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BBC HD.svg
Launched 1 December 2007
Owned by BBC
Picture format 16:9, 1080i and 1080p (MBAFF) (HDTV)
Audience share 0.2% (November 2009, BARB)
Sister channel(s) BBC One,
BBC Two,
BBC Three,
BBC Four,
BBC News,
BBC Parliament,
BBC Alba
Freeview Channel 50
Astra 2D 10847V 22000 5/6
Freesat Channel 108
Sky Digital
(UK only)
Channel 143
Virgin Media Channel 108
Channel 336
Channel 073
UPC Ireland
Channel 135

BBC HD is a high-definition television channel provided by the BBC. The service was initially run as a trial from 15 May 2006 until becoming a full service on 1 December 2007. The first HD originated programme to be shown on the channel was Planet Earth, shown on 27 May 2006.

The broadcasts are generally six to nine hours per day, and include simulcasts with other BBC channels, such as Michael Palin's New Europe and Hustle, and replays of HD programmes such as Planet Earth, Bleak House, Torchwood, and Hotel Babylon. Live coverage of events such as The Proms, Wimbledon Tennis Championships, the Eurovision Song Contest, the FIFA World Cup, and the Concert for Diana have already been shown, with the first live event to be broadcast being the opening World Cup game between Germany and Costa Rica on 9 June 2006.

When high-definition programmes are not being shown, the channel broadcasts a looped preview containing clips from BBC HD programmes.

Initially the trial lasted 12 months, after which the BBC Trust agreed to a Public Value Test (PVT) which began on 21 May 2007 and the BBC extended its own HD trial, which was to end in June, until the end of the PVT process. It was announced on 19 November 2007 by the BBC Trust that following the PVT they had approved the BBC Executive's high definition television proposals to allow the launch of UK's first free-to-air, mixed-genre public service HD channel.[1]


Technical details and availability

BBC HD is available to viewers of the Astra 2D satellite with suitable reception equipment. The channel was also broadcast as a digital terrestrial (DVB-T) service from London's Crystal Palace Transmitter until May 2007, enabling the channel to be viewed by a selected trial group of 450 companies and homes.

Both the satellite and terrestrial broadcasts are free to air, which means that anybody with the necessary equipment (for example, an adequately powerful personal computer with a DVB-S or DVB-T2 interface and suitable software) are able to view the channel. The cable broadcast is available through Virgin Media's basic television package.

The BBC has, therefore, been the only terrestrial broadcaster so far to offer a "platform neutral" HD offering. ITV1 HD is currently available on Freesat and Freeview. Channel 4 HD is currently available through Sky Digital and Virgin Media. ITV, Channel 4 and Five also took part in the terrestrial HD trials from London's Crystal Palace Transmitter, ITV also made their trial available through the Telewest cable service.

The BBC HD channel launches on digital terrestrial television on a region-by-region basis, starting on 2 December 2009 and ending in 2012.[2]

The UK broadcasts are typically at a resolution of 1440x1080i, and encoded in MPEG-4 H.264/AVC on satellite and terrestrial television and in MPEG-2 on cable.


2009 bitrate drop

On 5 August 2009, BBC HD switched new transmission encoders, satellite bitrates on Astra 2D dropped by nearly 40% (from 16Mbs to 9.7Mbs), leading to a large number of complaints of poor picture quality.[3][4][5][6][7][8] The cable version has remained at 17Mbs and is encoded by Virgin Media themselves,[9] while the later launched terrestrial version is statistically multiplexed between 3Mbs and 17Mbs.[10]

European Broadcasting Union (of which the BBC is a member) documents (EBU Tech 3328 and 3334) recommend that the 1080i HD TV format should run at a minimum bitrate of 12Mbps to 14Mbps. Andy Quested, BBC principal technologist, said that the documents were issued in May 2008, which was "long before" the BBC started testing on the new encoders. "Tests have demonstrated that at transmission bitrates, H264 encoders should deliver approximately a 2:1 efficiency over MPEG-2 encoders. Depending on the manufacturer and their current stage of development good HD at 8-10Mbps is achievable now." Quested also pointed out that EBU Tech 3334 says, "With the expected future developments in video coding, it is assumed that HD fixed bitrate requirements will be reduced to 8Mbps to 10Mbps per programme. There will also be advances in the transmission system such as DVB-T2."[11][12]

By mid-December 2009 the BBC had received around 130 complaints on the issue, one of which was sent to the BBC Trust.[13] Tests run by consumer publication Which?, published in December 2009, found no significant decline in picture quality on the BBC HD channel, labelling the difference in picture quality between the new and old BBC HD broadcasts as "insignificant".[14] A petition was added to the official Number10 website in December 2009, petitioning Prime Minister Gordon Brown to bring the BBC in line with current European Broadcasting Union standards by restoring the correct transmission bandwidth on the channel, after the BBC remained steadfast in its belief that there is not actually a problem on the channel.[15]

BBC HD continues to broadcast to the rest of Europe at around 16Mbps with a resolution of 1920x1080.[16]

International versions

It was announced in September 2006 that BBC Worldwide planned to broadcast an international version of BBC HD in the near future.

