Behind the scenes, the first visible adjustments to what’s broadcast on Freeview in preparation for regional BBC One HD in England have taken place.
The good news: this paves the way for the end of the red slate on BBC One HD on Freeview, the last platform to benefit from an upgrade.
The bad news is that there are currently just five regional versions covering all of England, reflecting the current restricted availability of regional HD services in England. This limitation also affects ITV 1’s HD viewers.
Both BBC One HD and ITV 1 HD are carried on Freeview multiplex PSB3, the only multiplex set up to broadcast HD channels.
Each Freeview channel has its own service ID. Regional channels have a different service ID for each version of their channel.
Since Monday, five new service IDs have come into operation, pointing to the existing BBC One HD videostream and sharing the same audio and data PIDs.
At the appointed time (not yet announced), the England-wide BBC One HD videostream will switch to a regionalised stream. The old national BBC One HD service ID will cease and the new regional service IDs will spring into action.
As the video and audio PIDs aren’t changing, many receivers should seamlessly switch over, without requiring a retune.
At present, the new service IDs are:
- 17536 London;
- 17538 West and South West;
- 17539 East, South East and South;
- 17541 East and West Midlands;
- 17544 North West, Yorkshire, East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, North East and Cumbria.
As you can see, in the current configuration, viewers would lose the red screen during regional programmes, but wouldn’t necessarily get the correct regional news programme.
Two things need to happen: the multiplex needs to be regionalised further or the BBC commences using some of the “creative solutions” it once talked about regarding BBC One HD.
This could be providing a red button link to the correct region on iPlayer or directly substituting the over-the-air broadcast channel with the correct region delivered online – but only if you have a TV that supports that kind of thing.
Bear in mind that the licence for the Freeview HD multiplex (PSB3) expires in just three years, with the BBC adopting a wait and see attitude on renewal.
If the BBC does let the licence expire, then it will need to either close down HD channels again, or close SD channels on PSB1, allowing it to move HD channels across there. Something made easier by the planned closure of CBBC and BBC Four.
As PSB1 is set up as a fully regionalised multiplex, that would be good news for HD users.
The BBC is expected to shortly confirm arrangements for BBC One HD regional rollout in England.
PICTURED: BBC One sting. COPYRIGHT: BBC.