Tuesday, March 30, 2010


So if I go to the next door Harvey Norman and see a sleek new media player that says its "FreeView Compliant!" thats got to be a good thing... right?

I remember seeing those freeview ads on TV and wondering what the bottom line was - why bother advertising some extra channels? Seemed a bit strange to me - surely channel 7 could advertise 7-2 and ABC could advertise ABC-2 and 3 on their own... why bother getting together to make a vague and expensive ad for something called "FreeView" which just seemed to be a few extra channels?

Maybe they're just advertising digital TV? Read the FreeView website, and thats what they seem to be doing.

Turns out, that there is something they're not telling you...

Here is the lowdown on what Freeview seems to be, drawn mainly from these websites:




The bottom line seems to be a FreeView compliant device will force you to watch the ads on recorded FTA (Free to air) television - you might be able to fast forward them at a limited speed, but not do the fantastic 30 second skip that conveniently skips one advertisement.

In return for this, down the track a bit you might get an enhanced Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) that looks a bit nicer, but contains the same information. Woop de do.

I couldnt find any reference to these restrictions on the Freeview website:
http://freeview.com.au/faq/ ... if they're there, then they are well hidden.

I had a brief 1/2 second of concern that they might do something nasty encrypt the EPG so that only FreeView compliant devices could read it (Blu-ray anyone?), but apparently the enhanced EPG might be encrypted, but there are no plans to take away the non-Freeview one.

Any anyway... even if they did, there are alternative places that a HTPC can get its EPG from - such as IceTV. Its not free, but hey, how much is skipping ads worth? A lot I reckon - a 60 minute program can be watched in 45 minutes, I can use that 15 minute saving for something else. Summed over a year, thats many hours.

The IceTV site had the most succinct definition of FreeView that I've see so far:

"Some Personal Video Recorders (PVR's or DVR's) available in the market today come with so called 'Freeview certification'. These devices have been modified and in most cases features that benefit the user have been removed to meet the requirements of Freeview and the interests of the TV Networks. Features commonly removed or restricted are greater fast forward speeds (60x or more) and the 'ad skip' button."

Interesting, huh? No wonder the TV networks aren't telling you the whole story.

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