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The arrival of Freeview HD

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Danielle Nagler Danielle Nagler | 16:00 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

jools_300.jpgThe line up for Jools Holland's Hootenanny this year was particularly well chosen. For those who missed it, do look up Paloma Faith's version of the classic TV is the Thing this Year. There's considerable evidence building that TV - by which I mean old-fashioned big screen part-of-a-schedule TV - is not limping towards the grave, chased by on-demand. I continue to believe that dialling up programmes when you want them - facilitated by great catch up services like BBC iPlayer - and catching programmes when they first become available, or just sitting down in front of the TV in the evening to see what happens to be on, are destined to co-exist peacefully.

The TV set itself is far from redundant, even though I think most of us appreciate the fact that flat-screen technologies mean that it can take up less of our living space. And HD itself - although of course available on-demand, and packaged cleanly into Blu-Ray - is still mostly it seems bought, and used, to watch programmes live, or to capture them off-air to watch on the big screen with the leisure afforded by a good hard disc storage system.

The availability of HD on Freeview has been one of the most frequent questions to the BBC over the time that I've been in this job. Sky's Supertelly has clearly attracted many, while the majority of those buying into Freesat, and a significant proportion of V+ customers have also chosen HD.

But across the UK more people have chosen to move from the analogue world into digital with Freeview than to any other platform, and that is just for their main TV sets. BBC HD had its technical launch on Freeview in December last year, when HD transmissions began in the Granada and London regions. But technical availability - while interesting and of course testament to all those who have created the DVB-T2 standard - is just the first step.

So it is incredibly exciting to see the first Freeview HD boxes are coming off the production lines, destined for a shop somewhere near you (probably), any day. You can see what is coming first on any number of reviews - you might want to try these for starters: Humax Freeview HD Set Top Box Goes On Sale (From ITProPortal) or Humax HD-FOX T2 review (From TechRadar). And there will be many, many other flavours of Freeview HD (including I'm told TVs with Freeview HD built in, and hard disc recorders) arriving over the coming months.

The ability to receive HD on Freeview is also expanding - over 50% of people in the UK should be in range by the summer, with the rest of the country following at other points to the end of the analogue/digital switchover process in 2012.

A Freeview HD coverage checker is on hand so that every address in the UK can establish when Freeview HD will reach its arial. There's even a handy free Freeview HD TV Guide iPhone app now available to provide you with our full channel listings, as well as those of the other Freeview HD channels.

The BBC chooses to spend a small part of the licence fee income that we have on making programmes in HD, and broadcasting them in HD, because we firmly believe that HD is simply part of the next stage of television's life. Given that we spend your money on it, we want to make sure that you can access HD - if you wish to do so - on whatever platform suits you. It's good to see Freeview there now (or nearly) alongside Sky, Freesat and Virgin, and to know that the choice of how to get BBC HD just got bigger.

Danielle

Danielle Nagler is the Head of BBC HD.

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    What you forgot to mention though Danielle is that as Freeview HD comes along, the rest of us who view by other platforms have to suffer sub standard quality to accomodate it.

    freeview HD has no future and sadly with hows its run, neither does BBC HD at the moment.

  • Comment number 2.

    New Years Day concert please, in 2011, really was disappointing that it was missed this year.

  • Comment number 3.

    Freeview HD, also known as "The Death of Freeview (DVB-T)"... :-(

  • Comment number 4.

    I had a feeling you'd be first to comment Wednesday83!

    I don't think there's any hard evidence to suggest that the picture quality complaints on satellite arise from anything to do with Freeview HD. Until it is confirmed, it is just (mis-informed or mis-understood) supposition on your part.

    One thing you are forgetting is that greater availability of BBCHD will, if anything, aid the cause of those that are seeking better picture quality. (More pairs of eyes).

    Can I ask you Wednesday, if Nadine blogged about something else that is entirely unrelated to picture quality (such as a new logo for example), would you shoehorn in an extreme and somewhat over-inflated comment about it anyway? Please moderate yourself before posting as you are damaging these blogs for everyone.

    Anyway, thanks for the blog Nadine, but I second the vote for the New Year's Day concert!

  • Comment number 5.

    Whilst the BBC might be congratualed for the technical achievment of delivering Freeview HD, I wonder on what basis Freeview claim "Experience a range of entertainment in HD with five times more detail than standard definition giving you clearer and more lifelike pictures" at http://www.freeview.co.uk/freeview/Services/Freeview-HD, given that of the current HD channels only C4HD meets that criteria AFAIK, whist BBC HD and ITV HD fall rather short.

    Do the BBC plan to improve the quality of HD, or reduce the quality of SD to meet this target?

  • Comment number 6.

    Will the analogue/digital switchover process in 2012 be completed prior to the 2012 olympics?

