If you’ve ever seen full frame uncompress 625line SD with component 10-bit colour then you will know that sometimes resolution doesn’t matter. At a previous employer of mine we could show normal people pictures on a Barco Grade 1 monitor and they would swear it was HD. Freeview just has poor quality because the cost of carriage is so high, especially when there are a dozen versions of BBC One or ITV1 and they have to compress everything down to the n-th degree. The reason that regionalisation costs money is that we must have a cellular transmitter design, each region has it’s own frequency (or more than one because of relays), adjacent regions can’t use these frequencies because otherwise that would affect coverage. The UK design has many “guard” frequencies to protect adjacent transmitters in this way. If every region had the same channels they we could uses a system called an “SFN”, or Single Frequency Network, in this configuration the transmitters all transmit exactly the same thing at exactly the same time at exactly the same frequency. When transmitting in an SFN if you are between two transmitters you get the signal from both transmitters, but instead of causing a problem for you it actually helps because the two transmitters actually re-enforce each other.
I would like to be something of an advocate for having a “BBC Local” and “ITV Local” which could carry various programmes from the regions all day. That would leave us with four high quality PSB stations in an SFN and no worries about being in the “wrong” region. You could then have eight 15min local news programmes scheduled in a two hour period. Or even better you could split the UK into regions and have a regional SFN which carried all of the different local stations which could then have local programming. Have one “Local” channel for each region (Central, Meridian, etc) which is broadcast nationally, the 30min of local BBC news followed by 30min of ITV local news. Then a scheduler could arrange various local programmes bid between production houses. ITV, Channel 4, BBC or even local independent production companies. So much transmission capacity would be made available by doing this that there easily could be twice as much space left for the broadcasters to increase their broadcasts into and hopefully they would choose to increase quality! One “Local” frequency for Scotland & Northern Ireland, the same frequency with different content in Southern England, another frequency for Central England and Anglian and one SFN frequency for Wales (perhaps London could re-use the Wales frequency because London has complex coverage?)
This might even leave room for greater regionalisation, at the moment local content is being squeezed and news production is increasingly centralised to save costs. With a “Local” channel they would have more opportunity to increase the volume of local content and give more national exposure to locally produced content. Of course it would perhaps push local content away from the national channels, and there might be a little less diversity of content on the PSB channels, but I think this is balanced by the local producers having a consistent forum for prime-time broadcasting.
Of course this would all require a massive shake-up from the broadcasters, a major national re-tune and even some significant legislative changes. But I believe it would pump new vigour into the UK broadcast industry. This could also improve signal coverage some what which would benefit everyone. Another advantage of this would be to reshuffle the radio channels into their own multiplex and make that multiplex capable of mobile reception with sufficient error protection as well as mobile ready guard intervals. (If the radio mux was in T2 then I would imagine it would be even more robust and mobile capable).
If you cared to think about frequency allocations here is a rough first throw at some arrangement: