Germany is clearly behind Austria and Switzerland
Many Germans who look across the southern borders will certainly be jealous. Especially from June 7th 2008, when the European Championship begins, every detail, every fleck on the players’ shirts and every expression of every player will be visible with five times as much image information whilst Germany sticks with the old faithful. Switzerland has not allowed the opportunity to be lost and is presenting its citizens with the gift of public HD television as the European Championship approaches. Documentaries, films and more will be broadcast in HD on a community channel from SRG SSR.
What the Swiss have been first to do, the Austrians, second broadcasters of the European Championship are doing also. They have responded with an offer to broadcast the European Championship and then the Olympic Games in Peking live in HD. ORF 1 will be broadcast in both HD and standard format in the future. Hereby, the content is partly true HD and partly technically padded out from standard format. Both Alpine countries have thus managed for the European Championship what was overslept for in Germany for the World Cup.
However, in other countries, people can be content with a considerably wider choice of HD material. Compared to the USA, for example, Germany looks like a HD desert. The first HD broadcasts were made in 1998 and since 2005, HD is available via satellite and cable but also through roof antenna and 1000 stations are available. There are even some broadcasters who no longer offer any standard format content.
Improvement in sight?
Whether there will be HDTV through the country in the near future is more than doubtful at the moment. There are still some activities from ARD and ZDF which allow us to hope that they will not complete cease investing in HD. For the IFA 2008, there are time limited programme packages in HD which will be resumed for Christmas, all quite reminiscent of test runs for stereo television in the 80s.
In addition, a new digital transponder is being introduced so that WDR, rbb, SWR and others can also broadcast their programmes in 5 to 6 Mbps. A step in the right direction? A good question, since no more extensive activities can be foreseen for the future, even if the year 2010 is always being mentioned in the background.
Nice to have this logo on your flat screen television, but unfortunately, there are as good as no broadcasts in HD format in Germany which you can receive.
Very few citizens’ initiatives or actions
The reserved reaction of the population seems to confirm the investment-shy programme providers in their behaviour. Hardly anyone has seen a demonstration, a public appeal or a speech in which the expansion of HD technology has been requested.
Only on the Internet has anything connected with the demand for HDTV now been found, with the HD+TV site trying to shake ARD and ZDF awake with an online petition.
For HD television reception, people in Germany are still actually looking into a tube. Is this a reason to say no to a television in Full-HD format? For cinema fans who wish to have their Blu-Ray films displayed in the best possible quality, it certainly is not.
For all others, however, it is rather an investment in the future, especially since –depending on the image optimisation options of the television- the PAL image is generally displayed better on a non-Full HD TV. In addition, the tuners built into the television set generally cannot receive any HD content. As a rule, you need a separate digital satellite or cable receiver for HD reception.
Whilst the difference between a DVD scaled up to 1080p and a Blu-Ray Disc is not earth shattering, there is a great difference between a conventional PAL image and a HDTV image. For example, viewers watching a football match on Premiere HD will recognise the image improvement at first glance.
It is a pity that many TV viewers are resigning themselves to the current situation. We can expect more, especially for the TV license fees we pay. It would be nice if our readers could support the aforementioned petition at HD+TV.