For many Freeview HD viewers in England, regional news is either for the wrong region or non-existent. That’s because of the limitations of the Freeview HD service as it’s currently set-up. But not for much longer.
As 2022 starts, some Freeview viewers receive the wrong ITV regional news service in HD, while BBC One HD shows the red screen during regional opt-outs. Channel 4 HD meanwhile is a simulcast of the London ad region in all areas.
The BBC is preparing for the launch of BBC One HD regions on Freeview; it aims to complete this work later this year. As a result, changes to the way regional HD services are distributed need to happen.
HD versions of BBC channels, plus ITV, STV, Channel 4 and 5 are bundled together on a dedicated multiplex, operated by the BBC. The multiplex only has limited regionality, something that will change soon to enable a regional BBC One HD. Changes made to the multiplex by the BBC will benefit all broadcasters carried on the multiplex.
At the moment, there are just four regional variations in England. This allows ITV to carry a limited number of regional services on Freeview HD. But this set-up means viewers in Bideford in Devon receive the news from ITV Central in Birmingham in HD. Meanwhile, viewers in Sunderland see ITV Granada from Salford instead of Tyne Tees on Freeview HD channel 103.
Current HD regions on Freeview
The map shows the regional structure at the beginning of 2022 on Freeview HD
|Area||ITV region(s)||ITV HD region||Other variations*|
|2||Meridian; Anglia||Meridian SE|
|3||Central; West Country||Central West|
|4||Granada; Yorkshire; Tyne Tees; Border England||Granada|
|5||Wales||Wales||BBC One Wales HD; BBC Two Wales HD; in planning: S4C HD|
|6||Border Scotland||Granada||BBC One Scotland; BBC Scotland HD|
|7||STV (all sub-regions)||STV West||BBC One Scotland; BBC Scotland HD|
|8||UTV||UTV||BBC One NI HD; BBC Two NI HD|
|9||Channel Islands||(no ITV HD)|
The areas listed above have been numbered by us to make the breakdown clearer; they are not an official designation. The map is derived from the ITV regions map.
To be able to add a regional BBC One HD service on Freeview, areas 2-4 need to be broken down in to smaller areas. Such a change to the regional structure on Freeview HD also removes the barriers stopping ITV HD from offering a more regionalised service, to bring it in line with what satellite and cable viewers currently see. And it paves the way for Channel 4 to be able to show regional advertising in both SD and HD.
Where a BBC region isn’t yet fully able to broadcast in HD, regional news will be upscaled. This is because various equipment from the studio and up through the broadcast chain need to be ready for HD.
Beyond confirming a target of the end of 2022, more precise timescales aren’t yet in the open.
The broadcasters and Freeview will notify viewers of any action required when new regional HD services go live in their area.