  • Comment number 7.

    The continued rollout of new supertelly services only serves to the benefit of Hardware manufactures.
    In the last few years we've seen the rollout of Plasma, LCD, LED, DVRs/PVRs, Blu-Ray (and HD-DVD!), Playstation Video Store, XBox live, iTunes, TVCatchup, SkyPlayers and Digital Swichover. Yet to come we have Freeview HD, 3D, Built-in 'iPlayers', TV with Apps/Widgets and OLED.
    As a savey consumer, I'd recommend people hold off buying a new TV for the World Cup, you'll want another one next year.

  • Comment number 8.

    @4 - Easybourne ...

    Totally agree! Some people on these blogs act like spoilt school children who just want to moan moan moan at every opportunity. Last I checked the BBC hadn't said when they reach a million moans they'll suddenly fix any picture quality issues.

    Back to topic, and I think its great that HD will be more readily available. HD via Sky is good for your main room, but you wouldn't pay the extra for it in other rooms. Freeview HD plugs that gap.

    TV's with built in Freeview HD will be good. The existing crop of HD TV's is all a bit misleading to joe public, as they're only HD when fed with a HD source.

  • Comment number 9.

    #8. At 5:46pm on 22 Feb 2010, Gary Sargent wrote:

    "@4 - Easybourne ...

    Totally agree! Some people on these blogs act like spoilt school children who just want to moan moan moan at every opportunity. Last I checked the BBC hadn't said when they reach a million moans they'll suddenly fix any picture quality issues."


    I think that is a bit disingenuous, whilst I also get feed up with the constant complaints there are valid arguments behind most complaints.

    "Back to topic, and I think its great that HD will be more readily available. HD via Sky is good for your main room, but you wouldn't pay the extra for it in other rooms. Freeview HD plugs that gap."

    The cost of a DVB-S (satellite) STB doesn't need to be much more than that of a DVB-T (Freeview) STB, price point is more to do with numbers sold that the technology used, there is no reason why there shouldn't be a DVB-S STB in every bedroom rather than a DVB-T STB. Ok, so a quad or greater LNB would be needed to go along with the extra DVB-S receivers but most Freevieew installations will need a half decent booster fitted to their terrestrial TV aerial to feed the extra rooms - the cost will probably work out much the same.

    "TV's with built in Freeview HD will be good. The existing crop of HD TV's is all a bit misleading to joe public, as they're only HD when fed with a HD source."

    Only to those who do not bother to read what is printed on the side of the tin, everyone else knows that the TV does exactly what it says on the tin - HD Ready...

  • Comment number 10.

    #4, @Easybourne, I know that you know she's called Danielle so Nadine? Was that a slip of the pen or just a, so-called, "blonde" moment? Wrt your main point of your comment to @wednesday83, if there is truly no connection between Freesat HD PQ's perceived deterioration and Freeview HD's introduction then it may be a fair comment. But, personally, I think it's a shame that after over 6-months he, and others, are still left mis-informed about that and as a result prone to mis-understanding the situation. And as far as I know we don't know, and it's quite possible he may actually be right.

  • Comment number 11.

    # 10. @paul_geaton. Indeed, I had a 'blonde' moment after just writing some e-mails to someone called Nadine while in the office. Crossed wires. Ooops, and thanks for spotting it. Apologies to Danielle!

    As for my earlier comments to Wednesday83, I'm afraid I must stand by them wholeheartedly. My reason is that every time I come to these blogs, I have to wade through post after post of 'throwing toys out of the pram' that add nothing to what we already know or suspect.

    I've made MY points with regards to picture quality known by posting them on these blogs. Nothing has changed my opinion, but neither do I have anything new to add to the discussion. I'm not going to get into mindless repetition of the same argument. Nor am I going to go way overboard and start calling for people to be sacked. Some people that post here continue to add to the debate with facts and figures, screen shots and other items of interest and this is the way to keep the debate going. But I read through Wednesday's posts before I posted and the VAST majority of them contain nothing but calls for sackings and ridiculous comments, such as the ones about Danielle's eyesight.

    The ONLY reason I am now posting is that I fear that we will ALL lose the opportunity to post comments and indeed to find out what is happening in the BROADER aspects of BBC HD which do not necessarily have any bearing on picture quality.

    It is possible that more than one thing can be happening at once at the BBC, and I would like the opportunity via these blogs the continue to feed my interest in these things.

    So, in as far as this blog goes, I'm all ears about FREEVIEW HD.

    TTFN

  • Comment number 12.

    I can only hope that the wosening picture quality of Freesat does not make its way to Freeview as well.
    What is the point of spending money on the best equipment if the picture quality is awful.
    I watched the West Brom game and nearly had a headache with awful picture

  • Comment number 13.

