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back to article Freeview telly channels face £240m-A-YEAR shakedown by Ofcom

Freeview broadcasters in the UK face annual fees that could add £240m a year to Blighty's coffers by 2020. Ofcom wants to, effectively, charge telly stations every 12 months to transmit over the airwaves, just like mobile phone networks must regularly cough up cash to continue using their licensed radio frequencies for chatter …

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jxp
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Wrong in so many ways

Freeview space is already over-used. We need the space to be used less efficiently to give better picture quality.

The high costs of entry to Freeview already encourage channels to be as profitable as possible. Hence why "niche" channels don't last long before moving towards more general entertainment to get more viewers.

The most financially efficient usage of the space is probably shopping channels and we don't need any more of them.

It would also be nice if programme makers didn't have to sacrifice £200M of their budget to the government.

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Re: Wrong in so many ways

Why do we want better picture quality? I hate to break it to you, but having a better shot of the eastenders map isnt going to make the show any more entertaining.

Efficient is a user defined term in this case.

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Mass broadcast is efficient

Broadcast is massively efficient if you look at the bits delivered rather than those transmitted. 3 million people watching the same 4Mbps stream is 12Tbps. Admittedly broadcasting QVC to twenty people nationwide is a lot less efficient.

Maybe channels that could show public service benefit (including entertainment of sufficient numbers or of otherwise under served communities) could be given exemptions.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wrong in so many ways

I hate to break this to you but I'd rather have better picture quality when I'm watching something on my HDTV than the ability for some kid to make a twat of himself on Facebook and upload it quicker using bandwidth meant for my TV!

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Windows

Re: Mass broadcast is efficient

"Maybe channels that could show public service benefit ... could be given exemptions."

Maybe the BBC could be given an exemption. After all, any increase of expenditure in THIS fashion will simply be offset by an increase in license fee, thus people who actually are not 'entertained' by them wont be forced to pay more for the privilege of not watching their rubbish.

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Mushroom

So the net effect of this is...

....that even if there *is* broadcast TV after this charge is imposed, we won't be able to receive it on our existing kit, forcing us to throw out anything with a freeview receiver built into it to replace them with other boxes to do exactly the same at our expense. Sod the £200m p.a. charge, Ofcom's plan will force all of us to pay for it, chucking out our tellies, DVRs, freeview boxes, freeview enabled disc player/recorders of whatever flavour just so they can show a nice little earner to the treasury. Ofcom truly are useless bastards.

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Unhappy

Re: So the net effect of this is...

"Ofcom truly are useless bastards."

This is what happens when the prime minister of the day (Blair) regards leadership of OFCOM as simply a six figure sinecure to be gifted to one of his favourites. And what we got was Ed Richards, Blair's policy advisor, who has a degree in economics, and stuff all real world managerial or technical experience that I can see.

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Re: So the net effect of this is...

"....that even if there *is* broadcast TV after this charge is imposed, we won't be able to receive it on our existing kit"

Eh? The proposal is about narrowing the broadcast channel range, not moving freeview into new spectrum.

If you don't have DVB-T2 kit by now, then yes, you'll need to upgrade. Even the non-HD multiplexes will move to T2, simply because it has a lower bitrate for any given quality.

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Anonymous Coward

TVcatchup

I bet the CEO at TVcatchup is laughing his cock off now saying I told you so.

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FAIL

what a useless shower

Some of us only were able to receive Freeview a few months ago. So to scrap it in 2018, leaving us with only 6 years of decent service is truly truly pathetic. What was the point in all thge hassle with the digital switchover, all the masses of money spent giving pensioners free Freeview boxes for such a pathetic lifespan?

I think a few MPs need to get their act together and give Ofcom a damn good kicking up the arse over this one. TV should be accessible to all, and terrestrial is the most accessible as is easy to deploy on multiple TVs in a household without requiring complex satellite set-ups.

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Paris Hilton

Re: what a useless shower

<Checks Wikipedia>

405 Line VHF TV: 1936-1985 = 50 years

625 Line UHF TV: 1964-2012 = 48 years

DVB-T UHF TV: 1998-?

(Those are the first and last dates, as you say some people would have had Freeview a lot less time)

Yes - not very impressive...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: what a useless shower

1998-2006 although many boxes had problems with the 2k/8k changes and large channel maps before then. It was then replaced with DVB-T2 which is now needed in the UK for HD channels.

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Re: what a useless shower

An ITV digital box purchased in 1998 will not work any more.

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Stop

Re: what a useless shower

After 15 years don't you think you've got your monies worth out of it?

