess because they've been puching the date back 3 months, every 3 months for the last year.

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Re: This is very shortsighted

The main German channels are FtA on satellite and included in basic packages on cable that are often included with rent. Many TV's can receive cable (DVB-C) and satellite (DVB-S2) without needing a set top box. The satellite service is really quite FtA although a (fairly cheap) pay platform was being started for HD a couple of years ago I haven't followed it's progress. It was planned that there would be Conditional Access Modules which can be inserted into European TVs to provide these services without the cost of a set top box.

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Re: ITV leaves Freeview

You beat me to it. Those are my thoughts exactly

"It's like ITV leaving Freeview".....

Except someone noticed

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Exactly

However in Germany Terrestrial TV was kinda dead since the 1990s. Today "broadcast TV" in Germany is mostly free to air satellite rented by the stations. So there is no intermediate.

Terrestrial TV is not economical in Germany as few people use it because there's no foreign TV.

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Re: @AC, 15:27

Move to the 5GHz band then, at least for your laptop/PC usage. Plenty of non-overlapping channels and hardly anyone uses 802.11a/n kit in residential settings. Of course, most smartphones and tablets only do 2.4GHz, but a separate network on channel 13 should do for them.

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what i'd like to know is

How Freesat is getting away with moving channels to the new Astra 4E satellite which has transponders that are very closely focused on the UK when the EU directive...cut and paste...says

The Directive establishes the principle that Member States must ensure freedom of reception and that they may not restrict retransmission on their territory of television programmes from other Member States.

Astra 4d was bad enough but methinks they are getting away with this.

As for all the unofficial Sky subscribers that live in France and Spain, they are going to be well pissed off if Sky follows suit.

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Re: what i'd like to know is

Maybe I'm missing something but I don't see why that directive is relevant?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: what i'd like to know is

The Directive establishes the principle that Member States must ensure freedom of reception and that they may not restrict retransmission on their territory of television programmes from other Member States.

The weasel word in there is "restrict". Nobody's "restricting" retransmission, but then almost nobody's bothering to do it, more's the pity.

Anyhow, as regards those satellites. Do you mean 2D and 2E rather than 4D and 4E? Looking at the footprint maps, the spot beam on the new 2E bird looks much the same as that on 2D, which is obtainable most places in Europe with an appropriately[1] sized dish.

[1] YMMV. Some people do not regard having a 2.1m dish in the back garden as "appropriate"......

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Re: what i'd like to know is

At a quick glance, that directive seems to be more in the other direction, i.e. the UK won't stop others broadcasting into it's territory if they want to.

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Re: what i'd like to know is

oops, yes i meant 2d and 2e.

2f is the new temporary satellite which is also very tightly focused and which 4hd, 5 and various other channels have already moved to.

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Re: what i'd like to know is

Nothing to "get away with". The Télévision sans Frontières" directive forbids member states from preventing citizens from watching any foreign TV that they happen to pick up, i.e. by jamming or banning aerials/dishes. Contrary to popular belief there is nothing in it which requires broadcasters to make their transmissions available even over the whole of their national territory, never mind beyond it.

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Re: what i'd like to know is

"Member States must ensure freedom of reception"..... Thats clearly not happening!

The "restriction" part of it comes into play when you try and access bbc or itv content without a vpn using a UK ip address.

Thats also against the directive.

I guess my point is that RTL is available widely anyway on satellite or cable but that the UK giants are deliberately "restricting freedom of reception" which is supposed to be illegal.

How are they getting away with it is my question?

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Re: what i'd like to know is

"The "restriction" part of it comes into play when you try and access bbc or itv content without a vpn using a UK ip address."

That directive isn't talking about the BBC, ITV or other broadcasters restricting how or to whom their content is broadcast. The directive says that member states must not prevent the retransmission of other member states's TV channels e.g. watching BBC World on a TV in a hotel in Germany.

Luckily for those living away from their home country, there are some other directives and clarifications from the EU regarding rights to access broadcasts in one's native language and to use services via a satellite dish. This allows (within reason) expats to have a dish sized to receive TV from their homeland.

