The BBC today confirmed the timeframe for the addition of BBC One HD regions on the three remaining platforms that haven’t been fully regionalised.
The move will see the end of the red screen during regional programmes in England and comes ten years after local versions of BBC One HD launched in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
And for viewers who use satellite and have an older SD box, a help scheme to assist the elderly and vulnerable will be set up in the new year. Among these are a small number of viewers who received a Freesat SD box during the original digital switchover help scheme over a decade ago.
In the meantime, Freeview and Freesat viewers will be able to check to see if their device will support the changes to BBC One HD by going to channel 799.
On Sky satellite and Freesat, viewers in England, Channel Islands and Isle of Man will see regional BBC One HD appear on channel 101 between mid-January and end of March, in a staged rollout.
The regional SD versions of BBC One will then be removed, leaving just one single version of BBC One SD on satellite until early 2024.
Following the end of regional news bulletins from Oxford and Cambridge, BBC One Oxford and BBC One East (West) SD will be closed with no HD replacement: viewers in the affected regions will switch to BBC One South HD or BBC One East HD.
The rollout timeframe indicates that the first test transmissions for the new BBC One HD regions will be on satellite very soon, in order to meet Sky’s testing requirements.
By the end of March, BBC Alba HD, BBC Parliament HD and BBC Two Northern Ireland HD will also be available on Sky satellite and Freesat. BBC Two Northern Ireland HD is already testing on satellite.
On Freeview, BBC One HD on channel 101 will be regionalised by no later than April 2023. Further information will be released by the BBC in the new year.
The changes on Freeview required the regionalisation of the current HD multiplex in England, which was previously only set up to cover England in four sections – a reason why many viewers using ITV 1 HD on Freeview still don’t get their correct regional news on the platform.
Due to capacity limitations, it won’t be possible for the BBC to launch BBC Alba HD or BBC Parliament HD on Freeview.
Freeview will become the only platform to continue offering BBC channels in standard definition, in recognition of the platform’s status as serving a larger proportion of viewers using older equipment.
However, Freeview’s expected IP fallback service should at least provide wider access to HD services when it launches.
BBC One HD is already fully regionalised on Virgin Media cable as well as on Sky Glass and Sky Stream. If you use BT TV’s Pro box and it’s in internet mode, rather than aerial mode, you’ll also get your regional BBC One HD.
Some regions are however upscaled for the time being. Work to upgrade a number of regional sites is ongoing ahead of the wider HD rollout across satellite and terrestrial TV platforms.
In early 2024, the last remaining BBC SD channels on satellite will close. And then begins the next stage: BBC Four and CBBC are due to close and become online-only services.
The BBC has previously indicated in a consultation response to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) it would not push ahead with the renewal of its licence to operate the Freeview HD multiplex, which expires in 2026, at the current time.
It’s clear that any change from SD to HD on Freeview would need to be completed by then if the BBC decided to not renew.
PICTURED: BBC New Broadcasting House, London. COPYRIGHT: The TV Room.