A New Hybrid Future for Talk Radio

Talk Radio, the speech based station from Wireless Group (owned by News UK), will become a hybrid TV and radio channel with the launch of Talk TV. The development of the channel has been forming discussion for sometime, but there are now enough confirmed details for a full news article.

Talk Radio have been streaming an online TV channel Talk Radio TV for some time now. Largely, this comprises the same audio feed as the station on DAB+, with the addition of a studio video feed, and a scrolling news ticker. Daytime content will be carried over to the new hybrid service largely unchanged.


Screenshot of Talk TV website, 21/04/2022.

In the evenings, new primetime shows will be added, hosted by well known names such a Sharon Osborne and Piers Morgan. The audio for these will be rebroadcast on Talk Radio, but will be broadcast from new TV studios.

A website has now appeared online, but helpfully this only confirms the start date of the new Talk TV service, which is the 25th April (2022). Channel availability confirmed so far includes terrestrial Freeview on number 237, satellite platforms Freesat (217) and Sky (526), and cable platform Virgin Media (number not yet confirmed).

NB. All channel numbers confirmed are based on details obtained from platform websites or direct observations.

UK Government Pursues Channel 4 Privatisation

The UK Government has decided to pursue the privatisation of state owned broadcaster Channel 4, following a public consultation, which the move to form part of this years Queen’s speech in May (2022). Proceeds from the sale are expected to be shared amongst the creative TV industry, with independent production companies likely to benefit.

Channel 4, however, have responded calling the move disappointing, quoting “significant public interest concerns” over privatisation. According to the BBC quoting a government source, ministers have concluded that government ownership is holding the broadcaster back in a rapidly changing media landscape, despite the business currently performing well.

Channel 4 was created in 1982 in order to deliver programmes for audiences under-served by existing broadcasters the BBC and ITV, with the channel initially being associated with the various ITV regional franchises. Unlike the BBC, which is funded through the TV license fee, Channel 4 has relied solely on advertising revenue for income.

With the advent of digital television, Channel 4 has expanded with off-shoots such as Film 4, More 4, and E4, with latter responsible for brining popular American comedies such as The Big Bang Theory to UK screens.

The privatisation process is expected to take some time, as measures to find a buyer and clear regulatory processes need to be carried out.

W in a Slightly Different Place on Sky

Unfortunately, time has gotten the better of me lately, and updates have been few and far between. Apologies for any disappointment caused.

I had hoped to have posted about this over a week ago, but the now free-to-air UKTV channel W has changed channel number on Sky. Premium channel Albi has now been promoted on the EPG, and has taken over W’s prominent number of 109, with W now on 132. This updates the previous post.

Curiously, despite now being on Freeview channel number 25, W is still included within the TV packages of BT TV and TalkTalk TV, streamed via broadband on channel number 311 in both cases. This is despite both platforms piggybacking on Freeview terrestrial signals for free-to-air channels. However, this odd situation will still be of benefit to viewers in some areas, as most commercial channels are not available on Freeview relay transmitters.

In what appears to be a move to free up capacity on Freeview transmitters for W, the Together Channel has now been moved to the limited coverage COM7 multiplex. The community led channel is supported by other broadcasters with bandwith and programmes gifted to the channel. It is unclear where this channel will be accommodated on Freeview once the temporary COM7 multiplex closes in June (2022). Carriage on other platforms is currently unaffected at this time.

W Going Free-to-air

UKTV, part of the commercial arm of the BBC, is relaunching its W channel. As part of this, the channel is going free-to-air, and is joining the Freesat satellite platform, and terrestrial platform Freeview. The channel is currently a premium offering available to subscribers to Sky and satellite, and cable TV provider Virgin Media.

The move has been speculated for some time, but has now been confirmed by the broadcaster. Prior to confirmation, clue to the move have become far more visible, with a Freeview license issued by the regulator Ofcom, and the commencement of free-to-air tests on satellite. W and its corresponding +1 channel are now available on Sky without an active subscription.

