Why is HDTV disappearing?

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While Freeview tells us to upgrade to HDTV, networks are dumping the shows.

When the newest channel 7mate arrives in late September it will signal the end of 7HD. That means no more high definition broadcast of shows such as Packed to the Rafters, City Homicide, Home and Away and Sunrise. Unless shows happen to be simulcast on 7mate they will be available only in standard definition on Seven.

This follows the recent loss of ABC HD when ABC News 24 launched in July.

Anyone who remembers TEN HD will recall how it too vanished once ONE arrived. Now there are rumours that Nine is eyeing a new channel -- and Nine HD would be the next likely casualty.

Commercial free-to-air networks are only allowed three channels under government regulation, so while most HD channels have mirrored the content on primary channels networks have become creative about ways to increase revenue.

But while that's all well and good for the network bottom line it's bad news for viewers.

Freeview campaigns have waxed lyrical about upgrading to new joys of HD television sets without acknowledging that channels are diluting the HD content.

Similarly, the government has been singing the praises of digital uptake (now 75 per cent) and the successes of the first switch-off from analog to digital in the Mildura region.

Networks are required to broadcast at least 1040 hours of high definition television (HDTV) programs each year. Admittedly, TEN has no problem in reaching that target with ONE, but if you're not a sports fan that's little consolation.

On 7mate, an HD-only channel, there will be high-definition broadcasts of some of its new titles, which is expected to include titles such as Caprica and Warehouse 13. But there will be plenty more shows than there are in standard definition.

Similarly, only a small amount of news on ABC News 24 is in high definition.

Nine, which is tipped to launch a new channel soon, could see the end of HD broadcasts of shows such as Top Gear and Underbelly if it follows the same path. Meanwhile, TEN is rumoured to be dropping ONE SD to make way for its third channel.

The rule of thumb among networks appears to be that until the entire country has switched off from analog in 2013 they aren't interested in offering their premium titles in HD.

In contrast, Foxtel has been adding more HD channels but slugging viewers in the process. If you pay for one channel, expect to pay more just to see it in HD, even when you're already paying another fee for the iQ2.

Extra HD channels are expected to be announced by Foxtel soon.

Are you frustrated that high definition television seems to be rapidly disappearing from your TV screen?

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