BBC moves closer to HD as BBC Trust gives it the go-ahead

By Kevin Hilton

The BBC’s plans for HD came closer to becoming a reality this week
after proposals for a full service were agreed by the broadcaster’s
governing body. The BBC Trust gave its approval following a Public
Value Test looked into the viability of broadcasting in the new
technology. A HD test service has been running for over a year
and now the BBC is looking to launch a dedicated channel, initially on
cable and satellite but also, ultimately, on digital terrestrial and
the internet. The BBC’s HD tests have included sports events, notably
the 2006 World Cup and Wimbledon both last year and this year.

BBC’s director-general, Mark Thompson, commented, “We are delighted
that the BBC Trust has approved the BBC Executive’s high definition
television proposals, allowing us to launch the UK’s first free-to-air,
mixed genre public service HDTV channel.”

A key element in this
was the earlier decision by the BBC Trust to agree to the Freesat joint
venture between the public broadcaster and commercial network ITV. This
will be a free-to-air service supporting both SD and HD transmission
and is expected to begin transmissions in spring 2008.

launch of BBC HD depends on a review by the BBC Trust during next year,
when standards for the format and how much spectrum is available for
services have been agreed.

The UK’s commercial terrestrial TV
broadcasters are also preparing for HD, with Channel 4 due to launch a
service by Christmas. C4, the BBC, ITV and Five have signed a
non-binding memorandum of understanding that could see HD channels on
the Freeview digital terrestrial platform by the time the digital
switchover from analogue is completed in 2012.

Under the
agreement the broadcasters will look into the use of new technology to
increase the capacity of the Freeview carrier, with a review of
channels that would make room for HD services from the BBC, ITV and C4,
with Five being given a slot when extra capacity is available. There is
the possibility that BBC HD, ITV HD and C4 HD could be on Freeview
beginning in 2009 or 2010.

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