From Monday 28th March (2022), W will be available on existing Sky channel number 109 (or 110 for viewers in Wales), and Virgin Media on existing number 125, as well as launching on Freeview number 25 and Freesat number 156.

As part of the launch on Freeview, a wider channel number shuffle will take place. 25 is currently occupied by Dave Ja Vu (Dave +1), which will move to number 74, currently occupied by Drama +1. Drama +1 will in turn receive a promotion to channel number 60, currently occupied by part-time placeholder ITV4 +1. No new number is yet available for ITV4 +1, but this service will likely move further down the order.

Depending on equipment, you may need to retune your Freeview TV or set top box to update the channel names on the channel lists. Some equipment will detect new channels automatically on existing stored frequencies, so will automatically pick up the new feed from Drama +1, and change names in the channel lists accordingly. W and Dave Ja Vu will be using existing feeds, so will not disappear without a retune, but your equipment may not update the service names automatically, so a re-tune may still be required.

4 Music Returns to Freesat

Follow the return of Channel 4 HD and Box Plus Channels to Freesat, 4 Music has done the same. Due to the large proportion of entertainment programmes, 4 Music has been allocated a number in the general entertainment section and can now be found on channel number 181.

Technical changes needed to be made to facilitate the return. 4 Music was previously broadcast on a satellite transponder with a largely Europe wide beam. This led to the channel being encrypted, to protect the rights of broadcasters on continental Europe who show the same programmes as 4 Music. 4 Music has now moved to a transponder with a more restricted UK spotbeam, meaning that the encryption is no longer required. Following a brief period of testing, 4 Music has now been added to the Freesat EPG, a process which should be automatic for most viewers.

4 Music was last on Freesat in early 2018, when the channel was removed following a dispute over carriage fees between Freesat and Channel 4. Shortly after, all Box Plus Channels switched to a Europe wide transponder, and whilst most remained free-to-air, 4 Music became encrypted preventing that channel from being manually tuned in. Generic satellite box users will also now benefit from the return to Freesat, as the removal of encryption means the channel can now be viewed, although will need to be scanned in manually.

New Name for Paramount, Same Great Action

The Paramount Network channel is changing name tomorrow (19th January 2022). The channel will become 5 Action, but will otherwise continue unchanged.

Paramount Network currently shows original programmes including Trucking Hell, reruns of shows such as Police Interceptors, and a variety of movies. The channel forms part of ViacomCBS’s Channel 5 portfolio, alongside othe ‘5’ branded channels.

Previous changes saw Paramount Network merge with 5 Spike (launched originally as Spike). Paramount Network absorbed most 5 Spike programming, and inherited the most prominent channel numbers on the platforms it broadcast on.

The name change clears ViacomCBS to reuse the Paramount name for the forthcoming Paramount+ subscription streaming service. Meanwhile, the soon to be 5 Action will continue to be available on terrestrial (Freeview), cable (Virgin Media), and satellite (Freesat and Sky).

BBC Three Relaunch Day Confirmed

Tuesday 1st February (2022) will see the return of BBC Three. The part time channel will return at 7pm, with a mixed genre format targeting younger viewers.

The channel will be available on Freeview terrestrial TV, Sky and Freesat via satellite, and cable through Virgin Media. As yet, channel numbers are yet to be confirmed, with the BBC stating that these will be confirmed at a later date.

Additionally, the channel will be available to live stream on internet connected devices via the iPlayer.

Pre-launch tests have already begun ahead of launch, using a promotional loop. These are being broadcast on satellite and terrestrial. The satellite transmissions are free to air and can be manually tuned, but the terrestrial transmissions are hidden so Freeview receivers won’t yet be able to tune in to the channel.

BBC Three will appear on the respective platform EPGs in due course. Except Freeview, this will happen automatically. Freeview viewers may need to retune, but should wait until the channel becomes visible before doing this.

