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.


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