No Five HD on Freeview before 2012
Ofcom has revealed that Five HD will not arrive on Freeview before 2012 after the broadcaster failed to submit a launch date or programming schedule.
Last June, the media regulator reached a provisional decision to reserve capacity for Five on the new Freeview HD platform, with the aim of Five HD becoming available in 2010.
However, Five was "unable to resolve certain key criteria" at the end of last year, including its failure to inform Ofcom of an exact launch date and schedule for the channel.
Ofcom said that other applicants for the available capacity, Channel 4 and S4C, were also unable to provide "confirmation of their ability to launch a service within a defined timescale". The two broadcasters recently submitted a joint proposal for the launch of Film4 HD on Freeview.
In a ruling today, the media regulator said that it has therefore "decided not to reserve capacity for either of the applicants at this time".
BBC HD and ITV1 HD are already available on Freeview HD, with the forthcoming launch of Channel 4 HD not expected to be affected by the Five situation.
Any available capacity on Mux B that is not reserved by Ofcom immediately reverts to the BBC, which could open up the possibility of a sister channel to BBC HD.
However, that is likely to prove contentious with some viewers considering the recent controversy over picture quality on the channel on Freesat.
"The BBC will now consider options to ensure the capacity can be used to provide high definition services that will further benefit viewers of digital terrestrial television," said Ofcom.
"This brings forward by around two years the date when it was anticipated that further capacity on Multiplex B would revert to the control of the BBC Trust."
Next year, Ofcom intends to offer commercial public service broadcasters another chance to apply for a HD channel on Freeview to come effect from 2012.
A Five spokesman confirmed to The Guardian that the broadcaster, which made a loss last year, is "not in a position" to take up the fourth Freeview HD channel at this stage.
He added: "It was always going to be financially challenging to provide the fourth HD service on DTT at a time when all advertising-funded businesses are under considerable pressure.
"However, we remain committed to launching a HD version of Five and intend to apply for the fifth HD stream when Ofcom advertises it next year. We hope to provide the fifth service on the Freeview HD platform in 2012."