In Australia, an Australian version of BBC HD[17] was broadcast on the Foxtel HD+ service which was made available to subscribers on 2 June 2008 and was officially launched at the end of June 2008. On November 15 2009 it was replaced on Foxtel HD+ by UKTV HD.

During the first broadcast of BBC World News America, it was announced that BBC America HD would be launched in 2008. The channel in fact began broadcasting on 20 July 2009.[18]

BBC HD started broadcasting to the Scandinavian countries[19] on 2008.

BBC HD service

The BBC has been approved to provide a service of nine hours per day, 15:00 to midnight, with some flexibility to extend beyond this to allow for the coverage of significant live sport or other events. The BBC Trust stated that the service should be available on cable and satellite as soon as the service licence was effective, and the channel had its official launch on 1 December 2007. The decision to provide an early Freeview four-hour overnight schedule has been put on hold with the preferred option being to provide the full nine-hour service as soon as possible, this would be reviewed in spring 2008 when there would be greater clarity over spectrum bandwidth and broadcast standards for digital television.

The BBC HD channel is a mixed-genre service. Its aim, as far as possible, is to showcase programmes produced in HD from the schedules of other BBC channels. These are broadcast in HD end-to-end, not converted from standard definition (SD). Any individual programme may contain up to 25 per cent of non-HD material converted from SD — for example, archive shots in a documentary.

The content comes from across the BBC's portfolio of television channels. It was found by the BBC Trust from the PVT that there was considerable support for BBC HD to show programmes in prime time that would most benefit from the uplift to HD, and not to be just a channel that would simulcast BBC One programmes at this time.

Worldwide events

So far, the BBC has broadcast the 2006 World Cup, Wimbledon, Open Golf, England football internationals, action from the FA Cup and Six Nations rugby in high-definition. The US Masters golf from Augusta National was screened in HD for the first time in 2007. The Eurovision Song Contest was also broadcast live in high-definition on BBC HD, these include 2007, 2008, 2009 and is likely to broadcast upcoming contests in the same way.

The Euro 2008 Championships were broadcast during June and from 8 August BBC HD showed coverage of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, considerably extending the channel's operating hours to do so. Coverage of the Australian Open and French Open tennis tournaments in HD, which the BBC hold the rights to along with Eurosport, are expected to start in 2009. BBC Sport officials have indicated that they hope to offer all of their output in HD by 2012, based on the availabilities of global feeds and planned new studios or HD-friendly renovations in London and Manchester.[20]

As well as sport, the 2009 United States presidential inauguration was also shown on the channel.

See also


  1. ^ BBC Trust HDTV public value test final conclusions
  2. ^ "BBC announces timetable for Freeview HD signal availability". BBC. 2009-11-16.  
  3. ^ "Picture Quality on BBC HD: a response". BBC. 2009-09-17.  
  4. ^ "A day in the life of the Head of BBC HD". BBC. 2009-10-30.  
  5. ^ "Points of View and HD Picture Quality: a response". BBC. 2009-11-13.  
  6. ^ "BBC's Keating speaks on BBC HD bitrates". Digital Spy. 2009-11-26.  
  7. ^ "Freesat 'backs BBC HD picture quality'". Digital Spy. 2009-12-01.  
  8. ^ "BBC HD Picture Quality: some myths laid to rest". BBC. 2009-12-12.  
  9. ^ "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Encoding: And Another Test...(Or PSNR and all that...) Post 86". BBC. 2009-12-11.  
  10. ^ "Freeview HD goes live". Register Hardware. 2009-12-03.  
  11. ^ "BBC's Quested talks EBU recommendations". Digital Spy. 2009-12-08.  
  12. ^ "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Encoding: So Many Tests, and Thanks for All the Recommendations (Or the BBC and the EBU)". BBC. 2009-12-08.  
  13. ^ "BBC High Definition service draws complaints". BBC News. 2009-12-16.  
  14. ^ "Which? backs BBC HD's picture quality". Digital Spy. 2009-12-29.  
  15. ^ "BBC HD picture quality petition launches". Digital Spy. 2009-12-30.  
  16. ^ "BBC HD quality definition draws criticism from viewers". informitv. 2009-12-11.  
  17. ^ BBC HD Australia website
  18. ^ BBC America press release
  19. ^ BBC HD Scandinavia website
  20. ^ [1]

External links

Simple English

LaunchedTrial: 15 May 2006
Full: 1 December 2007
Owned byBBC
Picture format16:9, 1080i (HDTV)
Channel 108
Sky+ HD
Channel 143 (IN H.264/MPEG-4 AVC)
Astra 2D10847V 22000 5/6
Virgin Media
Channel 108 (IN MPEG-2)

BBC HD is a high-definition television channel provided by the BBC. The service was initially run as a trial from 15 May 2006 until becoming a full service on 1 December 2007. The first HD originated program to be shown on the channel was Planet Earth, shown on 27 May 2006.

Other websites


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