Hello BBC Two HD; Goodbye BBC HD

Tuesday 19 March 2013, 14:11

Alix Pryde Alix Pryde Director, BBC Distribution

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I’m really pleased that the BBC will be embarking on the next stage of our HD journey at 6am on Tuesday 26 March 2013 with the launch of BBC Two HD. BBC Two HD will be a simulcast of the standard definition version of BBC Two that is broadcast in England, and its launch means that you’ll be able to watch the BBC’s two most popular TV channels in glorious HD. I’ve set out below some guidance on how to access the new HD channel, and also some advice about any series recordings you may have set up on BBC HD, and I hope you will find these helpful.

Of course, it’s not a perfect world, and there are a couple of issues that may be on your mind, so I thought you’d appreciate it if first I tackled them head on.

Viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (and indeed some English viewers) may be disappointed that we are, regrettably, unable to offer the full BBC Two schedule for those nations in HD. This is essentially to do with our need to prioritise our investment in HD as we take each step forward, because we can’t afford to do everything we might like to do. Just to be clear, it’s worth my saying that the broadcast in standard definition of BBC Two Scotland, BBC Two Wales and BBC Two Northern Ireland will be unaffected by this launch.

I also understand that some of you will be disappointed to see the end of BBC HD. To make the launch of BBC Two HD affordable, the proposal put forward by BBC management and agreed by the BBC Trust under Delivering Quality First was to use BBC HD’s broadcasting capacity to launch BBC Two HD.

BBC HD will close down in the very early hours of 26 March 2013 but will always have a special place in the BBC’s history as the first HD TV channel we launched. It began as a trial service in 2006 and since then has played an important role offering the best of the BBC in HD. It’s also been the means for us to broadcast 3D programmes as part of the BBC’s 3D trial over the past couple of years.

I can assure you that we have some brilliant minds working on the tricky question of how to find an affordable way to broadcast HD programmes that are scheduled on BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies and CBBC. I will update you as and when we have more news. Some of you may have seen the press release earlier this year that announced the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special in 3D this autumn. As the press release explained, our intention is to broadcast it using the BBC’s HD capacity, and I will give you more details on our plan later this year.


What do I need to do to get BBC Two HD?

The latest surveys tell us that people living in nearly half of the UK’s 26 million homes are able to watch TV in HD, including the BBC’s HD channels.

To watch the BBC’s HD channels in HD you need an HD TV display, and also an HD digibox if your TV doesn’t have an HD tuner built in. Many HD TVs available today have a Freeview HD receiver built in; some also have a Freesat HD receiver built in. These then use an aerial or dish to pick up the BBC’s free-to-air terrestrial or satellite broadcasts, which both cover 98% to 99% of UK homes. If your HD TV doesn’t have an HD receiver built in then you’ll also need an HD digibox. There are a range of these available from Freeview HD/YouView, Freesat HD, Sky HD, Virgin Media and BT Vision+ (the last two of which require a connection to the network provided by the company).

You don’t need to pay a subscription to access the BBC’s HD channels because they are free-to-air (with the exception of Virgin Media and BT Vision’s multicast platform, where there is a monthly charge to access their networks).

If you can already receive BBC HD, you shouldn’t have to do anything particularly taxing to receive BBC Two HD. Some of you will get it without needing to make any intervention. At most you may need to do a retune or turn your receiver off and on again. I’ve given some advice below which has been tailored to the different TV platforms you may use.

You’ll also need to know which channel number to tune in to. This table shows where you will be able to find the BBC’s HD channels from 26 March 2013:







Freeview HD / YouView



Sky HD



Virgin Media



Freesat HD



BT Vision+1




1 – available to subscribers to BT Vision’s multicast platform


In most cases, BBC Two HD will use the same channel number as BBC HD. However, Sky HD viewers will see that we are moving to two new numbers, which allows us to put BBC One HD and BBC Two HD next to each other. (We will also move BBC ALBA to 143 on Sky so that it is grouped with other BBC channels.)

