GB News Introduces Subtitles

New based opinion channel GB News has introduced subtitles for the first time.

Implemented around a month ago (but missed by the author until now), the system is based around automatic speech recognition alongside human intervention, to provide live subtitling with a claim accuracy of 98.5%.

The channel’s license from regulatory Ofcom does not yet mandate subtitles or other accessibility features, but the channel has brought these in voluntarily. A statement from CEO Angelos Frangopoulos states, “While we always planned subtitles, we brought them forward when viewers contacted us in their hundreds to request better accessibility to GB News.” (Source: Media Mole, January 2023, unverified).

GB News is available on most major TV platforms, including via satellite (Sky and Freesat), cable (Virgin Media), and terrestrial (Freeview – limited coverage). An additional audio only feed is available on DAB+ digital radio in most areas.

Great Romance Set for New Year Launch

Narrative Entertainment UK are making a line-up change, to their network of four ‘Great!’ branded channels, once the annual Great Movies Christmas channel comes to an end.

In line with the now annual Christmas tradition, Great Movies Classic has temporarily rebranded as Great Movies Christmas, showing a variety of festive films. However, instead of reverting back at the end of the festive period, Great Romance will launch in its place on January 5th 2023.

The channel will remain free-to-air, and will specialise in feel good romantic films, instead of the more general selection of classic films of its predecessor. It is presumed the annual festive Great Movies Christmas will return again over the 2023/24 festive season.

Great Movies Christmas is currently available on Freeview channel no. 52 (limited coverage), Freesat channel no. 303, channel no. Sky 319 (satellite, not Glass/Stream) and Virgin Media channel no. 424. Great Romance will take over on these channel numbers on January 5th 2023, joining Great Movies, Great Movies Action, Great TV, and Children’s brand Pop, in Narrative Entertainment’s portfolio. This is the first significant change to the line-up since Narrative’s acquisition of Sony’s former TV channel portfolio in the UK.

BBC Sets Target Date for BBC One Regions in HD

The BBC has set a target date of April 2022 to complete the roll out of BBC One regions in high definition (HD).

Regional versions of BBC One are already available in HD on Sky’s Glass online platform, Virgin Media (cable and internet delivered Virgin Media Stream) and BT TV, albeit in some regions this upscaled to HD. The target confirms the in intention to roll out BBC One HD to all regions on satellite and terrestrial based platforms, including Sky, Freesat, Freeview, and Youview.

This work will involve splitting the terrestrial (Freeview/Youview) multiplex PSB3 (also known as BBC B) into further regions, to allow each version of BBC One to broadcast terrestrially. This will also allow ITV to show all of their local regions in HD on Freeview, and will end the need for the red screen on BBC One HD advising viewers to switch back to the standard definition version.

Another part of the work required will see additional BBC One HD streams added on satellite, as each version of the channel needs a separate stream to broadcast, with the Sky or Freesat receiver selecting the relevant version of the area the viewer is located in. HD versions of BBC Two Northern Ireland, BBC ALBA and BBC Parliament are also on their way.

Due to bandwidth restrictions, the BBC is understood to be planning to phase all satellite services from the DVB-S broadcast standard to DVB-S2. DVB-S2 is more efficient, but this will mean that users of older non-HD equipment will eventually lose access to BBC services, if they choose not to upgrade equipment. One benefit from this is that there will no longer be a need for standard and high definition duplicates on each channel. This will also affect BBC radio services broadcast on satellite, as these utilise leftover space not large enough for TV broadcasts.

More details will be published on this website as the plans develop.

ITV Drops Satellite HD Encryption

ITV has dropped encryption on HD version of ITV2, ITV3, and ITV4 on satellite, opening these services up to more viewers.

The change means Sky viewers no longer require an active subscription, meaning ITV2 HD, ITV3 HD, and ITV4 HD can now be viewed free of charge. As yet, these versions haven’t joined the Freesat EPG, but can be manually tuned in (as is the case for generic satellite receivers.

Up until very recently although these channels were free to air in standard definition, the HD were exclusive to subscribers, a situation that continues with Channel 4’s spin-off channels including E4 and More 4.

Separately, Viaplay Xtra (recently rebranded from Freesports) remains free-to-air, and has not become encrypted as anticipated by the author. All of the above changes have been observed by the author, and verified by www.digitalbitrate.com.

Music Channel Changes

A few changes have been or are being made to music channels. This will be a longish article, but I felt it wise to wait until I had the full details, rather than post multiple very short articles.

I shall begin with the easiest change, relating to terrestrial (Freeview) only. Now 90s has moved down to channel number 87, to allow for the new Earthx channel take over number 79 (an article on Earthx will follow later this week).

A little more complex, is that of Classic Hits (formerly That’s TV Music), which has resulted in increased coverage. On the Manchester only Freeview multiplex, Classic Hits has replaced Country Music Entertainment, giving a 24 hour service to the Greater Manchester area. The latter remains available on compatible internet connected devices, via the OnDemand365 streaming portal. The Manchester version is labelled Classic Hits MCR, and has taken Classic Hits original number 91.

The part-time version of Classic Hits continues, but now broadcast from 4am to 7am, instead of 1am to 7am. This allows That’s TV (UK) to extended it’s broadcast hours to 4am, with both services continuing to timeshare. The UK version of Classic Hits has taken over Country Music Entertainment’s channel number 88, benefitting from a slightly higher and more prominent EPG position.

In addition Classic Hits has also launched on satellite, and can be found on Sky channel number 366. The service is free to air, and can be manually tuned in to other satellite receivers, but is not yet available on the Freesat EPG.

Trace Urban, Trace Latina and Trace Brazuca have joined the Channelbox streaming platform, which can be accessed via the portal on Freeview channel number 271 and via mobile phone apps.

Lastly, Spotlight TV (formerly Keep It Country) have now confirmed the channel is leaving the Sky and Freesat platforms, on or around the end of August. The channel is looking to join the above mentioned Channelbox platform, although at the time of writing has not yet done so. The channel was for a time the only music channel on the Freesat platform, and has blamed the decision on the methods used to calculate viewing figures. The channel is expected to continue in a more limited, and largely online based form.

Sky Glass to Launch in Ireland

Sky have confirmed that its Irish operation is to launch Sky Glass in the Republic of Ireland, in just under a months time, on the 25th August (2022).

Sky Glass, already available in the UK, is based around a bespoke TV which streams channels via an internet connection, removing the need for a satellite dish or separate set-top box.

As is the case in the UK, the Sky Glass television will be available in three sizes; small (43 inch), medium (55 inch), and large (65 inch), and a variety of colours. Customers in the Republic of Ireland can already pre-register for Sky Glass.

Channel availability is likely to vary compared to Sky’s satellite service, and the full channel line up is yet to be confirmed.

Other developments will see Sky launch their Sky Mobile virtual mobile phone network next year (2023), and four flagship retail stores are also scheduled to open.