- Viewers will be able to watch high definition TV on Freeview from 2009, broadcast watchdog Ofcom has confirmed.
Ofcom says new technologies as well as the effects of digital switchover will enable more channels, including HD services, to be broadcast.
But viewers who want to watch the new services, which will first appear in the north-west of England, will need an HD-ready TV and a new set-top box.
Up to four free HD channels will be broadcast, including the BBC's service.
ITV, Channel 4, Five and Welsh network S4C will be invited to bid for three slots in which they can broadcast high definition TV, or other new services.
Ofcom says the new services should add to the "range and diversity" of TV in the UK, and contribute to public service broadcasting.
Viewers will have to wait until analogue TV is switched off in their area before they can see the HD channels. The last regions to change to all-digital signals, in 2012, will be London, the north-east of England and Northern Ireland.
At present, viewers can only watch HD services via satellite or cable, with most paying a subscription.
Free satellite TV service Freesat, which will include HD services from the BBC and ITV, will launch later this year.