I know it’s a point that’s been raised many times by viewers and in various online forums – but, almost nine years since an HD version of BBC One was launched, the channel has yet to make any of its English regional news programmes available in HD. Whilst 15 English regions have dedicated news services on BBC One SD, only one version of BBC One HD is broadcast across England. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their own BBC One HD services.
No regional news is broadcast on the BBC One HD channel serving England. Instead, a red apology caption occupies most of the regional news timeslots.
The weekday early evening regional news (6.30pm – 7pm) is actually one of the most-watched slots in the BBC One schedule. There’s clearly an appetite for regional news out there. So, why are the BBC seemingly neglecting to invest in the technology needed to broadcast these programmes in HD?
The pace of change in broadcast technology and the transmission costs associated with broadcasting 15 additional versions of BBC One in HD on the various broadcast platforms are two of the main reasons cited by the BBC for not moving ahead with HD transmission for the BBC One English regions.
Hardly a month passes without an announcement of some notable advancement in broadcast technology. The BBC has repeatedly put off upgrades to English regional studio facilities for fear of the technology being rapidly superseded.
Surely at some point they have to bite the bullet and jump? One wonders if there ever will be a right time? The kit in some of the English regions is incredibly old. And the picture quality – even for SD – is quite poor in a number of cases.
And on the other hand, some of the English regions were upgraded to HD some years ago: BBC North West, BBC South West and BBC London. Yet none of them can get their regional news programmes to the viewer in HD. Does this represent value for money? The BBC would argue that some networked output is also produced in the studios in Salford and London.
There’s no indication that there’ll be any positive movement on this issue any time soon. But surely there’s a better use of valuable airtime than a red apology caption? BBC One is one of the UK’s leading TV channels. This “red screen” solution seems so primitive and reminiscent of the days of the test card.
What would be so wrong with airing the BBC London news programme on the HD channel – with a small caption pointing out that viewers outside London should retune to SD for their regional news? BBC London would be the right region for a good portion of the population. It seems like a much better solution than a red caption!
PICTURED: the red apology caption shown on BBC One HD during regional news timeslots. SUPPLIED BY: The TV Room. COPYRIGHT: BBC.