Ofcom hands Five's Freeview HD slot back to BBC

Five HD will not hit Freeview for years
Five HD will not hit Freeview for years

Five will not be given a Freeview HD slot, with Ofcom deciding that the broadcaster has been unable to reach 'key criteria' to keep its slot, and deciding that the BBC should be given any extra room.

Channel 4 had bid for a second HD slot, but the communications watchdog was not convinced by that bid either and any spare allocation on multiplex B will now be handed over to the BBC.

The BBC has yet to announce if this will mean the potential for a second HD channel to join BBC HD, with Ofcom merely stating that: "The BBC will now consider options to ensure the capacity can be used to provide high-definition services that will further benefit viewers of digital terrestrial television."

Five and C4 fail

"In June 2009, Ofcom made a provisional decision to reserve a HD slot for Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd to provide new services on Freeview from 2010," said Ofcom. "This decision was subject to it resolving certain key criteria by the end of 2009.

"Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd has not been able to resolve these outstanding issues.

"The only other applicants, Channel 4 and S4C, were unable to provide Ofcom with confirmation of their ability to launch a service within a defined timescale.

"Ofcom has therefore decided not to reserve capacity for either of the applicants at this time.

"Any capacity within Multiplex B that is not reserved by Ofcom is available for the BBC to use."

Why were Five and C4 ruled out?

The final reasons for taking the slot away from Five revolved around the lack of an arrangement with another broadcaster to fill the daytime hours (the evening hours would have consisted of an HD simulcast of channel Five), and the lack of a confirmation around final launch dates.

But with Five ruled out it appears that Channel 4's bid was not renewed, which is why the broadcaster was taken out of the running.

"While the Channel 4 second application had also been judged to satisfy the assessment criteria, the Committee judged that it would be prudent to seek confirmation in December 2009 of the continued validity of the Channel 4 application, as the provisional reservation had been made for the Channel 5 application since June 2009," stated Ofcom's report.

"The Channel 4 application had stated that it was contingent upon alternative funding solutions being put in place for Channel 4 and S4C (which appear not to have materialised.

"Channel 4 and S4C were unable to confirm that the Channel 4 application remained valid and could not confirm their commitment to launch the proposed service within the timescales originally envisaged."

"The Committee concluded on 23 February 2010 that neither of the applicants remained in a position to commit to a specific date to launch a HD service. The Committee therefore agreed not to reserve capacity for either of the applicants at this time."

Second chance in 2012

However, all is not lost for Five, or for the chance of a second Channel 4 HD service, with Ofcom stating that it will listen to new applications from the commercial public service broadcasters in two years' time.

"Ofcom intends next year to give the Commercial Public Service Broadcasters another opportunity to apply to provide an additional HD service from 2012," stated Ofcom.

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.