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The Great Freeview Postcode Lottery October 14, 2008

Posted by Steve in General Wittering.
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If you have the misfortune of living in an area which doesn’t currently get Freeview signals you might have been encouraged by promises that by 2012 you’ll get what the rest of the country has been enjoying for several years.

What OFCOM and Digital UK haven’t been so keen to tell us is that you won’t be getting what the rest of the country has been enjoying, you’ll only be getting half of it.

There are two main types of TV transmitter for analogue services:  high powered main transmitter sites – you know the ones, Emley Moor, Belmont, Pontop Pike, Bilsdale, Winter Hill, Crystal Palace and smaller relay stations like Cop Hill, Armitage Bridge, Holmfirth, Beecroft Hill.  These relays pick up the signal coming from the main site and rebroadcast it on another frequency.

Each of the relay stations is allocated 4 or occasionally 5 frequencies on which to broadcast.  Except when it goes over to digital it will only have three so the government can flog off a batch of frequencies to the highest bidder.

Each frequency will be used to transmit one of the freeview multiplexes (muxs).  So three frequencies means that of the 6 muxs transmitted from main stations, a relay will only be able to transmit three of them.

The channels you won’t get include Dave, Sky Sports News, Virgin 1, UKTV History and 4 Music.

It’s little more than a postcode lottery based on where it was practical to plonk a main transmitter some 30 or 40 years ago, and those of us not blessed by signals from a main transmitter will continue to receive a second class service.  And it’s a disgrace that OFCOM haven’t done anything about it – a single frequency network (SFN) on the commercial multiplexes which have no regional changes would eliminate the need for finding new frequencies.

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