Ofcom has given to UK Broadcaster Five a provisional licence to broadcast high definition content over the freeview network and became the fourth national broadcaster to get the green light.
Five fend off competition from Channel 4 and S4C to get the fourth HD slot on freeview in a hotly contested tender process. The Bertelsmann-owned broadcaster will debut SD and HD programming in more than one year. It is expected that Five will be sharing the HD channel with another, yet to be named broadcaster during the day and provide with video on demand HD content at night.
Philip Graf, chairman of Ofcom's content board, said in a statement that : "This gives Channel Five the opportunity to join the other public service broadcasters in providing new services for viewers. It means more choice for TV viewers who will be able to watch in high-definition popular programming, free to air through their television aerials."
Five however will need to fulfill a number of requirements before the 1st January 2010 for Ofcom to ratify its decision.
BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have already been given HD licenses and one can expect Freeview HD broadcasts to start from the end of the year, more than a year before the Olympic games but only a few months before the South African 2010 World Cup.
Figures revealed by Ofcom showed that by the end of the first quarter in 2009, already 1.8 million UK households could receive HD content either from cable or satellite providers. Users will need a HD ready television as well as a HD-ready set top box to access HD content.
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Yet another costly upgrade looming but this one will hopefully be the last one for a another decade. While many households currently have HD-ready sets (or computers), the lack of HD material means that they cannot fully appreciate the difference between older content. Only gaming consoles like the PS3 or the Xbox 360 have been able to fully exploit HD display for now.
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