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Freeview programme guide delay 'ridiculous'

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Shops selling the box that enables TV viewers to watch digital channels on Freeview are becoming increasingly concerned about delays in launching the service's on-screen programme guide.
The BBC, Crown Castle and BSkyB promised it as part of their original application for the licence to run the service.

However, the seven-day guide - known as an electronic programme guide or EPG - is not expected to be available until early next year at the earliest.

Until then viewers must use a so-called "now and next" on-screen listing that only lets them know what programme will run immediately after the show they are watching.

Without an EPG viewers are less likely to change up and down manually between the 30 channels available, say dealers.

According to viewing figures released by Barb, non-terrestrial viewing in Freeview homes averaged just 17.2% over the Easter weekend, compared with 46% in cable homes and 54% in Sky Digital households.

Dealers say the lack of a seven-day EPG also makes the new range of digital TV recorders much harder to use.

One dealer contacted by trade magazine ERT Weekly called the delay "ridiculous".

"I think the EPG is really important," the dealer said. "As things stand, I have 10 of Pace's brilliant twin digital TV recorders, which are useless without the EPG.

"I am trying to sell it to people who can't programme their video recorder but can use the EPG to make life easier."

However, the Freeview general manager, Matt Seaman, told the paper he did not expect the lack of an EPG to hold back Freeview sales.

"The Freeview offer of 30 channels with no contract is an attractive proposition and I am not sure the delay of a seven-day EPG will delay people from buying."

Mr Seaman admitted launching an EPG was a "high priority" but said it involved complicated technology and would take time to install.

"This is frustrating for everybody but it requires the upgrading of a lot of kit. This is not something that can be done overnight."