'Extended' EPG trial resumes in Wales



The BBC this morning said that the trial to broadcast an 'extended' electronic programme guide (EPG) in Wales would resume later today.

Currently, channels carried on the Freeview service only carry 'now-and-next' data or so-called 'service information' (i.e. information about the current programme being viewed plus information about the next one). The intention, however, is to carry seven days of listings, which would make Freeview much more competitive with BSkyB and cable in terms of usability, and also have a major influence on sales of Freeview personal video recorders (PVRs), which currently have to be programmed manually.

The Welsh trial, which is testing out a four-day EPG, was aborted in December for the second time because of technical problems with the equipment which collates the EPG data and distributes it around the UK. When it restarts today, it will be broadcasting across all the multiplexes in Wales except for Multiplex A, which carries Channel Five and S4C.

The BBC said its understanding was that "only those receivers which are ‘schedule-ready’ will be capable of displaying the extended Service Information as a result of this trial." This would probably exclude many older ITV Digital receivers, and a number of more recent models - although it is likely the latter could be upgraded via an over-the-air software download.

The BBC said it "anticipated" that the trial would run into February, before a decision was taken to roll out extended service information nationwide. How much data will be offered, and when, obviously depends on the final results of the trial - provided, of course, it isn't aborted for a third time.