Dozens of Freeview channels would need to change their channel number under new proposals.
It’s due to new Ofcom rules coming into force in January 2021, which will require BBC Four to be given a more prominent slot on Freeview’s channel list in Scotland, in a move that will affect viewers across the UK.
As a result, Freeview platform manager Digital UK is proposing to make a change to Freeview channel numbering rules and assign channel 24 to BBC Four in Scotland. Starting with ITV4, which currently resides on channel 24, all channels would have to shuffle down a channel number – e.g. ITV4 to 25, Yesterday from 25 to 26, ITVBe from 26 to 27, onwards down to 4seven, which would have to move from 47 to 48 and beyond, rippling down to the next nationally available empty channel slot.
Following the launch of the BBC Scotland TV channel in February 2019 on Freeview channel 9 north of the border, BBC Four in Scotland is now found on a lower channel number than the rest of the UK. Currently, Scottish viewers can find BBC Four on channel 68 – too low down on the list, according to Ofcom.
The changes would be applied across the UK, to avoid a situation where a whole range of channels had different channel numbers in different parts of the UK. Channel 24 would remain empty in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands, as channel 68 is currently.
Recognising the impact on channel operators, Digital UK is consulting with broadcasters and hopes to make changes to its channel line-up at the beginning of November 2020, by when the BBC is expected to confirm its long-term plans for both BBC Four and a possible linear revival for BBC Three, which may throw a spanner in the works.