Changes to BBC services on satellite and cable this autumn
Satellite dishes in Tower Hamlets, London
We're planning to make some changes to our satellite transponder line-up in about a month’s time. I wanted to tell you about them in advance in case you find that you have to take some action. For the vast majority of viewers, these changes should occur seamlessly and require no intervention.
However, a few of you may need to switch your receiver off and on again or retune it in order to continue to receive all of the BBC services available to you.
In terms of content, no TV channels or radio services are closing as a result of these changes, although we will be closing a few of the least watched video streams accessed via the BBC Red Button, but most viewers will probably not notice much difference.
The changes in detail
The key change is that we will be closing the transponder we call DSat3 (Astra 2B transponder 38) on 7 October 2011.
As you may have read, the BBC Trust’s review of the BBC Red Button service, published in November 2010, challenged the BBC to reduce the cost of the Red Button service, particularly its distribution costs. The Review also highlighted the disparity in the number of video streams offered to satellite and cable viewers compared with terrestrial viewers.
By closing a few of the Red Button video streams on satellite (and hence cable), and moving some TV channels between transponders, we will be able to close a transponder and reduce our distribution costs.
This also reduces the disparity in level of service across different digital TV platforms:
- At the moment we broadcast seven ‘Enhanced TV’ (ETV) video streams, which are used to provide enhanced coverage of BBC programmes (for example, sporting and music events). But outside of busy periods the streams are not all fully utilised. As a result of this change, the number of ETV streams on satellite and, consequently, cable, will reduce to five. By comparison, viewers of digital terrestrial television (eg, Freeview) receive only one ETV stream.
- We will also be closing one of the mosaic video streams used to provide embedded content in some Red Button applications. The News video mosaic stream, or “multiscreen”, is unaffected by these changes.
- We won’t be closing any of our TV channels or radio stations as a result of these changes, but the BBC News, BBC Parliament and BBC ALBA TV channels will move onto different satellite transponders, helping us to make more efficient use of our satellite capacity. The transponder they are on at the moment, DSat 3, has a footprint wider than the UK. They will be moving onto transponders with a UK footprint, which is the same footprint that BBC One has.
How will these changes affect our viewers?
Following the closure of the transponder, Sky, Freesat and Virgin Media viewers will probably notice little difference to the service we provide and the BBC Red Button will continue to provide enhanced video coverage of major sporting and music events.
Prior to the closure of the transponder on 7 October 2011, we will be preparing for it through some configuration changes to our channel line-ups on our satellite transponders.
The way this impacts you will depend on how you receive our services.
- Sky viewers should not need to take any action because Sky boxes should update automatically. If you do experience problems, Sky will be best placed to help and can be contacted on 08442 411 653.
- Freesat viewers in most cases should not need to take any action, although depending on your specific make and model of digital TV or box it might be necessary to turn your device off and back on again, or to do a retune using the box or TV menu. If you have any scheduled recordings for BBC News, BBC Parliament or BBC ALBA you may need to check these after the change, so please look out for this. If you need help with a Freesat box or integrated receiver it would be best to contact Freesat on 08450 990 990 or the receiver manufacturer.
- If you have another kind of satellite receiver, you will need to retune it in order to continue to receive the services that are moving. Since we are just moving services around our existing transponders, there should not be any problems. However, if you have scheduled recordings on BBC News, BBC Parliament or BBC ALBA you may need to check these after the change, so please look out for this.
- Virgin Media uses satellite as the source for BBC standard definition TV channels. Virgin Media will therefore need to make a few technical changes, but its viewers should not need to do anything.
The timing of the changes
Towards the end of September we will be making two sets of changes:
Phase 1: Move BBC News, BBC Parliament and BBC ALBA off DSat7 (Astra transponder 13)
• BBC News will move to DSat2 (Astra transponder 47)
• BBC Parliament will move to DSat5 (Astra transponder 46)
• BBC ALBA will move to DSat6 (Astra transponder 48)
This phase will occur during the week commencing 19 September 2011.
Phase 2: Move five ETV streams to DSat7
This phase will occur during the week commencing 26 September 2011.
DSat3 will then close on 7 October 2011.
The tuning details for our remaining transponders will stay the same and these details can be found at our satellite frequencies page.
We will update that page with the new service line-up when we have completed the changes.
I hope you find this information useful and that it gives you enough warning of our plans. I’d like to reassure you that we are working closely with Sky, Freesat and Virgin Media on implementing this change.
Also, we are sharing the above information with receiver manufacturers and the CAI (Confederation of Aerial Industries) to try to ensure that any satellite customers contacting their manufacturer or a CAI-registered dish installer receive appropriate advice.
We expect that the vast majority of viewers will not even notice the change and hopefully those of you who do need to take some action will find this relatively straight forward.
Alix Pryde is the Director of BBC Distribution