What is Freeview?

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If you have seen the recent Freeview add on TV recently you would be forgiven for not having the faintest idea what it is all about.  The advert presents itself similar to that of TIVO, in that it could be a device that allows you to watch and record free to air TV with some extra channels.  A Visit to the Freeview website does not explain anything in great detail other than:

  • Freeview is a Digital free to view platform
  • More Channels More choice
  • High Quality viewing
  • An electronic Program Guide (EPG)
  • Coming 2009
  • Requires a HD Set Top Box

So What is it really?

This Australian IT article sheds some light on the concept:

The Australian understands that under the terms of a “joint venture proposal”, each of the new multi-channels would be based on distinctly different themes agreed by the networks.

The proposal would see Network Ten launching a sports-only channel, with the Nine Network having a “general entertainment” offering and the Seven Network likely to launch a lifestyle channel.

On January 1, 2009, the TV networks will be allowed to broadcast one new standard definition channel with separate programming from their flagship channels.

The Government hopes the new channels will convince TV viewers to buy the digital set-top boxes they will need before it switches off the analog TV signal in 2013.

The discussions are designed to help Freeview (the industry’s digital TV marketing arm) provide compelling digital content when it launches its campaign — likely to be in the second quarter of next year.

In simple terms Freeview appears to be a FTA stamp of approval packaged with a funky TV guide.  The extra channels launching with the concept are a good way of motivating analog TV users to make the switch though only being standard definition is a bit of a dissapointment.  This scheme also allows for “Freeview Approved” Devices to follow meaning buying another TV digital tuner may be necessary to get the TV guide.

What they are not telling you is that current TV broadcasts will be reduced in bandwidth, reducing the quality of the mpeg2 transmissions by almost 30%.  If you have a 1080p TV set this will do more than annoy some people with The 7 network being the worst in the pixel counting comparisons.

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