If for some reason you do have a problem, here’s what you should do, depending on which platform you use to receive your HD channels:

  • If you have Freeview HD or YouView your receiver may well pick up the changes automatically but you may need to do a retune. Digital UK’s TV retune website gives advice on how to retune.
  • If you have Sky, you should not have to do anything. If you do have a problem receiving any of our channels, you can try unplugging your SkyHD set top box, waiting 30 seconds and plugging it back in again. If that doesn’t resolve your problem it’s best to contact Sky on 08442 411 653
  • If you have Virgin Media BBC Two HD should appear automatically.
  • If you have Freesat HD and you do not pick up BBC Two HD automatically, you may need to put your digital box or TV into standby for 30 seconds and then switch it back on again. If the channels are still unavailable then carry out a 'Freesat channel retune'. Full instructions can be found in the manual for your digital TV or box. Further help with retuning can be found at www.freesat.co.uk or by calling the Freesat customer support team on 08450 990 990.
  • If you have BT Vision+ it may take a while for the channel logo to update on your electronic programme guide from BBC HD to BBC Two HD, but the channel itself should be BBC Two HD.  You can find more help and assistance here.

How will my BBC HD series recordings be affected?

I want to say a few words about what happens to any series recordings you may have set up on the BBC HD channel. I’ll take this in two parts – series recordings of programmes that are commissioned for BBC Two, and series recordings of programmes that are commissioned for other channels (ie, BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies and CBBC).

BBC Two series

BBC HD currently broadcasts a number of BBC Two shows and so you might already have series recordings for some BBC Two programmes in HD set-up via the BBC HD channel.  For most people these will continue to work after BBC Two HD launches.  If you have series links for programmes on BBC Two SD you might like to replace them with bookings for the show on BBC Two HD (although they will take up more recording space).

However, because we have to make a small change, Virgin Media viewers should be aware of the following:

  • If you have a Virgin Media TiVo box then you don't need to worry about the change, your series should continue to be recorded as normal.
  • If on the other hand you have a V+HD box then you’ll need to set up recordings for the following series again after 26 March (other series will not be affected): Eggheads, Newsnight, Great British Menu, Mastermind and The Culture Show.


Other series

Most BBC Three and all BBC Four series that are shown on BBC HD will come to an end before BBC HD closes, so you’re unlikely to be in the situation of missing the end of the series if you have chosen to record it in HD, but please do check to be on the safe side. The two exceptions are In the Flesh and Bluestone 42, for which you will need to set up recordings on BBC Three in order to catch the end of the series. I’m afraid that, until we are able to broadcast BBC Three and BBC Four and the children’s channels in HD, you’ll need to record programmes in standard definition after 26 March.

If you are worried about your series recordings, the safest thing to do after 26 March is to check that your series recordings are still picking up new episodes of your favourite shows.

* * *

I’ve spent a fair bit of time above talking about how to deal with issues you may encounter, or explaining why we aren’t able to offer more programmes in HD at this point. I hope you find this blog helpful as a result.

But I also don’t want to detract from what I see as a positive step forward in the BBC’s HD journey. We are proud to be reaching this milestone of bringing our second most popular channel into a fuller HD existence. So while we wish a fond farewell to BBC HD and thank it for a job well done, I hope you will enjoy saying hello to BBC Two HD. 


Alix Pryde is Director, BBC Distribution

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Many thanks for the timely and extensive information. Looking forward to the switch over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Wonderful, thanks for an easy and very interesting description of what is happening.
    Are we going to have a nice shiny new BBC Two ident to go with the launch?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    In regard to "The two exceptions are In the Flesh and Bluestone 42, for which you will need to set up recordings on BBC Three in order to catch the end of the series. I’m afraid that, until we are able to broadcast BBC Three and BBC Four and the children’s channels in HD, you’ll need to record programmes in standard definition after 26 March."

    Could these not be put on iPlayer in HD?

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Wouldn't a solution to BBC Three/Four series like the current In the Flesh and Bluestone 42 be to run late night repeats - perhaps in the post-Newsnight slot.

    Currently this tends to be a same week repeat for other BBC2 programmes, sports highlights perhaps being the exception. Since these repeats will have already had an HD outing, these repeats could be shifted to BBC Three/Four as appropriate.

    It also seems to me that several hours every night is just used for a "This is BBC Two" loop. This could also be used for viewers with PVRs.

