U.K.: Channel 4, Channel 5 Bid for OTA HD Slot

A fourth HD program channel of the terrestrial kind (OTA and uncompressed) will be coming to DTV homes throughout the United Kingdom when the British rollout is finally complete. The only question remaining is who will provide this last venue of HD service.

Channel 4 has submitted a bid for a fourth HD channel on Freeview, Britain's digital terrestrial service. Channel 4 already has been awarded one slot on HD Freeview, with other slots going to the BBC and ITV. All three broadcasters will simulcast their SD channels in HD, at least to begin with. Also submitting a bid for the HD space by the deadline was Channel 5. This fourth HD OTA slot likely will become available no earlier than July 2010.

Channel 4's move to secure more HD territory followed word from Ofcom, U.K.'s media regulator in late 2008 that capacity would indeed be available for a fourth HD terrestrial channel.

Even given the delays in America, the U.K. got into the HD game late and many viewers across the pond will not see much terrestrial HD for at least another couple of years. Viewers in the ITV Granada region will see the first HD "switchover" sometime next fall. To follow in 2010 will be viewers in Wales, Scotland and the West Country. And while a 2011 switchover is planned by ITV Central in Yorkshire, Anglia and Meridian, the last scheduled transition in London, Tyne Tees and Ulster will not occur until 2012.

A final decision by Ofcom on the fourth Freeview HD slot is expected this spring, according to BBC News.