If you are an observant Freesat viewer you may have noticed a little change in the past few days.
The SD versions of BBC channels finally disappeared off the electronic programme guide on HD boxes – months after they became completely redundant.
All BBC national and regional services have, of course, been available in HD on satellite for about 9 months.
The SD signal was left on for the benefit of those still using SD equipment but will finally be switched off on 8th January.
This is a reminder that the BBC has been exceptionally cautious to try to ensure nobody is disadvantaged.
The BBC could have shut down its SD services months ago – or at least removed them from HD boxes completely.
What may look like overcaution has a very good and entirely laudable explanation.
The public service broadcaster cannot risk excluding the elderly, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.
It is safe to assume ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 will turn off all duplicate SD satellite feeds of their main channels in the near future too. More ITV 1 SD regions shut in January.
If the departure of BBC services goes smoothly, as will almost certainly be the case, commercial channels certainly should not hold back.
The moral of the story is that those who predict the imminent end of linear television are yet again demonstrating that they do not understand that universal access is a vital principle of public service broadcasting.
For most of us, the red button text service may simply seem like a nostalgic reminder of Ceefax. In fact, plans to shut it were delayed during the early days of covid and seem to have been quietly abandoned.
I am beginning to wonder if plans to make BBC Four online only may be set for the long grass too. This is currently expected in 2025 but no date has been confirmed.
BBC Four is now principally an archive channel – a place to find content which also appears in curated collections and box sets on the iPlayer. Yet it remains one of the most watched digital channels at a relatively modest cost.
Some who do not have access to iPlayer (at least on their TV) would certainly miss it.
It is also worth noting that no date has been announced for the closure of Radio 4 Long Wave even though long wave will soon carry a full simulcast of the main FM/Digital service.
I suspect Radio 4 LW and 5 Live MW broadcasts have a few more years in them – simply to ensure virtually nobody is left disadvantaged. They will finally close when equipment needs replaced or when it is possible to say with confidence that virtually nobody is listening.
All this contrasts with what now seems to be a stampede to turn off commercial MW radio services.
It emerged over the weekend that Bauer is to turn off several MW transmitters within weeks.
The services affected include Downtown Radio in Northern Ireland and Greatest Hits Radio in Scotland. GHR’s Scottish frequencies were the original homes of the likes of Radio Clyde and Radio Forth.
The company is acting swiftly and has clearly concluded that the negatives of an AM licence now exceed the benefits. It will be busy encouraging GHR listeners to go digital in the coming weeks.
But to expect the BBC to do the same quickly is misplaced.
The public service broadcaster must be judged by a different measure.
Looking at its caution on SD satellite and the Red Button text service, it understands the need to help those who could easily be left behind even if maintaining a particular service makes no simple economic sense.
And yet again let’s say this loudly, as if we needed to. Linear BBC TV is not going anywhere anytime soon.
PICTURED: SD TV logo/radio. COPYRIGHT: unknown.