I’m really pleased that the BBC will be embarking on the next stage of our HD journey at 6am on Tuesday 26 March 2013 with the launch of BBC Two HD. BBC Two HD will be a simulcast of the standard definition version of BBC Two that is broadcast in England, and its launch means that you’ll be able to watch the BBC’s two most popular TV channels in glorious HD. I’ve set out below some guidance on how to access the new HD channel, and also some advice about any series recordings you may have set up on BBC HD, and I hope you will find these helpful.
Of course, it’s not a perfect world, and there are a couple of issues that may be on your mind, so I thought you’d appreciate it if first I tackled them head on.
Viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (and indeed some English viewers) may be disappointed that we are, regrettably, unable to offer the full BBC Two schedule for those nations in HD. This is essentially to do with our need to prioritise our investment in HD as we take each step forward, because we can’t afford to do everything we might like to do. Just to be clear, it’s worth my saying that the broadcast in standard definition of BBC Two Scotland, BBC Two Wales and BBC Two Northern Ireland will be unaffected by this launch.
I also understand that some of you will be disappointed to see the end of BBC HD. To make the launch of BBC Two HD affordable, the proposal put forward by BBC management and agreed by the BBC Trust under Delivering Quality First was to use BBC HD’s broadcasting capacity to launch BBC Two HD.
BBC HD will close down in the very early hours of 26 March 2013 but will always have a special place in the BBC’s history as the first HD TV channel we launched. It began as a trial service in 2006 and since then has played an important role offering the best of the BBC in HD. It’s also been the means for us to broadcast 3D programmes as part of the BBC’s 3D trial over the past couple of years.
I can assure you that we have some brilliant minds working on the tricky question of how to find an affordable way to broadcast HD programmes that are scheduled on BBC Three, BBC Four,CBeebies and CBBC. I will update you as and when we have more news. Some of you may have seen the press release earlier this year that announced the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special in 3D this autumn. As the press release explained, our intention is to broadcast it using the BBC’s HD capacity, and I will give you more details on our plan later this year.
How will my BBC HD series recordings be affected? I want to say a few words about what happens to any series recordings you may have set up on the BBC HD channel. I’ll take this in two parts – series recordings of programmes that are commissioned for BBC Two, and series recordings of programmes that are commissioned for other channels (ie, BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies and CBBC).
BBC Two series BBC HD currently broadcasts a number of BBC Two shows and so you might already have series recordings for some BBC Two programmes in HD set-up via the BBC HD channel. For most people these will continue to work after BBC Two HD launches. If you have series links for programmes on BBC Two SD you might like to replace them with bookings for the show on BBC Two HD (although they will take up more recording space).
However, because we have to make a small change, Virgin Media viewers should be aware of the following:
Other series Most BBC Three and all BBC Four series that are shown on BBC HD will come to an end before BBC HD closes, so you’re unlikely to be in the situation of missing the end of the series if you have chosen to record it in HD, but please do check to be on the safe side. The two exceptions are In the Flesh andBluestone 42, for which you will need to set up recordings on BBC Three in order to catch the end of the series. I’m afraid that, until we are able to broadcast BBC Three and BBC Four and the children’s channels in HD, you’ll need to record programmes in standard definition after 26 March.
- If you have a Virgin Media TiVo box then you don't need to worry about the change, your series should continue to be recorded as normal.
- If on the other hand you have a V+HD box then you’ll need to set up recordings for the following series again after 26 March (other series will not be affected): Eggheads, Newsnight, Great British Menu, Mastermind and The Culture Show.
If you are worried about your series recordings, the safest thing to do after 26 March is to check that your series recordings are still picking up new episodes of your favourite shows.
I’ve spent a fair bit of time above talking about how to deal with issues you may encounter, or explaining why we aren’t able to offer more programmes in HD at this point. I hope you find this blog helpful as a result.
But I also don’t want to detract from what I see as a positive step forward in the BBC’s HD journey. We are proud to be reaching this milestone of bringing our second most popular channel into a fuller HD existence. So while we wish a fond farewell to BBC HD and thank it for a job well done, I hope you will enjoy saying hello to BBC Two HD.
Alix Pryde is Director, BBC Distribution