The BBC Trust has today published its conclusions following the recent "Delivering Quality First" consultation, which sought to reduce BBC expenditure to enable the organisation to deal with a multi-year licence fee freeze and the additional costs of running S4C and BBC World Service, which were originally funded elsewhere.
As part of the conclusions, the BBC Trust confirmed that children's programmes would be removed from HD services. Currently children's programmes air on both BBC One HD on weekday afternoons and BBC HD at the weekend. BBC One will no longer carry children's programming after the final areas go through digital switchover this autumn. BBC HD, meanwhile, will be closed and replaced with BBC Two HD, a simulcast of BBC Two, which will also not carry children's programming.
CBBC shows such as Jedward's Big Adventure, Hotel Trubble, The Sarah Jane Adventures, All Over the Place and the 4 o'Clock club, Tracy Beaker Returns and Blue Peter will no longer be shown in HD. Blue Peter had only in the past two years been available in HD, and the BBC's new multi-million pound development at MediaCity UK from where the programme comes from includes state-of-the-art HD production facilities.
Given the recent rush from all broadcasters to convert programmes and entire channels to HD, this must be a broadcasting first.
The BBC Trust pointed out that the reach of children's programme blocks on BBC One and BBC Two has been very low, but some commentators have noted how ratings for shows such as Blue Peter plummeted after being moved earlier into the afternoon, following the loss of Neighbours to Channel 5. Most children may be watching TV on second TV sets that are not HD ready, however a number of commercial children's broadcasters have already launched HD services.
The Trust stated that only 7% of CBBC target viewers that didn't watch (or have access to) the digital CBBC channel still watched the blocks of programmes on BBC One and BBC Two. CBeebies had even less unique viewers to the slots on BBC One and Two, despite CBeebies currently airing for most of the morning on BBC Two.
The changes to children's output will trigger a major shake-up in daytime schedules on both BBC One and BBC Two. Content currently on BBC Two during CBBC on BBC One is expected to move across to BBC One, with BBC Two daytime featuring factual repeats and World News, plus the Daily Politics programme.
Unlike children's programmes, major shows on BBC Three and BBC Four that are available in HD will be reaired on BBC One and BBC Two, as they often are now, giving viewers a chance to see them in HD. BBC News output from the HD-ready Broadcasting House will be seen in HD during shows on BBC One and BBC Two, even though the UK BBC News channel itself will not be in HD. BBC World News, the BBC's commercially funded international news service, is expected to become available in HD following the move to Broadcasting House.
The BBC Trust confirmed the introduction of national variations of BBC One HD for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Whilst HD viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will see their regular national programmes, viewers in England will still see a caption advising them to switch to standard definition BBC One during regional opt-outs. BBC Two HD will be a UK wide service - viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to receive an HD simulcast of BBC Two England.