The BBC have announced that they are to launch five new high definition channels. This builds on their current HD portfolio of BBC One HD and BBC Two HD. The new channels will be BBC Three HD, BBC Four HD, BBC News HD, CBBC HD and CBeebies HD. Plans to ditch their 3D content have also been released.
In 2006, the BBC launched an HD channel. This channel was responsible for airing a showcase of high definition content (such as Planet Earth and Bleak House) from the BBC’s collection of channels. As popularity in HD sets and subscriptions increased, more shows started to be filmed in the new format. This meant a separate simulcast channel was created in 2010, BBC One HD.
Earlier this year, the general BBC HD channel – which had been left open to air shows from Two, Three, Four, and the dedicated children’s channels – was closed and replaced with an HD version of BBC Two.
This currently means that although a lot of high definition content is still being produced for channels Three and Four, and in children’s programming, none of it is broadcast with top-quality picture or sound.
A recent example of this occurring is the high profile film Burton and Taylor (pictured left) starring Helena Bonham Carter, which will be refused an HD broadcast (though it was filmed in the format) due to it being made for BBC Four. Next year, when BBC Four HD launches, its content will be shown in sparkling clarity. Remaining standard definition programmes are likely to be upscaled, though as time goes on the amount of content produced in the lower SD format will fall.
Many of the BBC’s long-running dramas have now switched to digital high definition, having previously been shot on 16mm and Super 16mm film and/or digibeta. Though many filmmakers and cinematographers have criticised the BBC ultimately banning production on film, the corporation maintain that it does not meet quality control requirements for HD transmition. Prime time shows on BBC One, such as Casualty and New Tricks, which were previously shot on film, have recently been upgraded to digital high definition.
Although the BBC seems to be showing commitment to HD programming, their commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, still frequently chooses to release a large proportion of content in standard definition for the home entertainment market. Shows such as Luther, Call the Midwife, The Hour (pictured right) and Strike Back (the latter made for Sky) have all been refused Blu-ray disc outings. Instead, they are released on discs that cannot do justice to the way the shows were shot. It is likely this due to the continual fall of disc purchases the public is making. Sales of DVDs and Blu-rays have shown a year-on-year drop, falling by 12% over the last year.
This announced is coupled with the news that the network plans to scrap its 3D ambitions as only half the people with 3D capabilities in their home bother to make use of the technology. The BBC has put 3D on trial, with disappointing results. Last year selected Olympic coverage was shown in 3D, and the upcoming 50th Anniversary Doctor Who special has been shot for 3D transmission. However, due to the extremely low number of viewers choosing to watch in 3D, it will be one of the last programmes the BBC broadcast in the format.
Though plans are being announced and laid out now, the new HD channels are slated to begin airing sometime in 2014.