A long wait for BBC regions in HD as broadcaster's new HD channels turn one today

The BBC's new HD channels are one year old today, but plans to provide additional regional and national versions of BBC One and BBC Two in HD may take several years to materialise. 

On the 10th December 2013, BBC Three HD, BBC Four HD, BBC News HD, CBBC HD and CBeebies HD launched on all TV platforms.

Due to the capacity limitations on Freeview, the BBC had to hire capacity on a commercial multiplex that only covers around 70% of households, meaning that BBC Four HD, CBeebies HD and BBC News HD aren't available in all locations on Freeview HD and YouView.

As part of considerations as to how terrestrial TV will need to change later this decade as mobile network operators prepare to claim more TV frequencies for themselves, Ofcom documents confirmed that the current multiplex carrying HD channels on Freeview to 98.5% households could have sufficient capacity to mop up those BBC HD services not universally available over the course of the next four or five years.

This roll-out schedule is still quicker than the initial roll-out of standard definition digital channels on terrestrial TV to 98.5% of households that started in the late 1990s and completed in 2012.

A well repeated gripe is the lack of access to regional news in the English regions on BBC One HD, as well as the lack of BBC Two HD for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

At a BBC Trust meeting in May, the Trust discussed the roadmap for further regional variations of the main two BBC channels in high definition, noting likely timescales and costs for launching these services on various TV platforms. It accepted the recommendations (not in the public domain) it had received regarding the launch of regional variants on satellite, and asked that the Executive prepares a statement setting out its intentions regarding future plans for HD variants in the Nations and English regions on satellite and DTT (Freeview).

However, with little time left before the BBC charter is to be reviewed, it is unlikely that the broadcaster will commit to funding any major regional roll-out of BBC One HD in the English regions. Salford (North West) and London are the most HD-ready of all the English regions.

In July, the BBC Audience Council for Wales heard from Garazi Goia, the BBC's acting Director of Distribution, giving clues as to the timescales for the introduction of additional versions of BBC Two HD. At the Audience Council meeting, it was confirmed that the Trust had recently accepted proposals on establishing BBC Two Wales HD, though, as explained in the minutes of this meeting "this was subject to affordability, policy, audience demands and the actions of competitors, with the time-scale now under consideration that could see a launch of this service some time in 2018, subject to the outcome of Charter and Licence Fee negotiations."

As the BBC extends late night regional news in England for five months next year, don't expect the red screen on BBC One HD to go anywhere too soon.

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  1. i disagree, plymouth south west has had a complete refurb and is completely hd ready

  2. Refurbishment at BBC South West has not been completed. BBC South West does not yet have any means to output its regional news in HD.

  3. I do not understand why they cannot make a "switch" mechanism that allows you to watch BBC HD but automatically turns you back to your SD local version for news etc - my fairly old i-cute freeview hd box always asks "do you want to watch this programme in HD" If I am on local BBC channel even to an extent that as soon as I have finished with the local news it pops a message up, I only have to push OK and it reverts to BBC HD surly his would save pounds in transmitter frequencies!

    1. Sounds easy, but the implementation is more complex. Yes, you could get a prompt to switch back to your local (SD) region (or you could just press '1' on Freeview), but you wouldn't "save pounds in transmitter frequencies", as BBC One HD takes up more bandwidth than BBC One SD - you would still need the bandwidth for HD.
      What the BBC is proposing is that your regional programmes will appear on BBC One HD - whether upscaled or native HD - between 2017 and 2019. Only one version of BBC One then needs to be broadcast on Freeview - that will save the money, as all the standard definition channels can be switched off.

    2. The problem I see is the BBC will not be able to shut the SD version down and only provide HD as there are many more Freeview DVB TV;s still about and HD is only on DVB-2 so everyone would have to get a new box for all the TV's without DVB-2 (I have done this already even to TV's without HDMI connections).Looks like duplicate freeview services will be needed for many years, Sky and Freesat boxes again have to be HD and there are still many standard ones in service. perhaps an easier way around it would be to use the RED Button facility when regional news is on,thus saving bandwidth as it is only required at certain hours through day So for what you are saying HD could be on 1 or 101 and red button regional just for time needed.. (the i-cute freeview boxes - and these have been discontinued - automatically prompt me to switch to HD after the regional news now - I get a green pop up box generated by the machine, just have to push enter. so the tech must be in place already) As far as switching off SD I think there would be an uproar unless some way can be found to let DVB (1) receive it.


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