Talk TV On Course for Launch, but Still Vague on Details

Talk TV (stylised as talkTV), from Talk Sport and Times Radio owners News UK, is still on course for an early 2022 launch, as more details on programmes are slowly being revealed.

The channel is not expected to follow a traditional pure news format. Among programmes to be shown are a weekly news based satire show, along with documentaries, sports, and other entertainment programmes.

Existing Times Radio presenter Tom Newton Dunn is to move to the upcoming TV channel, whilst Peirs Morgan has been lined up for a flagship show on weekdays.

News UK have reiterated that the channel will be on major TV platforms and streaming services, but has yet to confirm which of these will broadcast the channel at launch.

The service is expected to be a rival for recently launched GB News, which started broadcasts in June 2021 on TV, before commencing DAB+ broadcasts earlier this month.

Channel 4 HD and Box Plus Channels return to Freesat

Page last updated on January 4th, 2022 at 01:51 pm

Back in February 2018, a dispute between Channel 4 and Freesat over fees for inclusion on the platform saw the removal of Channel 4 HD and the Box Plus network of music channels from the Freesat satellite platform. All except 4 Music remained free-to-air, meaning they could still be manually tuned into Fressat boxes. However, 4 Music became encrypted due to rights issues and a move to a transponder with a wider footprint beyond the UK. The other Box Plus music channels also moved transponder, but as there were no rights issues to overcome, they were able to remain free-to-air.

Fast forward to today, and structural changes at Freesat have led to this decision being broadly reversed. Freesat, which oversees the free-to-air satellite platform, has been merged with Freeview, which performs a similar role for UK terrestrial TV. Channel 4 held a shareholding in Freeview, and has now gained a similar shareholding in Freesat, creating a more favourable position for the broadcaster.

This has seen Channel 4 HD return to the Freesat EPG, along with The Box, Box Hits, Kerrang, Kiss, and Magic which form part of the Box Plus Network, which is wholly owned by Channel 4. 4 Music remains encrypted, so cannot be included for the time being, though this may change.

Channel 4 HD appears further down the on the EPG, as not all advertising regions are available for the channel, with the standard definition version remaining on channel no. 104. The new EPG numbers for the re-added services are in the table below.

Channel Freesat Channel No.
Channel 4 HD 126
The Box 502
Box Hits 501
Kerrang 505
Kiss 503
Magic 504

Newstalk and UCB Ireland Leave Satellite

Changes that have escaped my attention until I started using satellite TV myself, are the removal of two radio stations, Newstalk and UCB Ireland, from satellite transmissions. Both changes appear to have occurred this year (2021), with Newstalk leaving satellite on the 31st August.

This will impact on most on Sky viewers in both the UK and Ireland, where both services could be found on the Sky EPG. Both services were broadcast free-to-air, so could also be accessed via generic satellite receivers, including dedicated Freesat receivers in manual or non-Freesat mode. Both stations are aimed at Irish listeners and continue to be available on other platforms, including FM (Newstalk), and Saorview terrestrial TV (UCB Ireland) in Ireland. For satellite listeners seeking Irish radio, stations from RTE continue to be available.

Both changes are understood to be cost driven, although few if any public announcements appear to have been made. Unlike with analogue radio, where there is one clear platform that proves most popular (FM), digital radio has struggled to see a clear winner.

DAB in particular has seen mixed fortunes, with DAB seeing a lot of investment in the UK, but hasn’t seen widescale adoption in Ireland. After a brief foray into semi-national DAB, RTE closed the only national DAB multiplex in Ireland, with commercial broadcasts never commencing beyond a handful of trials. The UK, although seeing more investment, has seen a race to the bottom with DAB and the newer DAB+ format. Broadcasters have sacrificed bit rates to squeeze on an ever increasing number of stations. This has (broadly) widened choice, but at the expense of audio quality, to the point at which some stations become unlistenable.

Going back to Ireland, beyond on-line listening, it would appear that digital listening is struggling in the popularity contest, with neither satellite or DAB able to muster much interest.