The BBC’s pioneering high definition TV channel will become a simulcast of BBC Two in one month.
BBC HD launched part-time in 2006, mainly to carry the World Cup, but also to give the UK its first free-to-air high definition TV channel, and a simulcast channel for 3D experiments.
Going full-time in December 2007, and with BBC One HD on air since November 2010, BBC HD has now served its purpose of bringing high definition to the public, and will become BBC Two HD on March 26.
The BBC now produces almost everything in HD, and new productions shown in HD for the first time will include Paul Hollywood – Bread, The Fall, Science Britannica and Keeping Britain Alive.
Janice Hadlow, controller of BBC Two, said: “BBC One HD has already proved to be highly valued by our audiences and I’m delighted that we’re able to follow this with the launch of BBC Two in HD.
“The launch of BBC Two HD will allow us to showcase more of our programmes at their very best – helping to highlight our commitment to high quality, engaging and ambitious programmes on BBC Two.”
Flagship BBC HD productions such as David Attenborough’s Planet Earth and Doctor Who brought high definition to an audience which thought it was already seeing the best TV could deliver.
It was undoubtedly a key factor in encouraging media regulator Ofcom to rewrite a long-term plan for Freeview which had no place for high definition TV.
With ITV and Channel 4 embarrassed into developing high definition plans despite a lack of in-house tech expertise, Freesat was able to launch with HD in 2008, and Freeview HD in 2009.
The new brace of Freeview HD signals gave many consumers a reason to upgrade their equipment, smoothing the progress of Digital Switchover and giving TV manufacturers a vital sales boost despite the recession.
We prefer the early stuff
BBC HD wasn’t without controversy: a small but vocal group of campaigners demanded answers when a change to the transmission system brought a perceived drop in quality.
The campaigners eventually forced the BBC’s tech chiefs to meet them, and won a partial admission that the changes hadn’t been without problems, although the group were never truly vindicated.
The new-car smell may have worn off for HD – some of us can’t bear to watch standard definition any more – but BBC HD deserves our thanks as an unqualified success.
Here’s hoping that the Coalition hasn’t neutered the BBC’s R&D capabilities, or its will to push boundaries, so badly that we can’t look forward to BBC Ultra HD in a couple of years’ time.
BBC Two HD will be available on Sky HD (channel 169), Freeview HD/YouView (102), Virgin Media (187), Freesat HD (109) and BT Vision (852).