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Re: what i'd like to know is

That clause says that the states (governments) can't stop people broadcasting content from other countries (e.g. jamming or banning ownership of suitable receivers). It does not prevent any commercial organisation cannot decide to target particular territories or that content producers must grant broadcasters full European rights if they grant any rights.

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FAIL

Re: what i'd like to know is

By that argument...

Why are the Austrian (i.e. ORF Astra 1 19.2°E), and Swiss (SRF, TSI, RSI & RTS 13.0°E) Broadcasters then encrypted in Cryptowrks, and Viacces?

Unless I'm much mistaken there's not much difference here between these and say the ARD (Obligatory German PayTV), and say the BBC (Obligatory British PayTV). Other then the fact that the BBC usually has something worth watching on it.

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FAIL

Re: what i'd like to know is

Which well and truly sucks as I can only get these Channels intermittently now, and the Signal is at best very weak. given the times I can receive them. In Frankfurt Germany.

Never had a problem getting those Channels before December last year.

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"It's like ITV leaving Freeview"

So no great loss then...

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Especially since they started trying to get you to sign up with an account so they can charge you for their back catalogue, interlinking the "catchup" and this catalogue so you can't find anything you might want to watch (there are filters, yes, but they didn't work last time I tried). Instead you get drowned in old, unremarkable shows that they are attempting to "monetize".

Perhaps it is a sign of the times for commercial TV - with a bit of luck X-IceFactor-Out-Of-Here will be removed from our view

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@ JetSetJim

You mean removed from your view.

The programs you mention are some of the most popular shows in the country. Are you hoping that other people can't watch them, purely because you prefer not to watch them?

And what's your problem with "commercial TV"? I'm pretty sure that you'll find that all the "commercial" shows that you hate so much have all be quickly copied by the BBC - but funded from their TV tax whether you like it or not.

Commercial TV will die when people stop watching. The BBC has no such concerns due to "the unique way" they are funded.

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Re: @ JetSetJim

You seem to be equating "popular" with "good". While a bunch of these programs in their original form did actually offer some entertainment value, they have since descended in objective to cater to the lower entertainment values - mostly involving mocking disillusioned members of the public/celebrity set and cashing in on premium rate phone number voting systems.

I don't have a problem with commercial TV, nor do I have a problem with the TV license. Good content appears on both and I try and watch it without any adverts at a time that suits me. More good stuff (by my metrics) seems to be churned out by the beeb, IMHO.

The main issue is the increase in capabilities of TV's and media servers means that the whole model of TV is shifting towards on-demand services rather than broadcast. If the broadcast stuff is only there so folks can record it and watch it later, then it makes no sense to broadcast it if the network has capacity to take the load of streaming it.

Lots of caveats, and it's probably more of a long term prediction, but it's the future of entertainment, I reckon. The over-the-air broadcast model is crumbling.

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Re: @ JetSetJim

"You seem to be equating "popular" with "good"."

Erm no, I'm equating "good" with "subjective".

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70s pr0n

RTL used to be great for late night soft pr0n in the early 90s when i was just a wee lad and staying 'round my mate's house who had sky. it was all pr0n from the 70s of course. plenty of bush. oh the bush...

*revels in the memories*

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Anonymous Coward

plenty of bush

But fortunately no Gorbachev.

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Re: plenty of bush

The beauty of that post is that it could be a pun OR a euphemism. For what, I don't (want to) know.

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Broadcast TV is dying anyway, over any service. The fact is that cable, for example, can offer interactive and on-demand TV which DVB-T can't. Sure, YouView would have you believe the opposite but that's basically a cheat using an Internet connection (the DVB-T side of it is entirely inconsequential).

And after DVB-T, DVB-S (satellite) is the next candidate for removal anyway. The one-way nature is on its way out. I no longer wait for scheduled programs to appear on broadcast services. I tell my TV what to watch and watch it (manually or automatically). The stuff on 4oD is some of the best of Channel 4's archives. I'd rather watch that when I like than just about anything they show at the fixed times they've decided upon. Same for even iPlayer. Many's the time I've read about something interesting on BBC and then watched it on iPlayer the next night, 24 hours after it stopped showing.

Gone are the days where we revolve around the TV schedule. My ex-father-in-law talks about the days when Hancock was on TV and all the pubs would empty to go and watch it. Those days are pretty much gone. Now they go TO the pub with a recording of it (whether time-shifted, or whatever) so they don't miss out on either. Or watch it AFTER coming home from the pub, long after it's finished.

Broadcast TV is dead. It's just a question of when everyone notices. Cable can survive because it *can* offer on-demand viewing. The satellite version of the same really relies on huge amounts of bandwidth showing movies at enough staggered times that you can watch at a more convenient time (or some kind of Internet connection anyway). The terrestrial TV could never have coped with it, just by the way the technology works.

I'll be glad when I don't see TV listings published in papers. I give it until my daughter gets to my age, at the outside.

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buy a decent tv, and put a 32gb + mem stick in the USB, and you can record tv programs, by pressing the record button on the remote or scheduling

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and also lets you fastward and rewind live tv

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The evidence is to the contrary

The number of hours people watched "linear TV" was higher in 2011 (latest year for which I can find figures) than ever.

There are an awful lot of people who don't have catch-up/on-demand TV (or even adequate Internet connections) - plenty of older people can't even use an EPG and still rely on the Radio Times to guide their viewing.

And it would be wrong to assume that a lot of TV viewing is elective - much of it is little more than looking at scenery out of the train window.

Linear TV isn't going away any time soon - and if it did, it would pretty much be the end of new programming: people would stick to the archive stuff with recognisable titles. Even broadcast TV isn't going anywhere until cable is more than a metropolitan phenomenon (which, notably, it is in Germany).

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Gone are the days where we revolve around the TV schedule. My ex-father-in-law talks about the days when Hancock was on TV and all the pubs would empty to go and watch it. Those days are pretty much gone.

This is often claimed but as has already been noted it is not backed up by real evidence. It always strikes me as new toy syndrome: this is a relatively new development, but I'm watching more TV this way that I did when it didn't exist or was less convenient, so if follows that some day all my TV viewing will be done this way. It ignores the way people actually watch their televisions.

When people think about the TV programmes they watch they invariably think of the so-called "appointment television" shows - the kind of thing people will go out of their way to watch and keep their diary free to watch. It tends to be a relatively small proportion of people's real viewing. Some of that can be timeshifted, some can't. The rest of the schedule is not things that people actually want to watch but watch because they are on. Those are not going to be timeshifted.

Look at today's prime time schedule for the main British TV channels. Who is going to make a special effort to specifically watch Heir Hunters or Jaguars Born Free on BBC2? Inside Out on BBC1? Cornwall with Caroline Quentin on ITV1? Wild Things on 4? These will all get tens or hundreds of thousands of viewers simply because they happen to be on. In twelves months time few will remember even having watched them.

There's the soaps - Emmerdale, Eastenders and a double dose of Corrie - that people will make an effort to see. Those could be timeshifted but only to a limited extent - people will want to have seen those by tomorrow for those round-the-water-cooler discussions. Similarly, Miranda, Mrs Brown's Boys or Celebrity Big Brother all have loyal followings but again people don't want to miss out on those discussions at work the following day. Then you have the stuff that follows a very definite natural schedule. Do you want to watch a random match from last year's FA cup third round? Or even the lunchtime news at 7pm?

In short, the schedule isn't going anywhere. Just because everything may be available on catch-up doesn't mean that people actually want to watch it.

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Happy

> and also lets you fastward and rewind live tv

Fastforward live TV? That I'd pay for. Especially during the Grand National.

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Re: The evidence is to the contrary

"And it would be wrong to assume that a lot of TV viewing is elective - much of it is little more than looking at scenery out of the train window."

I don't waste a good train journey by "looking at the scenery" I'll have you know. I'm observing the railway and its environs!

Anyway the big advantage with broadcast tv is that you can record it and keep the recording indefinitely. You can't do that with iPlayer unless you record it in analogue on your VCR or use special software.

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I'll be glad when I don't see TV listings published in papers.

I expect the papers might be gone first...

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Pint

@Zmodem - recording TV programs

For some reason I never thought to see if my TV could record via USB, so you prodded me into seeing if it worked. I now have a use for that cheap 2TB drive I picked up in Comet.

