Freeview receiver spec will omit 7-day EPG

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The confidential Freeview baseline receiver specification, which is in its final drafting stage, will not require DTT decoders to have a seven-day EPG, even if appropriate technology becomes available in the future.

This surprising omission (Freeview is publicly committed to the provision of a seven-day EPG in due course, even though its licence does not require it) has been revealed in a copy of the specification leaked to idtv.co.uk. We understand the specification we have obtained is the penultimate draft being circulated for final agreement, and that it will not differ in any functional respect from the final standard when it is released in a few weeks’ time.

Receivers that conform to the baseline specification will be entitled to use the Freeview logo in packaging and point-of-sale material.

The relevant sections of the specification are as below:

Item No Function Reference / Detail Current Status Future Requirement Notes
3.5 ESG ‘Now / Next’ screen guide using information derived from DVB SI EITp/f tables. Required
3.6 Schedule No agreed format. Optional The transmission of deeper schedule information using DVB / TVAnytime standards is under consideration

Interestingly, the ‘schedule’ (i.e. extended EPG) functionality is listed as having ‘no agreed format’ – despite several high-level sources having confirmed to idtv.co.uk at Mediacast that there was in fact an agreement in place initially to use DVB EIP tables to extend the ‘now-and-next’ information to 24 or 48 hours, and eventually to migrate to the TV Anytime standard for a full 7-day EPG (as currently provided on Sky Digital, for instance).

Another interesting omission is the lack of a modem requirement (again, even if modems and associated MHEG software were to make this both economically and technically feasible in the future) – as per the clauses below:

Item No Function Reference / Detail Current Status Future Requirement Notes
4.5 Modem PSTN Modem Optional See 6.2
6 Interactivity & software Summary:
Enhanced television services are an essential part of the DTT proposition. Receivers must fully support all specified functionality.
Full interactivity through access to a return-path by interactive applications is not currently specified, so receivers cannot be expected to offer such functionality. However, since the inclusion of a dial-up modem in the receiver is not required, if/when return-path functionality is introduced some receivers will never be able to support it. Viewers with such receivers will not be able to use elements of any interactive application that rely on the return-path. Consumer assistance may be required at the point of (and possibly post-) retail if/when return-path functionality is introduced.
6.1 MHEG5 UK Profile 1 MHEG5, Digital Text, Enhanced Broadcast and Interactive TV services at the prevailing UK profile 1 specification, and test suite. Required Version 1.06 of the MHEG profile has now been ratified. Manufacturers should conform to an agreed process for upgrading products to this version.
Receiver manufacturers and multiplex operators are currently working together to establish an industry process to manage the migration of receivers from launch builds to conformant builds and the execution of interactive applications during this transition period.
6.2 MHEG5 Return path extension Optional A draft ETSI standard is in preparation.

All in all, then, idtv.co.uk is somewhat underwhelmed by the document. It does raise the bar in a few significant respects (for instance, with respect to what a box must do when it is first switched on, and how user-friendly it must be). However, in terms of future-proofing, that is, ensuring that purchasers will not have to buy another box when EPG or return-path technology moves on, it fails lamentably.

One final comment: this document is a straightforward one, consisting of nothing more than a lengthy table which lists a variety of functions, and details as to whether these are required or optional (as the above extracts demonstrate). There is not a single phrase in it which could be construed as betraying any commercial confidences, compromising any intellectual property, or causing any person or organization any damage or harm – at least not enough to over-ride the UK government’s declared policy that “information should be released except where disclosure would not be in the public interest.”

And yet, the document that has fallen into idtv.co.uk’s hands – as the UK’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport confirmed to us when we initially applied to see it under that department’s Freedom of Information Code – is, effectively, a state secret.

Were it not for the fact that this policy has had the (no doubt intended) effect of suppressing public debate about critical public policy issues in order to present consumers with a fait accompli, according it such a status would be laughable.



Source: idtv.co.uk
 
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