    Ignoring the PQ questions for a moment, think off all the people that have shelled out for a TV/set-top-box/freeview+/etc all using DVB-T only to have them made obsolete overnight now that DVB-T2 has been adopted (for HD).

    We all know technology moved on, but we have not even finished digital roll-out yet!

  • Comment number 14.

    @11 Easybourne wrote
    "So, in as far as this blog goes, I'm all ears about FREEVIEW HD."

    But what is there to hear about Freeview HD other than picture quality?

    There's nothing broadcast on it that isn't available elsewhere on an SD channel equivalent.

    The only purpose that Freeview HD serves it to provide better picture quality.

    Ergo, if we can't discuss the picture quality of Freeview HD, there's nothing else to discuss.

  • Comment number 15.

    #13 @Simon Scuffham.

    A point I hadn't even considered! I don't live in a Freeview area (and won't be able to receive any kind of Freeview until 2012), but I have a small TV that is supposed to be able to receive DVB-T HD in some parts of Europe (according to the manual at least - presumably this is an entirely different system?

    Freeview has rather passed me by (as you can tell by my ignorance) as I live in Eastbourne in the 1950s.

  • Comment number 16.

    #14 @ citizenloz.

    "But what is there to hear about Freeview HD other than picture quality?"

    1. Reception coverage and technical issues with terrestrial transmission of HD - signal robustness.
    2. Switch-on dates for various regions
    3. New equipment requirements.
    4. Pertinent info on plans for further BBC HD services on Freeview.
    5. Projected uptake of the service and advertising of the new service.
    6. Funding of the new service.
    7. The continuing debate over copy protection.


    Not much really.

  • Comment number 17.

    #12. At 7:31pm on 22 Feb 2010, George Robb wrote:

    "I can only hope that the wosening picture quality of Freesat does not make its way to Freeview as well."

    I do, otherwise both HD and SD will be unwatchable!

  • Comment number 18.

    Easybourne,

    You claim that there's "no hard evidence" to suggest that the picture quality of the BBC HD channel has been reduced, yet literally hundreds of people have said that picture quality has been reduced. How much hard evidence do you need?

    And you're ignoring some indisputable facts, such as:

    1. With all else being equal, a higher bit rate level will always deliver higher quality than a lower bit rate level (this is the fundamental rule of audio and video coding)

    2. The satellite transponder that is carrying the BBC HD channel has about 8.8 Mbps of capacity unused (referred to as "null bytes" on the figure linked to) plus a channel "6945", which carries an identical audio-video stream to the BBC HD channel that people watch on satellite. I've asked what the purpose of this channel 6945 is, but nobody knew. So as things stand, the BBC is definitely wasting the 8.8 Mbps of capacity on that satellite transponder that consists of "null bytes", and the BBC is possibly wasting 18.6 Mbps if channel 6945 is serving no useful purpose.

    If you combine both of the above two facts, the BBC is indisputably deliberately degrading the quality of the BBC HD channel on satellite (because the BBC is wasting bandwidth on satellite, and quality always goes up if the bit rate increases).

    The fact that they chose to do this a few months before the BBC HD channel launched on Freeview, where the BBC HD channel has to use low bit rates due to the capacity constraints on Freeview, and taking into consideration that Freeview is obviously the BBC's favoured digital TV platform, the only plausible explanation IMO is that the BBC has deliberately degraded the quality of the BBC HD channel on satellite because it doesn't want satellite viewers to watch the channel at higher quality than it's available at on Freeview.

  • Comment number 19.

    13. At 7:31pm on 22 Feb 2010, Simon Scuffham wrote:

    "Ignoring the PQ questions for a moment, think off all the people that have shelled out for a TV/set-top-box/freeview+/etc all using DVB-T only to have them made obsolete overnight now that DVB-T2 has been adopted (for HD)."

    Nothing is being made obsolete, these new STBs will be/are duel-mode as I understand it, the question is though, will the PQ be worth watching on either HD or SD, there simple isn't likely to be the bandwidth available for Freeview HD unless either the bit-rate of SD is reduced or Ofcom/HMG free up more spectrum - and that can't happen anyway until after 2012 DSO completion and probably post Olympics as Ofcom are planing to use some of the then disused analogue spectrum for use by Olympic broadcast feeds etc.

    HD belongs on DVB-S in the UK.

  • Comment number 20.

    #18 @digitalradiotech.

    You claim that there's "no hard evidence" to suggest that the picture quality of the BBC HD channel has been reduced, yet literally hundreds of people have said that picture quality has been reduced. How much hard evidence do you need?

    I claimed no such thing.

