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What would you like to see on Freeview in place of BBC three?

The BBC seems set to move BBC Three onto the BBC iPlayer. What should the BBC do with the channel's precious broadcast bits and top-page Freeview slot 7?

High up (low number) programme guide numbers are valuable - but not if you cannot sell them?   Photograph: Shutterstock
High up (low number) programme guide numbers are valuable - but not if you cannot sell them? Photograph: Shutterstock
published on UK Free TV

I have covered the whole should-they-shouldn't-they of taking BBC Three online several times, but now it looks like the BBC is going ahead with abandoning the brand as a TV station, what is going to happen to the old assets?

BBC Three has always shared it's bandwidth with the CBBC channel.  The kids channel closes just before 7pm, with BBC three getting going on the hour.   During the day on Freeview the number 120 maps onto the "slot" and in the evening it's the number 7 (it's 613/617 and 115/147 on Sky/Freesat).

The BBC are going to extend CBBC until 8pm, and there was a proposal to use the 8pm-4am for a plus one for BBC One (as this would avoid all the regional programming at 6:30pm).  This idea was met with horror by ITV (owners of ITV+1, ITV2+1, ITV3+1 and ITV4+1) who saw it – quite rightly -  as a land grab during peak time.

Looking a gift horse in the mouth?

There is a problem: on Freeview the BBCA (or PSB1 or Multiplex 1) licence was gifted to the BBC by the Broadcasting Act, but it specifically forbids the BBC from using for non-BBC output.

This isn't a problem for the Freeview BBCB (aka PSB3 aka Multiplex B) as the BBC won this in an open auction, not is a problem for the satellite capacity that the BBC rents directly from Astra of Luxembourg.

A problem, however, for the BBC is that multiplex B is broadcast to 27.8m homes but in a format that only Freeview HD boxes can use.   This means that the price is high (due to needing to be sent out from 1,190 masts) but can only be seen by a small proportion.

This compares to the COM multiplexes that only cover 19.8m homes, but can be seen by all of them.  Not the most enticing proposition.


It seems quite likely that BBC FOUR HD will move from the "extra" multiplex that is broadcast from just 30 sites (to 16m homes, perhaps) to BBCB so more people can watch it.   This will leave the "cheap slots" on Arqiva's com7 and com8 for more commercial channels.

Rules is the rules

The DMOL rules for channel number on Freeview suggests that BBC FOUR will move up to slot 7 and the BBC will have to abandon slot 9.   This means the next lucky channel to start up will be able to get it.  

This is unless the BBC can convince DMOL that it can pass it to Dave on 12, and then shuffle the UKTV channels (Really, Yesterday and Drama) along a bit.

So, what to do with the 8pm-4am slot on Mux 1?

There are other possibilities.  The BBC could move the Red Button stream to channel 9 and using the capacity only after 8pm, perhaps?

Any ideas?  

Remember the BBC can't sell the space to anyone else.

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