Currently Freeview with either DVB-T on UHF or DVB-S Satellite is quite limited. Less than half of NZ households bother with it. Instead 49% of households subscribe to Sky, which is one of the highest penetrations of subscription TV amongst the developed nations (and is a reflection of just how lacking free to air TV is in NZ).
The channel list shows what’s currently available on Freeview. There are 8 commercial channels (ONE, 2, Tv3, FOUR, U, C4, Prime, and Choice), 4 what I’m calling public service channels (Maori, Te Reo, Cue and Parliament), 2 or 3 Chinese channels depending on where you live (WTV8, TV 9 and Televison 33) and some special interest ones (Trackside for gambling on the gee-gees, Shine for those gambling on Pascal’s Wager) and depending on where you are a local channel.
There are also two wastes of bandwidth called the plus one channels.
I don’t know if that many commercial channels are sustainable in the medium to long term in a small market like New Zealand, and I don’t really think it matters if 1 or 2 of them disappear.
Yet it would be nice to have more choice of things to watch, but obviously more commercial channels would be pretty disasterous for the current commercial TV providers (but well done Choice TV for setting up successfully.)
Freeview is also pretty lacking in Sport. There’s a little bit on Maori TV, but Sky pretty much has set itself up as a monopoly, putting the odd crumb to Prime (which it owns) . (Although as I say this I’m enjoying the Showdown from Footy Park in Adelaide:)
Yet there are a number of channels available on satellite TV (I’m ignoring Internet TV as streaming TV is still a bit flaky, and hence marginal, and the URLs seem to come and go). A selected few of these channels could be relayed onto Freeview services either on available empty spaces on the muxes in case of DVB-T, and empty spaces on the current transponders in the case of DVB-S. The plus one channels certainly could be shutdown to make room. There’s also the option of an extra mux (if the government hasn’t flogged off all the bandwidth) or an extra leased transponder.
Not everyone can afford to have satellite dishes, or have the space for the satellite dishes or have the skills to setup to get any of the channels, and even if they could setup for satellite TV the channels are over a large number of satellites, and they’d only get a handful of them themselves. Yet if we added these channels to Freeview then everyone could get them as bonus channels for a minimum of expense and effort (such as rescanning the channels on their existing box). The channels themselves would be non-commercial, often advertisement free, and they are already getting broadcast free to air into New Zealand anyway. They could be added to the Freeview services by negotiation with the channels themselves for very little cost, and I imagine that the companies and governments behind them would jump at the chance to expand their audience and cover those costs themselves.
So to be considered for inclusion on Freeview the channel should be:
- FTA into New Zealand already, and can be relayed onto local muxes or onto Optus D1 transponders.
- In English so the maximum number of New Zealanders can enjoy them. (Foreign language TV is already available from numerous providers – although Ubiworld dying has stuffed this up for a lot of people).
- Be non-commercial, so as not to jeopardise the viability of the NZ commercial channels. Although a good kick up the arse with these extra channels will do them some good.
- Should be objective and sane. Let’s be honest and some channels, Press TV for instance, is sometimes demented in its political views and its not something that should be relayed into Kiwi homes. RT or Russia Today can also be quite biased when for instance a Serbian general gets sent to The Hague.
- Not show TV programmes that are already shown in NZ as working out the broadcast rights gets messy.
- Be non-religious (because nobody would watch)
I would put different extra channels on Freeview-HD on UHF and on Freeview Sat. If someone was interested in both sets of extra channels they could set themselves up for both.
In addition if the channel is available on Optus D2, then you might put it on to UHF, but you wouldn’t bother putting it on D1, as having a dual LNB setup to get D1 and D2 isn’t hard.
It would be worthwhile to add even a single channel, but it would be absolutely wonderful to add 5 or 6 to each of Freeview-HD and Freeview-Satellite.
So what’s available in a rough general order of my personal preference from most preferred to least preferred with the English language channels:
Australia Network is like the best of the ABC for the Asia Pacific. They do show some TV programmes that are otherwise on NZ TV, like Packed to the Rafters, and it would annoy the hell out of the NZ TV industry to have this as their competition. Australia Network likes to pretend they don’t broadcast to NZ on Intelsat 5 (but moving to I-18 and I-19 in the next couple of months). If it was all about making NZ TV viewers happy it would be at the top of the list.
NHK World is from NHK in Japan. The programming is generally excellent, but it could be described as very quiet. If you’ve ever been lulled asleep by the narration in a doco about a temple you’ll know what I mean. It’s currently on D2 so I’d add it only to Freeview -HD on UHF. It would be beneficial to have, but I couldn’t imagine Mediaworks or TVNZ being too worried about the competition if it was there.
Arirang is South Korea’s government’s English language channel. It is a mixture of news and general programming. The K-Pop shows are quite good. It currently comes in on Intelsat-8 and on Asiasat 3S. It’s much like NHK in scope and inoffensiveness.
DW from Germany comes in FTA on Asiasat 3S. There are German and English channels. The English channel could be added to Freeview. It is commercial free, and has frequent news, plus general programming of usually excellent quality.
Blue Ocean Network is a commercial channel out of Shanghai, and it does have some advertising (but not much) for companies like Sinopec, an oil company based in Hong Kong. Its programming is all in-house and is somewhat like NHK’s and Arirang’s. For instance it has a Chinese language show, like NHK has Japanese ones, and Arirang has Korean lessons. BON comes free to air on Asiasat 3S.
Euronews and France 24 English are straight news channels. They both are pretty good. They are FTA on Asiasat 5. France 24 English was being included on Sky, but it is soon not going to be. There probably isn’t a need to have both to get a European News service. France 24 English is probably a little bit better. Euronews tends to repeat its news stories too frequently.
For an Indian perspective News Channel there is News Live out of Assam. It comes in FTA on Asiasat 4 in Assamese, Hindi and English. Or an alternative is Times Now but it is currently encrypted as part of the VisionAsia package, so may not be available for relaying.
I don’t rate RT (aka Russia Today) that highly. It is mostly a News channel (and a bit repetitive), but does have some sometimes interesting bits between the news. It comes in on Optus D2, or Asiasat 3S.
These two are from the same people who put News Live on Asiasat 4. i.e. they come out of Assam in India. They are in Assamese, Hindi and English. The programming is culturally Indian, and I’m not sure how good the English audio channels are. (Jame Jam Irib 3 from Iran is supposedly in English, but the English audio channel is most often silent). If the audio is good then either or both may be interesting additions to Freeview.
Although its in English, the strong Burmese accents make it hard to understand. It’s available FTA on Optus D2, so I wouldn’t bother putting it on any Freeview service. It’s of only limited appeal to a NZ audience.