    And as the previous commenter noted, since the programmes were clearly shot and produced in HD, making them available in HD via iPlayer seems straightforward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Good to see the BBC is coming into the 21st century with BBC2HD, but when will BBCNEWS24 be transmitted in Full HD. Although I prefer the BBC News content to Sky News, the display definition is so poor that it makes it almost unwatchable, and therefore Sky News or even ITV are the only viable option at present. Seems a shame to waste so much money on a new studio, only to delivery picture quality on a par with 405 Lines VHF transmissions from the mid 60's. Come on BBC wake up or refund the licence money and hand on the baton to a more capable operation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I agree with Bob above that the SD quality of BBC News has degraded somewhat and compared to other news channels it looks terribly macro-blocked and running at lower bitrates. A comparison of BBC One SD and BBC News during simulcast programming shows this up.

    As the fifth DTT HD slot appears to have no takers isn't it fair the BBC utilise this for licence fee payer benefit in the form of another BBC service in HD, either that or a Red Button stream HD simulcast where 3D content and red button video can be shown in native HD.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Some might feel this is the playing of a broken record, but BBC Two HD, at the expense of 4 additional broadcast channels worth of HD content, is not delivering quality first. Its delivering stupidity first.
    Time and again, the BBC just doesn't listen to common sense and over the last few years, its cost the viewer hugely.
    BBC HD needs to be retained. Period.
    I have zero interest in seeing Homes Under The Hammer in upscaled HD thanks!
    I just hope the HD PQ is vastly improved and 5.1 gets used!
    If BBC America HD can screen Top Gear in HD with 5.1, whats the BBC's excuse here?
    So many questions and yet, (bleep) all in replies!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    @3 and @4 iPlayer carries programming as play out per the broadcast channel. I know it seems easy, but it will probably mean the episodes in question will only be available in SD. IIRC programming moved from BBC1 to BBC2 during the olympics meant the iPlayer versions were SD whereas the BBC1HD versions were HD.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    @4 Adam Bowie: I think you have just re-invented BBC Select! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Select

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I like the fact that the two BBC HD channels are going to be together on 141 and 142, I would like to know if they will come up in my personal favourites list as I currently have the BBC 1 HD and BBC HD channels in there at their current channel numbers on my Sky box? Also I wonder why you haven't talked with the other PSB channel operators about them putting ITV HD, C4 HD and C5 HD next to BBC 1 HD and BBC 2 HD on all platforms they are all on so they would mirror the 5 SD PSB channels as it can be very annoying not having them in some sort of order, also could they not have gone higher up the epg so they are a lot closer to their SD counterparts? I also agree with the Idea of having BBC3/4 and Children's channels content being more actively placed on BBC 1/2, so that the HD content can be repeated within the same week especially using the overnight slot to full potential. I think that the idea of using the un-rented slot on freeview and any space available on satellite for a HD red button channel which has BBC news on most of the time but has other programs on at other times is a good idea, in fact any use of the space for another HD service by the BBC would be good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    @10 - when your dealing with a private entity such as BSkyB you get what your given. They won't change their EPG LCN assignments just to please PSB broadcasters unless forced to in law. Sky is all about money and subscription, they don't give a hoot about anything FTA unless it helps their pay business model.

    DTT (freeview) and freesat on the other hand have PSB shareholders so have a vested interest in supporting the UK PSB model. If your unhappy with Sky's EPG layout then why not ditch them, go with Freeview or Freesat and save yourself a bundle of dosh in the process!! Don't forget 95% of the most watched UK TV is on FTA channels!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Thanks Alix for updating us in so much detail.

    Take care that only very small percentage of your veiwers know about the BBC Blogs at all. As we saw during the Olympics, where the 3D broadcast of the 100m men was on BBC HD and the HD broadcast was on BBC One HD, very many reactions were posted on social media of people that did not even know that there was a difference between this two stations, let alone know the channel number.

    I am slightly worried when you post comments like "and I will give you more details on our plan later this year". This indicates that a change has been made, without having an action plan for all effects. I know HD and 3D can be broadcast on iPlayer, however only very vew people will be able to enjoy it in that way. So please, please, put the 3D Doctor Who episode on BBC Two HD, and not on iPlayer only. Also for the 3D content from Wimbledon, please do not ban it to iPlayer only, but make some space on BBC Two HD.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    @11 That 95% figure is actually "95% of the highest rated programmes are on FTA channels" They're just about all ITV and BBC One shows. "Quell Surprise". Using that statistic they might as well close down C4. C5 and all the multichannels!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Alix, Why can't shows like It's Kevin, made in HD but only shown in SD be available in HD on iPlayer?

