High Def Freeview to start broadcasting in 2009

Freeview HD will start operating in UK as early as next year, media regulator Ofcom announced this morning; viewers who will need to upgrade their existing Freeview set top box will be able to view up to four HD channels.

At present, only Virgin Media and Sky offer HD content via their platform, although OTA HD (High Definition, Over the Air) content has been available for more than two years now.

Ofcom said that it would ask the government to amend the 1996 Broadcasting Act to ease the upgrade of Multiplex B which will accommodate up to four slots: one slot will be reserved for the BBC trust while the three remaining slot will be given to commercial public TV service providers like ITV or Channel 4 via an open bid.

In parallel, analog TV services will be switched off by 2012, a move which could lead thousands being stranded without TV reception.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said in a statement that: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to upgrade digital terrestrial television. It offers benefits for broadcasters who will be abele to launch new services without using any new spectrum – and viewers – who will have access to new channels and services on free to air.”