Channel 4 extends the limits of broadcasting: Susan Watts on the long, rectangular shape of television of the future

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The Independent Online
CHANNEL 4 is to broadcast a film a day in the shape of the television of the future - long and rectangular, rather than square.

The 'widescreen' format, said by the industry to be the biggest change in television viewing since the introduction of colour, will bring cinema-style pictures into the home.

The new format is expected to eventually render obsolete today's squarer sets. Widescreen is regarded as a more natural fit to the human eye, and is seen as ideal for sport and other outside broadcasts.

The new 16x9 format television sets can also cope with films as directors shoot them. On ordinary 4x3 format televisions, widescreen films must be cropped to fit, or run with a thick black border above and below the image in a 'letter-box'.

The consumer electronics group Nokia is to launch a 28-inch widescreen television in October, costing pounds 1,300. This will give consumers access to widescreen broadcasts using Europe's PALplus standard.

Nokia has tied itself to Channel 4 in a deal that involves pounds 1.5m of investment in the station in return for a commitment from Channel 4 gradually to increase its widescreen broadcasts, beginning in the South-east and transmitting nation- wide from January next year. Granada Television also said yesterday it would be transmitting some programmes in the format.

Frank McGettigan, director and general manager of Channel 4, said the station already had a limited number of programmes going out in widescreen, but he planned at least 500 hours of PALplus programming before the end of next year.

Channel 4's first live digital transmission of commercials on Monday night was marred a series of failures. Transmissions from the the station's new pounds 62m development in central London began deteriorating at about 11.30pm and two commercial breaks had to be abandoned completely. Engineers corrected the problem and no difficulties were reported yesterday.