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It's about time to make aa big decision. Do we keep pissing about with small measures every few years or make a big decision which will make quite a few people upset in the short term but makes more sense in the long term.

Shift all TV to IP using multicast over ftth and for those that want mobile TV (many genuine uses from caravans to mobile phones) can using mobile data (or sat in some cases) over the shedload of frequency freed up. Yes it would mean problems with a lot of equipment being useless, but many stb's get scrapped after less than 10 years anyway for one reason or another, be it freeview, cable or sky. I realise it's not popular, but I do see some sense in at least discussing a bigger, more long term solution rather than little fudges here and there that will be changed every few years anyway.

Mobile data use is exploding, home data use is. If we want BT to foot the bill for a national ftth network then they need assurances they can make their money back (fair is fair, and ofcom ain't), otherwise the gov't needs to fund it (way less efficent), the additional mobile capacity should help lower mobile data costs, assuming the gov't compensates folks for old kit pretty much everyone wins and we don't need new boxes every 5 to 10 years or it's combined with pc or smart tv upgrades.

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jxp

I think this is the right solution, long term. However to be viable you need to match the Freeview coverage requirements.

First we need a plan to get 98% of the population on 3Mb+ (the minimum for a good IP TV experience)

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This is TV you're talking about: 98% population coverage is not enough, politically.

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If it was structured correctly you could probably get darn close to 100% coverage using mobile or satellite to fill the gaps. The biggest issue with mobile for that is national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty where masts (but apparently not foreign military bases & huge ass radar installations) are verboten or highly restricted.

3-5mbps using lte with a shedload of spectrum, especially with fixed installations in houses with the potential to use boosters \ directional aerials \ link aggregation etc should be possible for nearly everyone and would finally get us off the merry go round of shuffling shit about a bit at a time. The vast majority of homes could have 50-1000mbps and a mobile service with decent coverage and 20-40mbps over most areas. That should be good enough for a while and most home installations shouldn't have an issue with 4k streaming.

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Mushroom

IPTV is complementary.

IP can NEVER EVER replace LW, MW, SW, FM & UHF TV broadcast. No portability. Needs massive infrastructure and costs more the more people listen/view. The Broadcast systems allow portability, user operation on almost no power, and minimal infrastructure.

Streaming on IP (via coax/Fibre) is complementary to Radio Broadcast.

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Re: IPTV is complementary.

If Amount BBC prepared to pay for xMHz bandwidth < Amount cell phone company prepared to pay:

Bandwidth will be given (sold) to cell phone company

/* screw the listeners/viewers */

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re: 98% of the population on 3Mb+

That's easy, just check the other reg story - Offcom can double the speed of ADSL overnight with just a minor edit to a report. All it needs to do is repeat this a few times and we have all the bandwidth we need.

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FAIL

Re: IPTV is complementary.

Absolutely! And also way inferior reliability.

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Re: IPTV is complementary.

Did you read my post? Ever watch netflix on your mobile? Ever seen a caravan with a sat dish? Not portable my arse!

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Freesat isn't going away

And it's available to 99.9% of the population alread. Uptake percentages are another matter.

Broadcast is highly efficient when done properly. Losing it entirely would be rather silly.

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Radio wave broadcast is still more efficient than broadcast over cable. Cable is only going to win if its already there.

IPTV is interesting because it lowers the barriers to entry - a trade-off against scalability/efficiency of broadcast. This allows Google to get video on screens without dealing with the regulatory issues associated with radio-wave networks.

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Re: IPTV is complementary. @Rampant Spaniel

Yes I did read your post. The problem is just because something is technically possible doesn't mean that it is sensible.

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Re: IPTV is complementary. @Rampant Spaniel

So all those folks with satellite dishes on caravans aren't sensible? :)

You are saying it is more sensible to have to completely different broadcast networks, one of which is stupidly ugly, rather than just use what we already have and is already capable to doing the job. Multicast is already out there, a raspberry pi is perfectly capable of decoding the streams, the only slight issue with is in areas the last mile capacity isn't there. This could easily be addressed by selling off the liberated spectrum and allowing BT some assurances that it could recoup the cost of a national ftth network. Where it is more economically sound to use fiber they can, where it isn't they can use mobile. Even LTE, given a reasonable amount of spectrum could easily deliver significantly faster broadband than most have today. We already use netflix which has to be one of the least efficent methods of delivering programing, multicast would be significantly more efficient for landlines and leave streaming for on demand and mobile.

