MEDIA: FREEVIEW - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. Greg Grimmer is disappointed by the lack of quality channels on the Freeview digital platform

"There is no such thing as a free lunch." I've personally been trying to disprove that theory over the past 15 years that I've been working in the industry called advertising.

I therefore approached the new Freeview digital TV platform with a bout of optimism, that finally there might be a digital TV platform that would appeal to those parsimonious consumers who have so far avoided the approaches of big bad Rupe, or our belated simian friend. So with my old ITV Digital box plugged back in, I sampled the wares of the new Dyke-led offering.

The BBC influence is obvious from the off, the easy to use - (but otherwise useless) EPG highlighted the BBC3 and BBC4 channels high up on the TV ranking and a number of BBC radio offerings are included at the back end of the programme listing. These, together with the parent-friendly but commercially phenomenal children's channels, are sure to do well.

The PR coverage talks of 40 free-to-air TV channels. Currently there are about 20, plus radio and interactive services.

Of the new ones on offer, three 24-hour news channels seems excessive and the inclusion of Sky Sports News only seeks to remind the viewer of the ostentatious quality of its subscription offering. The Hits, Emap's video jukebox, and MTV's doppelganger, TMF, are the current music offering.

They both seem to be like all the others in the genre at the moment by attempting to attract libidinous males voting for the most risque R 'n' B video.

The factual feast is provided by UK History, full of high-quality fodder.

Sky Travel gives another outlet for the rough guides and the broadminded series that is the Uncovered franchise, but the remainder of the current channel line-up is more West London Guardian than Metro in its "free" quality.

Can Andy Duncan, the BBC marketing and communications director, and the evangelical salesman of Freeview, sell enough set-top boxes? More likely, the number of digitally equipped new TVs sold could prevent those laggards in the digital changeover from going over to satellite or cable platforms.

If this works, then the BBC licence fee suddenly finds itself a lifeline, and is unarguably good value. My Mum claims she never watches TV but is an unwitting consumer of five-channel TV and I'm sure, in time, will not even blink when faced with a 40-channel offering.

However, for media professionals concerned about the commercial impacts, the lost opportunity for Granada and Carlton shareholders becomes clearer and the three-channel offering from ITV, even in this limited sphere, looks sparse.

Parsimonious Greg Grimmer, the executive director at Optimedia, is glad his old ITV Digital box saves him from paying the £99 required for a Freeview box.

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