    Once they get an HD showing, they suddenly appear on iPlayer in HD!! Wouldn't it be better if they're available in HD directly after the SD showing?

    Is there an official reason why it can't be done? Would make up for the loss of BBC Three and Four HD content and waiting days/weeks for a repeat on BBC One and Two..

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    @11 & 12

    I would like to point out that viewing figures do not reflect program quality. After all millions of people watch Eastenders an Coronation Street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Any broadcasting bigwig who refers to the channel name change as a 'journey' really needs to have a word with themselves. What a song and dance about nothing. You've stripped BBC HD of all the good HD content from 3 and 4 for a long time. Word has it, those programmes will go straight to Iplayer, although, as has been suggested, there's no reason why you can't have a late night repeat for them on BBC2HD.

    I only hope that the change from BBCHD to BBC2HD will mean that you drop the dumb DOG from the corner of the screen. And do that for all BBC channels too. We viewers know what channel we're watching. Unlike the marketing people, it appears(!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Actually the BBC could continue to transmit BBC HD on the the spare freeview HD channel the BBC has so far failed to sell on. My view though is that the spare channel should be used BBC 4HD as I never watch BBC 3. The BBC has simply got its spending priorities wrong.

    At last I see that BBC News is at last in HD although the studio background is far too messy. All they need to do now is to put some effort into improving the quality and accuracy of the content.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    surely the simplest and cheapest way is to broadcast BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies and CBBC HD content could be broadcast over night ON BBC2HD in the small hours. You could just have 1 day for 3&4 and another children's content.

    That is of course, unless another channel is planned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Thank you for all your comments on my blog! I really appreciate the interesting ideas and questions you have raised, and a special thank you to people who took the trouble simply to say thank you – it means a great deal to know that you appreciate these blogs. I’m happy to give you some responses to the main themes that you've raised.

    First of all, a few of you (@3, @4, @8, @12, @14) wrote about the scope to offer HD programmes on BBC iPlayer. I've confirmed with my iPlayer colleagues that the position is as follows. By the end of this year we hope that all programmes produced in HD will be available in HD on iPlayer, regardless of whether they have been broadcast on an HD channel. In the meantime, HD content on iPlayer has to have been broadcast on an HD channel, or else have been selected to be put through a separate process. There’s a limit to the number of hours of programming per week that can go through that process, but over the coming months we will be selecting those programmes carefully to try to minimise disappointment.

    Then there was the topic (raised by @4, @9, @10, @16, @18) about the potential to offer repeats of BBC Three and BBC Four series on BBC Two late night or overnight. It’s an interesting idea and I have passed it on to Janice Hadlow, the Controller of BBC Two.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    One thing I could have mentioned in my original post is what to do if you have a satellite receiver that isn't Sky or Freesat. The service ID and all other technical parameters of the BBC HD service carry over when we transition to BBC Two HD so your setup should not be affected. However, depending on the make and model, it might need a retune to get the name of the service to update. All the information you need to configure your satellite receiver can be found here on our Reception Advice site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/reception/info/sat_frequencies.shtml.

    You can also use our Reception Advice site ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/reception ) to let us know about faults by using the diagnostic tool. Although we do not respond to these reports individually, we monitor them on a daily basis and escalate to the relevant technical team where necessary. If a problem is found to be a widespread or on-going issue, we will put further information and guidance on the BBC Reception website.

    Thank you to readers of Andy Quested’s post on the Internet blog (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/internet/posts/HD-Test-Card-Special) who earlier this week highlighted some picture degradation on BBC One HD in the North of England. About the same time, we also received notification of the issue thanks to people contacting the Reception Advice service. I’m pleased to report that once we became aware of the issue, my team worked with our supplier to get it fixed quickly by swapping out a single faulty encoder, which took place early on Wednesday. It’s clear though that the issue shouldn't have gone on for as long as it did and I’m looking into that.

    Finally, also in response to a query on Andy’s blog, I can confirm that we are updating the references on BBC websites to the EPG numbers for our channels.


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