The BBC's service, which is now set to launch in spring 2008, will provide a "guaranteed non-subscription" digital satellite service.
The boxes will provide a HDTV satellite version of the popular Freeview service, with a number of BBC, ITV channels in high definition plus all the existing services that the current Freesat service provides.
Currently both Channel 4 and five have agreements with Sky which require their channels (with the exception of Film4) to require the use of a "Freesat From Sky" card. This means that you currently need to purchase a card from Sky Subscriber Services Ltd for 20 to watch Channel 4, five, Five US, Five Life and Sky Three.
Whilst this card is included as part of the 150 cost of Freesat From Sky, Sky have in the past invalidated the existing cards and demanded payment for a new one from Freesat users. Last time Sky did this the telephone number that was provided told customers that the must subscribe and mislead callers telling them no replacement cards were available!
The BBC/ITV service will have several potential uses:
a box-swap replacement to upgrade an existing Freesat from Sky or Sky subscription box for a box with HDTV services;
a multi-room installation with an existing dish fitted with a quad-LNB;
connection to a Windows Vista Media Centre or Windows Home Server;
Mark Thompson (BBC Director-General) said "The BBC's objective in launching Freesat is to support Digital Switchover by providing another way for licence payers to receive digital television channels and radio services, subscription free from the BBC and ITV.
"Its primary purpose is to drive digital take-up in analogue homes, particularly in those areas which are out of digital terrestrial coverage. Freesat also offers a trusted free-to-view digital upgrade path that gives licence payers all the benefits of digital television (notably high definition capability) guaranteed free of subscription."
Michael Grade (ITV Executive Chairman) said "Freesat will build on the success of Freeview by offering viewers a simple and cost effective way of upgrading to digital TV. By filling in the current gaps in Freeview coverage, Freesat will ensure that a free-to-air, no strings attached option for accessing digital TV is available to the whole of the UK ahead of digital switchover. By offering HD capability we will future proof Freesat if, as expected, high definition television continues to capture the imagination of UK viewers."
What channels will be provided?
The current single-channel HDTV service for the BBC is only a test service. It seems reasonable that the BBC will provide the main channels in HD resolution. This will probably not extend to the BBC regional news services, and may not initially include the national variations in HD.
ITV1 is the only network of theirs with regional variations, so again a "Network" version of the channel will be provided in HD, with SDTV potentially regional adverts inserted. It seems reasonable that ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and CITV will also broadcast in HD.
It seems that the other public service broadcasters, Channel 4, five and S4C will want to get on board. This will require E4, C4, More4, five, five Life and five US to change their broadcasts, or for the new BBC Freesat to simulcast these channels as HD.
Channel 4 told the Guardian that the channel "currently has exclusive [digital satellite] carriage deals in place with Sky Digital for the majority of its channels (other than for Film4, which is broadcast free-to-air). Under the Communications Act we would expect to become subject to obligations to ensure the availability of the core channel on all satellite platforms, which would require that Channel 4 was available on Freesat."
As for the other non-public service Freeview channels:
Ftn, The Hits, TMF, UKTV Bright Ideas, UKTV History are locked into Sky subscription agreements, but obviously it would be to the benefit of Freesat if these channels could be made available to the extra 2.5 million homes.
Sky Sports News is a subscription service on satellite and Sky Three would have to go free-to-air, which may happen to show Sky's benevolence.
Brian -- I notice that Sky has lost it's apeal to to a UK government tribunal ordering it to sell off the bulk of it's stake in ITV ie: reduce it's stake from 17.5% down to 7.5% with Virgin continuing to demand that Sky sell off all their ITV interests. It's back over to Sky with a possible appeal to the House of Lords. Be interesting to see the final outcome. Suppose it depends on how many of the Lords are in Rupert Murdoch's pocket!!!
Les Nicol: They simply don't have a chance, they have lost twice and the Lords is much less corrupted than elsewhere these days (which is a very sad state of affairs!) I've got my fingers crossed for them that the value of ITV drops even more between now and them, that would show them!
NottsUK Thursday 2 October 2008 11:07AM Nottingham
Briantist: I wonder if the Astra 2E satellite is going to replace Astra 2A. Astra 2A was launched on the 30 Aug 1998 this means by 2011 it will be 14 years old. I believe the life expectancy of a satellite is 15 years before it starts to lose power and transponders have to be switched off. No doubt Astra 2E will have a larger transponder capacity than Astra 2A.