For sure I agree in the immediate term it makes less sense, as it's a big change. But you seriously cannot see any logic in making one big change now, one in reality we should have made 10 years ago anyway, as opposed to making tweaks every few years leaving folks needing new equipment each time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: IPTV is complementary. @Rampant Spaniel

Using mobile phones to watch Netflix is heavily impractical for obvious reasons and perhaps less obvious reasons too.

Data caps anyone?

Besides, a caravan with a satellite dish is still more viable than mobile TV which is an oxymoron at best.

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Will no-one rid us of these jerks with spreadsheets?

Will no-one rid us of these jerks with spreadsheets?

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Stop

There is no incentive if the technology is mandated

Firstly, there are six national multiplexes, not five. There are five SD multiplexes and one HD. At the moment. Ofcom are running a competitive process to launch two new ones.

The idea of the incentive pricing is to encourage the spectrum to be used efficiently. However, there is no point applying an additional tax if the broadcasters' hands are tied on becoming more 'efficient'. The spectrum plan and technology for Freeview was set in stone by government: the public service broadcasters had to achieve 98.5% population coverage, the BBC had to free up its second multiplex to convert it to HD mode, the majority of viewers had to be able to use existing aerials fitted for analogue reception, and we had to fit into the internationally-co-ordinated frequency plans. That really meant a requirement to use the 64QAM, FEC 2/3, 1/32 guard interval mode that the BBC and ITV/C4 are using. If they change that mode, to get more capacity and become more efficient, coverage will be reduced. The limits of what can be crammed into the 24 Mbps available have been pretty much reached, without reducing quality any further. There are already criticisms from many viewers that many channels are unacceptably low-quality, running 16:9 broadcasts at a resolution intended only for 4:3 pictures (544 x 576 pixels) and at a low enough bitrate to prevent the normal smoothing of macroblock edges to work properly.

The HD technology - DVB-T2 and AVC/H.264 encoding - can also be used for SD services, but are only viewable on Freeview HD receivers. The majority of viewers don't have one. The two new multiplexes - to run in this mode, and give four or five extra HD channels on each - are intended as an additional incentive for viewers to go and buy a new receiver. If a majority of viewers haven't done that, it won't be politically acceptable to turn off DVB-T/MPEG-2 support, and that will make the release of 700 MHz very difficult as there really isn't space for six national multiplexes in what remains. Viewers will be seriously angry if they lose services due to this - as it is, there are many people upset by the fact that they can't get three of those multiplexes if their local relay is PSB-only.

It won't be politically acceptable as people will expect the government to fund replacement equipment. For switchover, enough people had voluntarily switched that the government could get away with only subsidising equipment for pensioners over 75, the disabled, and other groups on long-term welfare. It was funded by increasing and top-slicing the TV licence fee, but only by a small amount as so few people were covered.

Meanwhile, the mobile phone networks are now running three generations of technology concurrently, with no end date for 2G announced or even considered. Phone still rely heavily on the 2G network for basic communications, as the promises of 3G coverage were broken and eventually the coverage requirements have been removed. O2's block of 800 MHz spectrum comes with coverage obligations - 90% of the population, if I recall - but the rest of the recent 4G auction has no obligations attached at all. It's still unclear if Voice-over-LTE even works, making voice services still dependent on 2G in much of the country.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: There is no incentive if the technology is mandated

"Firstly, there are six national multiplexes, not five. There are five SD multiplexes and one HD. At the moment. "

Yes, you're right. God dammit, I hate it when this sort of thing happens. Can I make another plea for people to drop us an email via the corrections button; if you post in the comments, we may not get time to see it and it'll never get fixed.

C.

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Freeview is a public service

While I see the use in charging money for bandwidth that a service should vacate, I don't see the purpose of charging money for bandwidth that they have every right to be in. Or that is being used to provide a public service. Maybe these broadcasters should demand the difference as additional funding so that the books perversely balance themselves even though the money shouldn't have been charged in the first place.

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jxp

Re: Freeview is a public service

You are of course talking about a government (and certainly not the first) that has long since given up on the concept of public service.

All that matters now are budgets and targets (and maybe the occasional back-hander now/job later on). The public and the benefit of society be damned.

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Re: Freeview is a public service

BBC (and part of Channel 4) are a public service. QVC less so.

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Re: Freeview is a public service

If its a public service, why are the likes of ITV profiting off it?

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Holmes

@ jxp - Re: Freeview is a public service

jxp wrote :- "You are of course talking about a government (and certainly not the first) that has long since given up on the concept of public service. All that matters now are budgets..".

That is what people have voted for since the 1980's. Ever since then the main political parties have been in a pissing contest of reducing income tax. They discovered that is the main (or only) vote winner - partly self fulfilling since they made tax cuts the main talking point in elections. That has left very little money for "public service".