Thanks for that. Have one of these:

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Fastforward live TV? That I'd pay for. Especially during the Grand National.

tv`s buffer a set amount of hours that is set in the main menu when a USB stick has been registered, you can pause tv, rewind it, and then fastwarded it, while recording,

they dont record when they are on standby, and most only record the channel your watching

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MJI
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re. the spectacularly refined chap

Actually some of these wallpaper programmes have a lot of viewers.

I like Cornwall with Caroline Quentin as it is filmed in an area I know VERY well (relations and holidays), I never miss Great British Railway Journeys, but never watch soaps

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"And after DVB-T, DVB-S (satellite) is the next candidate for removal anyway. The one-way nature is on its way out. "

One-way makes a lot of sense for scheduled stuff and things that a lot of people want to watch at once (like live events). Even Negroponte made that point 20 years ago (If you read "Being Digital", you should also ready Clifford Stoll's "Silicon Snake Oil")

Multicast would fill some of the holes. but not enough of them - and ISP support for Mbone has been effectively non-existant for years anyway.

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@Lee Dowling

There is a saying about the bandwidth of a station wagon of tapes and I have a similar one for broadcast. "Don't underestimate the delivered bandwidth of 5 million homes all receiving the same broadcast signal." At 5Mbps that would be 25Tbps sustained.

Now those numbers only happen at mass live events - Olympics 100m, World Cup Finals etc. but for anything that gets 1 million viewers (live or recording) is very efficiently served by broadcast. Over time it would make sense to have less but higher quality channels broadcast and using the internet for more niche content (all the crap on Freeview) but broadcast still has life in it for a good while.

And as others say *most* people don't actually use/want on demand. They like having things just there to choose from and not too much choice either. You and I like our On Demand content but to an extent I can sympathize with the majority having spent 30 minutes picking what to watch on Netflix on occasions. You may be right about the next generation, my son barely understands the concept of TV channels and schedules as we just keep a stockpile of things recorded and use Netflix/Lovefilm so it will be interesting but I am not yet convinced that model will die.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Lee Dowling

> At 5Mbps that would be 25Tbps sustained.

Until (if) the broadcasters and ISPs finally get the hang of multicast.

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Unhappy

Re: @Zmodem - recording TV programs

My experience was just the opposite. I chose my Samsung TV because it was supposed to be able to record to USB. The TV's embedded handbook appeared to confirm this, although I couldn't be certain because it's in Korenglish .

After trying a variety of USB devices, both solid state and spinning rust, I contacted the Samsung helpline to find out what I was doing wrong. "Your TV does not have that feature" came the answer.

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Re: @Zmodem - recording TV programs

it says nothing about USB recording at all on my tv, it is not a smart tv using android and capable of plug n play devices

a USB key ring mem stick should work in all tv`s, with a 32gb stick you can have them mini so you never see them sticking out the side of the tv

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Thumb Up

As long as my RTL F1 broadcasts are still FTA

All is good... I can live happy without the dirty feeling of lining Murdoch's evil pockets.

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Boffin

Small problem with satellite

Freesat, as opposed to Freeview, has some channels missing (e.g. Dave). This is apparently because half of western Europe can receive Freesat but only the UK and a bit of Belgium can receive Freeview, hence there are international licensing and royalty issues at stake.

There was the odd thing on the "free to air" channels over Christmas that we couldn't see because we're on satellite (old Sky digiboxes, no subscription).

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Re: Small problem with satellite

I had heard that Sky had the exclusive satellite broadcast rights to UKTV's channels, although the truth is it's probably a bit of both stopping the channels appearing on Freesat. A shame.

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Re: Small problem with satellite

Freesat points at the same satellites as Sky. But some of the satellites have a tighter footprint around the British Isles. It may be that Dave or other channels are just waiting for a slot to free up. Astra is launching more satellites to increase HD capacity but channels still have to wait their turn. Or maybe they're comfortable to be in the Sky package.

Anyway I think Freesat is pretty decent and getting better. Biggest issue is some of the Freesat boxes still have pretty ropey user interfaces.

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