Brian -- Good article in the current edition of "Micromart". It gives a step by step illustrated guide to installing a larger capacity HDD drive to the Sky plus HD box. In doing so it doesn't half expose how much of the installed drive's capacity that is reserved. This highlights how they have reorganized the drive as part of Sky's strategy to get you to pay more for services,it has Anytime TV. This is a big chunk of the Hard Drive that's allocated to it's use and this space isn't recoverable for the user. Of the HD+ Box with it's 300gb drive of which 160gb is usable 140gb is taken by Sky. In step 2 of the upgrade guide it goes on to illustrate-- "Around the back are some interesting ports, including USB eSata and LAN. Surely these could be useful in expanding the storage capabilities? No, they're not, because while Sky's technical people were smart enough to include them, others in Sky made sure they're never used!
Brian - Thanks for pursuing that. Having clicked on the "What Satellite" link and read the response from Panasonic it would seem that the possibility isn't quite "killed Off." So who knows what the future might bring.
Brian - I think the issue here is commercial viabilty or otherwise. All that the Vantage 8000S DVB-T lacks is "Freesat" and the inclusion of Blu-Ray. It'd also BBC and ITV HD capable as well as having multiple connectivity.
Brian - I should have also mentioned the Technomate 6900 - Now with a Blind Search upgrade capability and marketed as 6900 Super with 2 DBS/DVBS2 and DVB-T tuners but obviously without "Freesat". Again listing ITV HD as a channel in picking up H.222 Data Stream via Eurobird 1 11426 Horizontal Service ID 10510 etc.
Brian - The point yet again that I am making is why are "Freesat" not engaging with these manufacturers where it would appear that apart from the "Freesat" element they currently have well featured and tried technology. Surely such engagement would speed up consumer choice. The Technomate as an example isn't that far above the projected price of the forthcoming Humax PVR at £389.00 but that's with a 500GB HDD and the Freeview tuner with upscaling.
Can anybody help with a Problem I have with a friends Pace Sky tuner who has bought a £ 20 free sat card he was on Sky subscription but has canceled but wishes to use his old tuner in free mode Sky tried to activate his card but say the Tuner is to old and he will buy a new tuner. I put my card from a Sky plus box ( it was a free one year in a special deal, so do not use it as the year has expired. The old pace tuner worked all free sat channels came up ok. SKY are adamant that the Pace Tuner will not activate his card. Well mine does any ideas??
Brian - Wondered if you had heard of a device called "Slingbox"? I believe this device (which is from the US but a UK variant is available here) offers multiple connectivity up to four HDMI devices plus AV audio SPDIF etc.This box can also link to TV's which are HDMI capable but which lock HDMI ports. There is a dongle version also and whilst these offer more options for Freesat boxes I also reckon these devices by implication would appear to be able to circumvent the Sky plus boxes disabled archiving ports.
Brian - I see also that the HDR has a universal CAM slot which I thought was being dropped from the iCord spec. It does seem as if this box is much more of a multi platform receiver than I thought it might be. It seems that only the component out port hasn't been included in the overal specs. To me this makes the "Freesat" DTR box really good value for money.
Yes that correct Brian, but in the meantime pre any future developments with a via access CAM and official ART card and tracked to Hotbird then all their Sports - Premier L. matches in English etc ?????
Brian - As far as I know it's perfectly legal so long as you are not setting this up in licensed premises and there's beeen conflicting judgement's when challenged in court by Landlords where piracy hasn't been involved, In the cases that I've been aware of it's the F.A. rather than Sky that's pursued an action through the courts.
Have you any information re: Free view not being able to transmit The interactive Cycling coverage of the World Cup on Friday 31st Oct at 7pm until 10-40pm and Saturday Ist Nov 7pm until 10-30pm. The BBC were televising the event and it was available on Astra 2 28 degree E. BBC SKY interactive, and Free to air Satellite Stream 4 12,441ghz S/R27500 a notice appeared on BBC interactive But said not available on Freeview. Could it be any thing to do with SKY sponsoring British Cycling to the tune of 1 million a year for 5 years.