What is Freeview?

Danny Rawles
Red Freeview logo

Freeview is the UK's free-to-air digital terrestrial TV service which is broadcast over the air waves (actually Ultra High Frequency radio waves) and is received by a standard TV aerial

Freeview is the official digital successor to analogue TV in the UK. The 5 original channels from the old analogue platform are of course available with many more including free HD channels.

Freeview was officially launched on 30th October 2002 and is operated by the BBC, ITV, BSkyB and Arqiva. As the name suggests, it's a free service and doesn't require any subscription.

What is Freeview Plus (Freeview+)?

Freeview+ builds on the Freeview platform and introduces a number of features specifically aimed at PVRs. All PVRs in the UK have to include these features if they want to carry the Freeview+ logo.

If Freeview+ is on the box you can buy with confidence knowing that you'll get the following great features as standard:

  • Pause and rewind live TV
  • An 8-day EPG
  • Series Link
  • AR tracking
  • Split Recording
  • Bookmarking
  • Recommendations
Pause and Rewind live TV
Pausing and rewinding live TV does exactly what it says. While watching a live programme you are able to pause the action and even rewind if you missed something!
(To find out more about how this works, check out our What is a PVR article)
8-day EPG (Electronic Programme Guide)
An 8-day EPG simply means your TV, set-top box or PVR is able to display the entire TV schedule for all programmes and channels over an 8-day period.
The EPG automatically updates everyday so you're always kept up-to-date and are always able to see a week in advance. Think of it as your personal Freeview TV guide.
Series Link
Series Link is probably the defining feature of digital TV recording and no doubt a term you've heard of when talking about TV recording.
This is the ability to record an entire TV series boxset by selecting one instance of the programme in the EPG and choosing Record Series.
The PVR will then automatically take care of recording all episodes in the series without you having to do anything!
Split Recording
Split Recording offers a convenient way to record programmes that are sometimes intersected by the news.
This isn't as common as it used to be but does still happen and usually with films (Channel 5 I'm looking at you). Split recording detects when a programme is split and automatically records both parts.
Accurate Recording
Accurate recording is a feature that tracks the actual start and stop times of programmes you've set to record.
So if a programme starts earlier or later than the advertised time, your PVR will adjust the timings automatically to make sure you don't miss the start or end of a programme.
Bookmarks are a really great feature that sadly haven't been widely adopted by all broadcasters across all channels.
Whenever a programme is advertised, the broadcaster can send a 'bookmark' data flag along with that advert meaning that a prompt will show up on-screen allowing you to immediately add that programme (or book) to your recording schedule.
No need to remember the date and time or trawl through the EPG, just hit the bookmark button and the rest is taken care of - fantastic.
Recommendations are quite a nice idea in theory but in practise they're not particularly useful.
You can receive recommendations based on the programme you've just set to record but there a couple of problems with this.
Firstly, recommendations are always biased since they're given by the same channel. So if you record a programme on Channel 4 you'll only be recommended other Channel 4 programmes.
Secondly there isn't a lot of logic behind it. Basically if you record a comedy series, you might get a recommendation for another comedy series.

What is Freeview HD?

Freeview HD provides all the great benefits of Freeview but brings free High Definition channels to the party.

Freeview HD logo

Full HD programmes have a much higher resolution than standard definition programmes. The increase in resolution is what makes HD programmes look so good because the picture is about 3.5 times more detailed, making the quality crisper and clearer.

Sound quality is also improved on HD channels and many programmes and films are now broadcast with multi-channel surround sound tracks.

Freeview HD Channels

Freeview HD officially launched in 2009 with just two channels, BBC HD and ITV HD and not long after Channel 4 HD launched.

At the time of writing, there are now 13 Freeview HD channels

  • BBC One HD
  • BBC Two HD
  • BBC Three HD
  • BBC Four HD
  • BBC News HD
  • CBeebies HD
  • ITV HD
  • Channel 4 HD
  • Channel 4+1 HD
  • Channel 4seven HD
  • Al Jazeera HD
  • Community HD

How to get Freeview HD?

Almost all new TVs these days are HDTVs and a lot of them will come with a Freeview HD tuner built-in. If this applies to you then that's all you need. Plug the aerial into the back and away you go.

If you don't have an HDTV then that would be your first port of call. Check to see if it has a Freeview HD tuner (some might just have standard Freeview) but don't panic if it hasn't as this can be added to your setup with a Freeview HD set-top box.

Set-top boxes come in two flavours, basic Freeview HD set-top boxes which allow you to watch TV and Freeview HD PVRs which allow you to watch and record TV.

If you're not sure which one to get then I'd definitely recommend a PVR such as the Humax HDR-2000T

They are a little bit more expensive but they also come with so many great features.

Back to WHAT IS