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Anonymous Coward

Why not just cram it all onto one mux, maybe on VHF so we all have to change our settop boxes and then we can all watch 'HD' images at one frame per hour that are the size of an 1840's postage stamp.and maybve even the same colour.

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plus ca change

parodied perfectly in the Terry Pratchett book 'Johnny and the dead'.

Putting forward a plan which shows someone would pay a large price for something which is currently generating no (or little) revenue it is then a short step to show that the current system is losing the country money and must change. In the book it was the decision that a graveyard could be redefined as an area of high value real estate if a change of use was permitted. The problem is that if you do not set a value on something then it is worthless but if you do then you are at risk that someone will offer a higher figure.

No matter how you define these things, some bean counter can always be relied upon to look no further than the raw numbers.

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Thumb Up

Re: plus ca change

Workers of the world unit!

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jxp says 3Mb is enough for iptv ... I have more than that and it isn't ... I don't care what the negotiated figure is, or the 'potential' figure but as soon as there is a slight hiccup my reception pauses ... and of course if there's someone watching a different channel upstairs and I want to record something else forget it. Then we're into having to download and store programmes as required ... play them on whatever player the broadcaster decides as the player will have to implement whatever auto-removal timebomb the broadcaster specifies and whatever pay-per-view system they use.

I said several years ago the aim of the government's 'internet upgrade' was to make the viewer pay for poor quality service over the internet and get rid of the costly broadcast OTA system. This is the first shot over the bows ...

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Quite - three TV's in our house, so I would need 3x the minimum for IPTV, so that's probably 12MBits's abs minimum. Which is only about twice what I get now, but I'm certainly not expecting any improvement in Broadband services in my remote little village for some time.

Although I don't have a problem with TV service over BB/IP, as long as it's free to view.

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Anonymous Coward

I have a link giving 12mbps - but iPlayer is still noticeably blocky - and does little "catch-ups" every so often. Terrestial TV stopped being accessible when the analogue service was switched off. The terrestial digital signal is poor due to local high rise buildings even though we are served by two major transmitters. DAB is equally poor - only FM radio is reliable.

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Anonymous Coward

When all my TV is coming through IP, how do I take my (wired) broadband connection away with me on holiday, or do I now have to install and pay for a mostly unused connection...

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Out of curiosity, where (on the dial) does OFCOM's jurisdiction stop?

I imagine it's somewhere in the microwave/IR bit at the high-end, but are they in charge of the ELF stuff too?

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Morons

They can only see ££££

Greater good of the Nation and unique nature of broadcasting means nothing to these money grabbing idiots that want to destroy Broadcast by:

1) Overcharging for spectrum

2) Removing protection by allowing so called white space licence free devices

3) Ignore issues of 4G and Tetra

4) Ignore PLT, CFL and PSU noise destroying LW, MW, SW and now VHF reception.

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FAIL

Crap Rules, Crap Rulers

Given the dramatic drop in both TV quality and choice perhaps the idea is to close down all TV service in favour of morons with 'mobile devices' wandering about with glazed looks on their faces and nothing going on in their enfeebled minds, tell the world they are walking/sitting/eating/lost/drunk/whatever.

I recently had a mobile upgrade foisted on me, the upgrade is now in a rack and I am back on the 8 year old telephone as it is the only one that does what I NEED. The new one might have Facebum or some other twaddle about which I could not care less, but it was crap at making telephone calls the way I need. I have no idea if it was 1g, 2g, 3g, or GG it was useless. Just like they want to make the expensive non HD TV collection I now appear to have.

Oh anyone spotted that you will only be able to watch IP TV for about 2 days a month given the data caps?

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Where this is going?

So, in the "old days" we had wired telephone service, and wireless (broadcast) TV.

The UK (I'm from the USA) is going towards wireless telephone (GSM) service, and wired (internet) TV.

Strange thing this "technology"!

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Joke

Re: Where this is going?

No, no, no. This is about replacing broadcast TV with the wireless internet so that users can watch the same programmes in the same frequencies but using the latest wireless dodat.

A naive person might think replacing multicast with unicast would be less efficient. But in fact transmitting Pop Factor Dancing Idol to 60 million people who don't want to watch it is far less efficient than transmitting it to just the four morons who care. And we get to charge them for the privilege, too. *ka-ching!*

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Happy

Beer

The Freeview logo looks a lot like the Budweiser logo. I have no thoughts abouy the issue at hand, I just thought is point out the similarity.

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