We thought it would be useful to update you on how Digital UK and Freeview are adapting our work in light of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Beyond the safety and wellbeing of our staff, our number one priority is continuity of service for the many millions of viewers who use Freeview on a daily basis and for whom TV is a critical part of keeping informed, enlightened, diverted and safe.
Behind the scenes, we are working to ensure the platform remains stable and resilient so that households can continue to access programming from the nation’s leading broadcasters - both live and on demand - which is universally available, and free. We are grateful to the many partners we’re working alongside to make this possible. These include content providers, manufacturers, retailers, Arqiva, DCMS and Ofcom.
We continue to be able to provide viewers with information and advice through the Freeview Advice Line – on the phone, online, on social media and via webchat. We have recently extended the hours for social media and webchat enquiries as contact centre staff adapt to the challenges of offering support at a time when homeworking is required in order to meet Government guidelines.
Like many organisations throughout the UK, we are having to adjust to a new working environment. Where possible, we are supporting partners as they adapt their services to meet the needs of viewers during this national crisis. Collaboration and partnership remain central to driving Freeview forward for the UK’s viewers, even during such challenging times as these.
Updates to the Freeview TV service:
Explore Freeview Play
In order to help viewers find the latest information and advice from Government and other leading experts and opinion formers, we have launched a designated ‘Coronavirus’ genre to the ‘Explore Freeview Play’ area on smart TVs and set-top boxes as well as the Freeview mobile app on iOS and Android. Available at Channel 100 on Freeview Play TVs, this will allow viewers to browse a curated collection of all the latest programming relating to the pandemic in one place.
Accessible TV Guide
Work continues on our new Accessible TV Guide which we are still expecting to launch this summer. As more people rely on their TV set for the latest news and information, the new guide at channel number 555 will provide a valuable service to viewers with visual and/or hearing impairments, allowing for simpler and easier access to Audio Described, Signed and Subtitled programming.
700 MHz clearance programme
As many stakeholders will be aware we have been working with partners across the broadcasting industry as well as DCMS and Ofcom on a significant infrastructure programme to clear part of the airwaves for future mobile broadband services. This programme, known as the 700 MHz clearance programme, was due to conclude in April but the final stages will now be paused until it is safe and operationally viable to recommence. The decision, confirmed by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on 23 March is designed to avoid disruption to terrestrial television at a time when millions of people are relying on Freeview for trusted news and many other genres of programming that inform, educate and entertain.
This is clearly a uniquely challenging and difficult time for people and businesses across the country. TV can and should play a vital role in ensuring that the public can find access to the information and advice they require.
Digital UK and Freeview will continue to play our role in supporting our partners in the delivery of this important goal. And we will serve the UK’s viewers by continuing to bring together the best of British TV in one place for the nation.
We wish all our stakeholders the best during these challenging times.
Jonathan Thompson, CEO, Digital UK
Owen Jenkinson, Marketing Director, Freeview