September 30, 2007

4HD on its way?

Channel 4 have announced the HD simulcast of its main channel will appear on Sky in December 2007, and one hopes on Virgin Media around the same time. It's easier to broadcast a new channel on satellite (effectively you only have to secure the EPG position with Sky, the transmission can be sorted without Sky) whereas with cable Virgin Media have to work a wee bit harder. Fingers crossed for "4HD" on Virgin before Christmas, and with ITV also promising HD output in time for Euro 2008, things are finally looking up.
Here's the Channel 4 press release:

Channel 4 is to launch a high definition TV (HDTV) service for British viewers, which will be available on the Sky Digital platform from launch in December.

Channel 4 HD will be a simulcast of the core Channel 4 schedule with a proportion of programmes produced and transmitted in the HD format. The Channel 4 Group is committed to increasing its investment in HD production and the proportion of its schedule transmitted in high definition over time.

The new HD simulcast will initially be available to subscribers to Sky HD, but will also be made available on other platforms in future.

That last bit's my emphasis. "Other platforms" would be Virgin Media, the forthcoming FreeSat and IPTV services. Here's how the BBC reported the arrival of "4HD", and also reported an update on the BBC HD trial's likely future:

Channel 4 to launch HDTV service
America Ferrera as Ugly Betty
Channel 4's Ugly Betty is already shown in high definition in the US

Channel 4 is to be broadcast in high definition later this year, the first time a UK terrestrial broadcaster has simulcast its output in this way.

Viewers with a compatible TV and Sky HD box will be able to watch Channel 4 HD without paying an extra subscription.

However, only programmes recorded using high-definition techniques will be screened in HD, a format which promises better-quality pictures and sound.

Other shows will be seen in standard definition, a Channel 4 spokesman said.

He added that the proportion of programmes shown in HD would increase over time.

The BBC has offered a trial HD service since last year, but this free service carries a customised selection of programmes, rather than simulcasting an existing service.

Channel 4 said it "anticipated" that its HD service would launch in December.

Expanded BBC service

The announcement came a day after the BBC Trust - the body which must be consulted before any new BBC channel can begin - indicated it was in favour of a permanent BBC HD service.

BBC executives have proposed a daily nine-hour schedule - from 1500 to 0000 - on satellite, cable and Freeview.

Michael Palin in Gdansk, Poland
Michael Palin's latest travel series is being screened on BBC HD
However, this would only be possible on Freeview once analogue signals had been switched off across the UK in 2012, owing to the lack of space on the airwaves.

An interim measure - if approved - would see BBC HD on Freeview between 0200 and 0600 daily.

But BBC Four, BBC Parliament and three BBCi services would have to be taken off air during those times to provide the necessary bandwidth.

The trust set down several conditions for the overall HD service, saying it was important to broadcast material from a variety of channels during peak-time evening viewing, rather than simply simulcasting BBC One.

However, it concluded overall that the service "would deliver a medium to high level of public value".

A further set of provisional conclusions on BBC HD will be published by the trust next Tuesday, and the public will then be able to submit their views during a month-long consultation process.

A final announcement on the service will then be published in November.

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