Premiere pushes for HDTV commitment

German pay-TV operator Premiere is pushing for more commitment to high definition television from German broadcasters, especially free-to-air channels. “More HDTV channels must finally launch in Germany,” said Premiere’s chief programme officer Hans Seger in Munich.

“HDTV is taken for granted in many European countries, even public broadcasters like the BBC in the UK are fully devoted to high definition. In contrast, German broadcasters stick to repeatedly screening showcases and launching what they call quality offensives or merely push the 16:9 format which has been around since the 1990s. For television viewers who have purchased great flat screen sets, that’s poor consolation. And for Germany, as one of the most innovative countries in the world, that’s a very pitiful picture. Austria and Switzerland are both at least a step in front of us.”

Many broadcasters point to the limited number of households with HDTV receivers as the reason for their holding back from the new technology. “The argument about the lack of reception devices is absurd,” Seger complained. “When colour television was first introduced there were hardly any appropriate television sets. And in the 1990s many channels commenced digital transmissions, although there were only few digital receivers.”

Seger also dismissed the argument regarding lack of broadcasting capacity: “With the bandwidth occupied by the analogue signal of [educational channel] BRalpha alone public broadcasters could transmit up to four HD channels.”

With Premiere HD and Discovery HD, Premiere currently offers two high definition channels which have attracted more than 120,000 subscribers. Seger stressed, however, that Premiere could not promote the HDTV market single handed, but was prepared for further commitment to the technology. “We can well imagine collaborating with other broadcasters to extend the HDTV offer and therefore promote HDTV in Germany. Discussions to this purpose are already in progress.”