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TVs

Digital television to be called "Freeview"

Australia's free-to-air broadcasters have got together to launch the upcoming Freeview digital television brand and guide.

Australia got its first taste of the new Freeview service due in 2009 last night with all of the country's FTA broadcasters showing a two minute ad concurrently on all channels announcing the system.

The Freeview service is an attempt to promote digital television and electronic program guides (EPG) under one umbrella. The UK's free-to-air services are also called Freeview, however they only currently offer standard definition content.

Almost 18 months ago, industry body Free TV announced that each of the networks had agreed to supply an EPG to Australian viewers, and most of these were operational by December 2007.

In 2009, Freeview says most Australian viewers will be able to receive five High Definition (HD) and 10 Standard Definition (SD) channels, making a total of 15 Freeview digital channels.

The Chair of Freeview, Mr Kim Dalton, ABC Director of Television, says the new service will change the face of television while ensuring all Australians continue to enjoy the great range of programming offered by free-to-air (FTA) networks.

"Freeview is perhaps the most important thing to happen in Australian television since Bruce Gyngell made history back in 1956 with those three simple words,'Welcome to television'," Mr Dalton said.

Like Digital Radio Plus, the Freeview campaign is a part-branding, part-education campaign, and households will be able to purchase Freeview-branded digital set-top boxes and televisions.

Though details are not yet available, equipment capable of receiving EPG data at present will almost assuredly be able to receive the Freeview EPG.

Meanwhile, Freeview's main competitor, Foxtel, announced an upgrade of its own to its EPG service last Friday — expanding coverage from seven days of programming to 14 days in advance. The current FTA EPG gives 7 days in advance schedules.