U.K.: Broadcasters Fret over Funds for 'Freeview' HD

British broadcasters ITV and Channel 4 are currently raising serious questions about whether they have enough funding to start up HD services on the nation's free OTA service (Freeview). Both services told a House of Commons hearing they're talking about possible solutions for providing HD to Freeview with the BBC and others.

Both broadcasters were given licenses last fall by the United Kingdom's equivalent of the FCC (Ofcom) in order to allow them to begin HD terrestrial services in an array of venues. Thanks to Ofcom, what is known as "Multiplex B" was to be reconfigured to carry a trio of HD services from the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4. Subsequently, any leftover spectrum in major cities like London and Glasgow could be used to launch HD services earlier than originally scheduled. The U.K., unlike America, is transitioning to DTV on a region-by-region basis starting soon.

While ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC already provide HD content through their various services mostly via satellite and cable, a Channel 4 executive has told Parliament that funding problems likely will provide an obstacle to rolling out HD channels on terrestrial Freeview under the current schedule and budget.

Channel 4 and ITV are seriously considering, among other options, whether to "sublet" their spectrum during overnight hours, and/or to provide extended VOD services in order to raise more capital.