BBC drops Freeview News Multiscreen

By Julian Clover
October 20, 2009

The BBC is to drop the BBC News Multiscreen from the Freeview DTT platform. Two of the three interactive streams are being switched off on October 27 as part of a reorganisation of its capacity ahead of the launch of HD services. Channel 303, which has also been used for Red Button content, will also close.

The Multiscreen, which is promoted heavily on the BBC News Channel, will remain available through Sky, Freesat, Virgin Media, BBC Online and Tiscali.

One of the two DTT multiplexes held by the BBC is being cleared to make room for three HD services that will commence rollout on December 1. However, the closure of the two interactive streams is at odds with the oft-repeated premise that DVB-T2 could be launched without the loss of services to existing Freeview households.

Writing on his BBC Blog, Content from the BBC News Multiscreen will remain available on BBC Red Button on Sky, Virgin and BBC Online and Tiscali. Writing on his BBC Blog, Rahul Chakkara, Controller, TV Platforms, said he recognised that some viewers would be disappointed, but he had to look at what was available for viewers and balance it with the BBC’s full digital aspirations.

Coverage of sport, music and entertainment events like Wimbledon, Winter Olympics and Glastonbury will continue, though it is obvious that the coverage available to terrestrial viewers will be reduced.

Red Button content will now be scheduled over shorter runs to get the most from the available capacity and the practice of running content from children’s channel CBBC overnight will cease. Chakkara said he would explore new technologies to see if some of the content could be restored.