Having already confirmed that HD broadcasts will be available on Freeview from 2009, the UK communications regulator Ofcom has now provided further details and revealed that many regions will be left waiting until 2012.
Ofcom states that the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 each have a reserved Freeview slot allowing for HD broadcasts to begin in Autumn 2009. Unfortunately for viewers, the HD rollout will occur on a region-by-region basis that spans a lengthy four years. The regional rollout of the three Freeview HD channels breaks down as follows:
- 2009 - Granada
- 2010 - Wales, Scotland and the West Country
- 2011 - Central, Yorkshire, Anglia and Meridian
- 2012 - London, Tyne Tees and Ulster
Of particular interest to viewers will be the broadcasters' programming plans. The BBC plans to continue offering shows already available on its BBC HD via on BSkyB, Virgin Media and Freesat. Channel 4 has stated that its Freeview HD channel will air over 150 hours of films in its first twelve months, alongside popular shows such as Desperate Housewives and European Cup Rugby. ITV has announced that it will simultaneously broadcast the current peak-time ITV1 schedule in HD, as well as the 2010 Football World Cup.
Aware that the majority of the UK will want to take advantage of World Cup footage in HD, Ofcom has stated that a spare spectrum could potentially allow non-upgraded regions to tune in during the event.
The Freeview HD rollout is still slow going, but Ofcom adds that another Freeview HD channel could launch by 2010, and it expects the license to be awarded by the end of this year.
To be able to view the new services viewers will need an HD-Ready TV set and a forthcoming Freeview HD box.
Official press release: Freeview set for HD channels