If you’re still up in arms over the BBC’s decision to sound the death knell for 3D television, maybe you’ll be able to find solace in its latest announcement. The publicly paid-for UK broadcaster has just revealed plans to roll out all five of its main channels on HD, meaning that BBC News, BBC3, BBC4, Cbeebies and CBBC will all be available to watch in glorious high-definition resolution on both satellite and Freeview from early next year.
The Beeb’s announcement comes on the back of a decision by British media regulator Ofcom to free up broadcast spectrum to create an additional ten HDTV channels for terrestrial viewers on Freeview. The television watchdog said that the 550-606MHz spectrum band became available last year, following the completion of the UK’s digital TV switchover. Of the ten available slots, Ofcom plans to give one to the BBC News HD channel, whilst Cbeebies HD and BBC 4 HD will share a second slot, as these channels will be broadcasting at separate times. As for the new BBC Three HD and CBBC HD channels, these expected to use existing unused broadcast spectrum, which means that there should still be space for an additional eight new channels on Freeview for other broadcasters.
Of course there’s nothing actually ‘new’ about these channels – they’ll be broadcasting exactly the same programmes as their standard-definition equivalents, only the quality will be a whole lot better and will certainly appeal to those who own an HDTV capable of enjoying. The new channels mean an additional 250 hours of high-def content from the BBC each and every week, with the majority of these programmes expected to be available on-demand through the BBC’s iPlayer as well.
There could be even more to come as well. Together with the five new channels, the BBC is planning to introduce a proposal to the BBC Trust in the next six months that will suggest a timetable for the launch of regional variants of its BBC1 and BBC2 HD channels in England, plus regional variants for BBC Two HD in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
High-definition broadcasts have of course fared much better than the BBC’s experiments with 3D TV. Since the launch of BBC One HD back in 2010, demand for the service has steadily grown throughout the United Kingdom, and now over 50% of households are said to be HD-enabled. The broadcaster claims that this figure should reach 80% by 2016, while 90% of all homes should be capable of receiving HD broadcasts by 2019.
“BBC One and Two HD have already shown themselves to be hugely popular with the UK public, and so we’re pleased to announce the launch of an additional five, subscription-free BBC HD channels,” said Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC.