On Tuesday this week, the tabloid press indulged one of its favourite pass times: scaring its readers.
This time it was a piece in Melbourne's Herald Sun stating that your "expensive plasma or LCD will be obsolete from May 1". Of course, this is absolute nonsense, and issued a press release this morning to counter the argument.
Peter Familiari's piece in the Herald Sun was on how Freview-branded equipment, available from 1 May onwards, needs to be MPEG-4 compliant for "future-proofing". But Freeview has denied this means existing equipment will fall over on that date.
In a press release echoing her own comments to CNET Australia last month — that the initial Freeview ad caused— Freeview CEO Ms Robin Parkes said: "The Herald Sun's report has caused great concern and confusion amongst Australians who place high importance on their free-to-air television service. We want to assure all Australians that their television equipment will continue to work after the launch of Freeview."
It seems that there's lots of "confusion" going around.
The Freeview press release goes on to state that "currently, the free-to-air broadcasters have no plans to switch to MPEG4 transmission", and hence everyone's equipment will still work. You see, at present, Australia broadcasts in the MPEG-2 standard, whereas many other countries are now using the more efficient MPEG-4 standard. In theory, MPEG-4 would look better as its able to fit more information into the same space. Whether we eventually move to MPEG-4 is another story, but there is an interesting discussion on the need to be forward-compatible.
Parkes told us last month that the reason to get a Freeview tuner is tothat won't be available on existing tuners, but the only other thing that has come out so far is that you won't be able to skip ads. Freeview tuners will disable the "30-second-skip" function, and that's a "feature" we can happily do without.
We've said it before, if you are able to pick up digital broadcasts now, then you will be able to pick them up after Freeview is live, and will do for the foreseeable future. The Freeview brand exists to educate the large proportion of people still receiving analog that they need to buy a digital tuner!
It's been a damaging week for Freeview, which also endured some controversy over allegedly urging YouTube to remove a (very funny) parody ad critiquing the new service (which is still available here). We also believe the new Freeview education campaign is about to start on a screen near you featuring entertainer/publisher Peter Blasina (The Gadget Guy).
Update: Peter Blasina has contacted us and said that while he IS doing an education campaign for the digital switch-off campaign, he's not involved with Freeview at the moment.
What are your thoughts on Freeview? Could the organisation have handled itself better? Let us know below.