Wales: DTV Switch to Shortchange HD Viewing

Thanks ironically to the gradual (and systematically staggered) DTV conversion getting underway in the United Kingdom, some viewers in Wales will actually find a temporary shortage of HD programs for awhile, due to the looming absence of popular Channel 4 shows out of London, and other assorted digital infrastructure buildout schemes.

The early stages of the switchover to digital TV now getting underway include the existing analog signal (at the Kilvey Hill transmitter site in Swansea) being shut down any day now. Consequently, Channel 4 programs will no longer be shown on S4C — the Welsh channel that has lost a lot of its audience for its mandated Welsh-language programming in recent years, according to Wales Online.

Technically speaking, Channel 4 (which is the channel's actual name) will be available on ch. 8 with Freeview (free terrestrial). Meanwhile, S4C will be on ch. 4 (not to be confused with Channel 4, per se), broadcasting only Welsh-language content from 7 a.m.-midnight.

And if you're not confused enough yet, when Freeview HD launches in 2010, some viewers in parts of Wales will only be able to receive S4C HD (in Welsh) and not Channel 4 HD (in English). Popular Channel 4 programs (notably "Big Brother" and "Come Dine with Me") will only be available to viewers in England.

At least one local Welsh politician was quoted as saying, "While I fully support the option of an S4C HD channel, I am concerned about the eventual loss of service of Channel 4 HD in Wales." Meanwhile, Welsh viewers posting their comments online tend to be highly critical of the move, which they say is only for the benefit of a "minority."

Some viewers are encouraging others to consider taking the satellite route back to Channel 4 and other English-speaking HD services.

A chief problem that rests at the heart of the issue? Apparently in 2009, a large percentage of Wales' residents do not speak or understand Welsh.