The changes affect BBC Four HD, CBeebies HD and BBC News HD, and are a result of the closure of the seventh national Freeview multiplex at the end of June.
Freeview multiplex COM7 is closing at the end of June, its frequencies are being reused for 5G services. Channels on the multiplex now have to move to other Freeview capacity or close.
The BBC has now confirmed BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD will be reprieved. They will be squeezed into existing Freeview HD capacity. Since we originally published this article, the BBC confirms the new capacity isn’t yet available – placeholders advising the channels will return soon have been added to Freeview.
In a positive development, both BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD will become more widely available following the changes. Their current COM7 Freeview slot only reaches around 70% of UK households. In their new home, UK coverage will reach nearly every household with HD TV equipment.
But the arrangement is likely to be only temporary: BBC Four is due to become an online on-demand service in 2025. In the meantime, the channel is currently being converted into an archive channel, with its arts and culture programming moving to BBC Two.
Standard definition versions of both BBC Four and CBeebies are not affected by these changes.
BBC News HD
There won’t be enough room to accommodate BBC News HD on the existing Freeview HD capacity once multiplex COM7 closes. As a result, the channel will go SD only (channel 231).
But viewers can still watch a selection of programmes from the BBC News channel in HD through BBC One and BBC Two. And viewers with the iPlayer app on their TV can access a high quality stream of the channel.
BBC News HD continues as normal on Sky, Freesat and Virgin Media.
What about the other affected channels?
Other channels affected by the COM7 switch-off include Quest HD, QVC HD, Forces TV, FreeSports and NOW 80s. Each broadcaster will announce changes to their Freeview service in their own time. Freeview is also expected to provide additional viewer support in the run-up to COM7 closure with further information.
Who needs to retune?
Changes to Freeview at the end of June will affect all Freeview users.
This is because the COM7 related channel changes will also have an impact on viewers currently not able to receive all channels. For example, CBeebies HD will move to a multiplex that is also carried on relay transmitters with limited channels.
Freeview will shortly confirm the date – no later than 30th June – for the retune to take place.
The retune date will be centrally co-ordinated to avoid multiple retunes within days.
On the designated retune day, you’ll will need to retune their TV or Freeview box to update their channel list. This will allow you to continue watching both BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD. If you have Freeview HD, but can’t yet get these two channels, that changes by the end of the month. BBC Four HD and CBeebies HD will move to a multiplex carried by every Freeview transmitter site.
YouView piggybacks on Freeview, so the changes will also affect BT, TalkTalk and Sony YouView users.
But BT is currently testing IP multicast distribution of the main Freeview channels, which will mean BT TV viewers should be able to get a wider range of BBC HD channels in a future update.
Why is COM7 closing?
COM7 – the seventh national Freeview multiplex – is closing to make way for 5G services. Its frequency was auctioned off last year, with EE winning. RXTV first reported on this development in March 2021, explaining that COM7 would need to close by no later than 30th June 2022.
EE could have claimed the frequency earlier and served notice on COM7’s operator, but there aren’t yet many devices able to use these frequencies – meaning earlier commercial rollout was not required.
Technical information for installers
At the end of June, BBC Four HD (channel 106) and CBeebies HD (channel 204) will move from COM7 to BBC-B/PSB3. The exact date this will happen is not yet confirmed. But it must happen before 30th June, when the COM7 signal is switched off.
At the end of June, BBC News HD (channel 107) on COM7 will close.
Aidan Smith, RXTV Editor
Updated 29/06/2022 14:29