Freeview: how digital TV works
Digital television is well and truly here, with access to over a dozen channels and better quality sound and vision. All you need is a set-top box!
Digital television has been broadcasting in Australia for 10 years, but until now no-one has needed to swap over despite the service offering better quality audio and vision.
Now that the digital switch-over is in effect people will need to get themselves new equipment or risk losing free-to-air altogether.
While it was re-branded as “Freeview” in 2009, most people still call it “digital TV”. But what exactly is it and what do you need to do to receive it?
So what’s it all about?
Digital television differs from analog in that it’s able to send more information across the air without interference, which means clearer pictures and better sound. Current digital services allow for high-definition (1080i) programs with up to six channels of surround sound.
Digital TV consists of 17 channels from the ABC, SBS, Seven, Nine and Ten, with a community channel in each of the capital cities. Barring the ABC, each station is able to broadcast one high-definition channel, and two standard-definition ones. The ABC currently broadcasts four channels, ABC1, ABC2, ABC3 and ABC News 24 (replacing ABC HD).
The first channel to broadcast under the new system was Channel Ten’s One, which hit television screens on 26 March 2009.
The “Freeview” name has been borrowed from the UK and New Zealand who began their digital services in 2002 and 2006 respectively.
Why do I need it?
Depending on which area you live in, digital TV is an inevitability. Mildura was the first to go completely digital, with the analog signal switching off on 30 June 2010.
The rest of regional Victoria was switched off on 5 May 2011, with the progressive switch-off finishing in 2013. If you don’t already have one, in the next two years you’ll need to get a digital tuner.
If you’re still clinging to the analog TV tuner that came with your TV, then you’ll find digital TV to be something of a revelation. Not only is the picture quality so much better, but the amount of choice greater. Even if you don’t have a high-definition TV (HDTV), you’ll still be able to watch HD broadcasts on a cathode-ray tube (CRT) — just not in full high definition. To sweeten the pot, most networks play exclusive content on their secondary and HD channels so you’ll be getting more stuff for the paltry cost of a digital tuner (about AU$60).
What stations can I get in my area?
If you live in a metropolitan area then you should be receiving all of the promised 17 stations. If you happen to live outside one of the major centres then you may not be as lucky. If you want to check which stations are available in your area there are a couple of places you can check, and these include the Freeview website, the ABC and SBS.
In January 2010, the Federal Government announced that any users in coverage blackspots would be able to apply to the government for a subsidised satellite service.
Here are the channels so far, and we will continue to update this list if and when more channels are announced.
Broadcaster Channel name Resolution (max) ABC ABC 1 576i ABC 2 576i ABC 3 576i ABC News 24 720p SBS SBS One 576i SBS HD 720p SBS Two 576i Seven 7 576i 7mate 1080i 7Two 576i Nine Nine 576i Gem 1080i Go! 576i Ten Ten 576i One HD 1080i Eleven 576i Prime7 (Seven regional) Prime7 7mate Seven Two 576i WIN (Nine regional) WIN Gem Go! Southern Cross (Ten regional) Southern Cross One HD Eleven
What equipment will I need?
Freeview-branded equipment began appearing on the shelves in April 2009, but you don’t actually need a Freeview tuner to pick up digital television. If you have an existing SD or HD tuner, the service will continue as it always has.
There are currently three different electronic program guides (EPG): the free EPG transmitted by the broadcasters themselves, Freeview and IceTV. Most digital equipment will pick up the free EPG so you can browse and even record from the next 10 days of programs.
PVRs such as the Topfield TF7100HDPVRt use their own guides and won’t need the Freeview EPG. (Credit: Topfield)
If you want to pick up the new Freeview EPG, then you’ll need to buy a new tuner. Compatible “mark II” equipment that receives the new guide information was available on shelves as of August 2010. According to Freeview, the Freeview guide offers exclusive content and functionality not available on the current guide.
Lastly, if you have a PVR from the likes of Foxtel, Austar or an Ice-enabled product such as Topfield, then you won’t have to worry about Freeview — all of these recorders use their own EPG.
While the Freeview launch came and went, digital TV is with us now. You no longer have to pay for cable to receive a high number of quality channels in digital quality. Set-top boxes are cheap, and can be easily added to an existing television. Of course, to receive the full benefit, it helps to own a flatscreen.
What about Freeview Plus?
With a vast number of features, FreeviewPlus will change the way you experience television.
Now you can access all of the available Catch Up TV programs in one place on your TV. Go backwards in the program guide to find available Catch Up programs or go straight to the network’s Catch Up service.
Electronic Program Guide
Find out what’s on Freeview over the next 7 days and go backwards to see what’s available on Catch Up TV. FreeviewPlus lets you keep watching while you browse other channels and shows.
Browse & Search
Looking for a specific show or movie? Feel like comedy? BROWSE by genre or SEARCH by the program’s title. FreeviewPlus makes it easy to find your favourite programs and discover new ones!
A FreeviewPlus certified PVR (personal video recorder) allows you to record your favourite show or series, see what’s on TV and access Catch Up TV all from the one place at the press of a button.
KEEP all your favourites listed in one place and access them with a simple press of a button. This way you’ll know when your favourite show is on again and when it is about to expire in Catch Up.
If there’s a program you don’t want to miss, simply SET a reminder. FreeviewPlus will let you know when your program is about to start. That way, you won’t miss a thing!
Not sure what’s on TV? “Featured” can help. It highlights the best of what’s on today, in the next 7 days and on Catch Up TV. It’s a great snapshot of the best of what’s on across Freeview.
So What do I need?
All you need is a FreeviewPlus certified receiver, good digital reception, a broadband connection and you’re ready to go! FreeviewPlus is available on a range of manufacturer TVs, set-top-boxes (STB) and personal video recorders (PVR). The products listed here have been tested and approved by Freeview to ensure that they deliver a high quality and reliable service. Select one of the options below to view available products.
If you’re in the market for a new TV, click on a manufacturer below to browse FreeviewPlus TV products.
Bauhn, Changhong, HiSense, Hitachi, LG, Samsung & Sony
If you would like to get a set-top box for your existing TV, click on a manufacturer below to browse FreeviewPlus STB products.
Aerial Box & Teac
If you would like to also record live TV, click on a manufacturer below to browse FreeviewPlus PVR products.
How does Free viewPlus work?
FreeviewPlus uses Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) to combine live & on-demand services, delivering both seamlessly to your new FreeviewPlus TV or box.
It’s built into 2015 Smart TVs and available on set top boxes (e.g. AerialBox T2100), so there’s no need to download an app, once it’s set up correctly, a pop-up will appear at the top left of your TV screen.
Simply press the RED button on your remote to load FreeviewPlus or the GREEN button for the available on demand service from that network.