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Industry Pleads For HD DTT

by User Not Found | Mar 05, 2007

Today's DTG summit was a clarion call to politicians and regulators to ensure that the UK's digital terrestrial platform would carry HDTV signals in the future. Margaret Hodge, Minister of State for Industry and Regions, recognised that HD was a "contentious issue", but left the meeting too soon to hear just how contentious a subject it could be. Speakers suggested the government should take the decision of how to allocate spectrum back from the regulator, Ofcom, but Hodge was "not sure that Parliament is the best place to decide on consumer priorities". Before leaving, she left a glimmer of hope by suggesting that the spectrum decision "is not about maximising money for the Treasury". Personally I would want to get Gordon Brown's confirmation of that opinion before taking it as a matter of policy. The UK's digital TV industry, as represented by the DTG, in fact primarily represents those with an interest in promoting digital terrestrial television, as opposed to alternative digital television platforms such as satellite or cable. Principal supporters are the public service broadcasters, and consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers. This constituency is very concerned, and understandably so, that the DTT platform, so successfully established under the Freeview model, could lose out on the next innovation wave driven by HDTV. Ofcom is currently consulting on the best way to allocate spectrum freed up by the switch-off of analogue broadcasting. There was a distinct feeling at the DTG meeting that the prospect of this capacity being allocated to HDTV was more or less zero unless a significant change in regulatory approach is taken, as richer companies such as mobile operators will always be able to outbid opponents in any spectrum auction. One speaker after another put the case for free-to-air HD on DTT, including Sony, DSG (Dixons Stores Group), Channel Four and the BBC. Dixons' John Clare gave perhaps the strongest argument by citing recent (February) research that showed more than 40% of buyers of HD-Ready TVs plan to watch HDTV on the terrestrial platform. His argument that Ofcom needs to examine the most recent research before coming to a decision is certainly compelling. As we said in our recent report, France has taken the lead in Europe by clarifying the HD DTT direction. As the BBC's Tim Davie put it, the UK is heading for a situation where the 2012 London Olympics will be available to all French viewers, free to view and in HD, but not to UK viewers. This is the sort of argument that is likely to get politicians thinking, if anything will.
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