Saturday, 14 July 2007

Magdalen Green ... and continuing exchanges with OFCOM on digital TV ...

Firstly, following requests I had raised with the City Council from representatives of the Friends of Magdalen Green about the need to replace the missing 'no parking' signs on the Green edge (given the damage to the Green caused by vehicles) and the need for a BBQ facility, pleased to receive the following response from the Leisure & Communities Department yesterday :
"I will have temporary signs placed on Monday with the view to erecting a more permanent sign in the coming weeks. I have also instructed a local blacksmith to supply and install 3 barbecues."
If you click the headline above, you can read the previous correspondence I had with OFCOM, the TV regulator, about the lack of digital terrestrial television in much of the West ENd and other parts of the City. Here's the latest exchanges:
OFCOM to me :
Dear Fraser,

I don't know the exact criteria used by the ITC to choose relays but they would have principally considered population coverage, achieving a reasonable distribution across the UK and availability of frequencies. The list was capped at 80 transmitters, but could conceivably have been another number. It would have been easier and cheaper to engineer just the main transmitters but population coverage would have less. Conversely the number could have been greater than 80, but the population gains for each additional transmitter is progressively more difficult to achieve. Shortage of frequencies means that some of the main transmitters could actually serve more people if relays in other regions were not on-air.

The problem of further expansion was that it was ITV digital (previously ONdigital) that was the main driving force paying for engineering half of the six multiplexes and also developing receivers and marketing the platform. ITV digital's financial difficulties and eventual failure put a halt to further development of the terrestrial platform for quite some time. When their multiplexes were re-licensed in 2002, Digital Terrestrial Television was a shaky proposition: operators in other countries that had launched services were also failing.

Since 2002, things have of course improved immensely with the Freeview proposition. Since that time, the broadcasters have increased the powers of many of the transmitters to improve coverage, but no further digital transmitters have been built. Although this does leave some areas unserved, there are sizeable chunks of population in a similar situation across the UK. It just wouldn't be possible to serve all of those until analogue signals are switched off to free up frequencies for digital services to use. Although it's no consolation to many viewers in Dundee, it is intersting to note that of the four nations, Scotland actually has the highest digital television coverage as a percentage of its population: 82% compared with 73% in England, 58% in Northern Ireland and 56% in Wales.

I hope that helps

Peter Madry
Senior Associate Technical Advisor - Broadcast Technical Policy - Ofcom -
And my response to this back to OFCOM :


Thanks for this & I do appreciate the efforts you have made to answer my questions.

I suppose my fundamental question cannot be fully answered as it appears somewhat lost in the midst of time - ie why 80 transmitters (and not more) were chosen and why a relay transmitter with a population of over 35 000 was missed out.

My specific issue really concerns the fact that had the 80 been 100, having been given previously the population coverage for the "top 20 non-digital relays" it would have very significantly reduced the numbers failing to get digital by simply increasing the number of relays covered by that relatively small amount of transmitters.

I do accept that expanding digital to ALL relays in advance of the analogue switch-off was never a practical proposition but by arbitrarily stopping at 80 transmitters at this stage has left my constituents, served by one of the largest "non-digital relays", feeling, rightly, aggrieved.

I am, however, grateful for your response.

Best regards


Cllr Fraser Macpherson
Councillor for the West End
Convener of Planning and Transport - Dundee City Council