    I stated that there is no *known* evidence to suggest that the reduction of Satellite picture quality is a result of trying to obtain parity with Freeview HD. An entirely different claim than the one you ascribe to me.

  • Comment number 21.

    "alongside Sky, Feesat and Virgin".

    A Freudian slip? "Feesat" is what you call Sky is it?

    The Freeview HD looks identical to the Freesat service, it's just a shame the boxes are so expensive at the moment, and they do sell themselves very well, or at least when Channel 4 and ITV get their acts together, with a FIVE HD coming soon.

  • Comment number 22.

    digitalradiotech: Isn't the idea that the BBC want to have BBC One HD and BBC TWO as services shortly, and the space is being reserved in the system for two HD channels.

    I'm guessing that they will close BBC FOUR and make the main two channels HD, leaving BBC three and the news and parliament channels in SD.

    The space being left is for these two HD channels. They don't want to over-allocate the bitrate to the HD channel because everyone remembers how good BBC FOUR was at 8-12Mbps.

  • Comment number 23.

    For my 2p's worth, wednesday283 wrote "freeview HD has no future and sadly with hows its run, neither does BBC HD at the moment.".

    I would say the opposite – I would like more HD channels – especially C4 HD and E4 HD.

    But with no spare satellite capacity currently on the narrow beam just covering the UK, there will be no additional free-to-air HD channels coming on Freesat for the time being.

    Freeview HD is offering 3 free HD channels from the start including C4 HD with the promise of up to 2 more (albeit not until 2012 where I live), but if I want to have any more HD in the interim I would need to go for Sky+HD or Virgin V+.

    Until Freesat can get some more FTA HD channels to join their camp they will be severely restricted.

    I think Freeview HD could well be the FTA HD future with statistical multipliexing rather than Freesat HD.

    I do recall, though, seeing something about SES putting some more satellites with more, tight, UK beams at 28.2 East some time in the future.

  • Comment number 24.

    in 16 Easybourne wrote:

    "1. Reception coverage and technical issues with terrestrial transmission of HD - signal robustness.
    2. Switch-on dates for various regions
    3. New equipment requirements.
    4. Pertinent info on plans for further BBC HD services on Freeview.
    5. Projected uptake of the service and advertising of the new service.
    6. Funding of the new service.
    7. The continuing debate over copy protection."

    Interesting topics in the short term perhaps.

    But Freeview HD's raison d'etre is improved PQ. So that has to be the main topic of discussion.

  • Comment number 25.

    #22, Briantist, we already know that the BBC intend to have 2 HD services by 2012. If, as you predict the 2 HD BBC channels will be exact duplicates of BBC 1 and 2 then I would actually miss "BBC HD". As much as I've criticised certain aspects, there is actually a lot to be said for the variety and selection of programming on BBC HD (standfast the kiddies and early evening programming). And I really, really hope that you are wrong and that they never abandon BBC 4, which currently has some of the best programming on UK FTA telly.

    If I could have any influence on the BBC's thinking re: their 2 x HD channels from 2012, then I'd like to see them continue with Ms Nagler's present-day experimental HD channel showing the "best of the BBC", but with a little more movies and sport on it in lieu of the current repetition and kids stuff, and for the other HD channel to become BBC 4 HD, but with even more classical music and the arts in lieu of the current, albeit limited, repetition and game-shows.

  • Comment number 26.

    Easybourne,

    My apologies - you're right, your claim was that there's no "hard evidence" to prove that the BBC's deliberate degradation of the BBC HD PQ is due to the capacity constraints on Freeview. But without the BBC actually admitting that this is what they've done there will never be any "hard evidence", will there?

    So in the absence of the BBC actually admitting to this, which they would never do, we have to deal with the evidence that's available, and the evidence overwhelmingly points to the BBC deliberately degrading the picture quality because it is biased towards Freeview. If you dispute this, please provide some evidence to back up your claims.

  • Comment number 27.

    It's not surprising that so many people want freeview HD. Just about everybody who is not a HD enthusiast I've ever spoken to wants channels 1-5 in HD. The potential there is vast.

    It has not been good that the boxes have not been available to the public till only the other day. It's absolutely imperative ITV and C4 get their act together for freeview HD. As a bit of time has unfortunately gone there needs be be an incredibly aggressive PR campaign for it and with a bit of luck the world cup will shift quite a few boxes too.

    I noticed too that since Christmas BBC HD barb figures have been considerably higher, I hope this pays off in terms of funding/clout/whatever soon.

  • Comment number 28.

    Briantist,

    If you look at the relevant services on the transponder carrying BBC HD:

    * BBC HD - 9.8 Mbps
    * channel 6945 - 9.8 Mbps
    * null bytes - 8.8 Mbps

    So even if the BBC launched a 2nd HD channel tomorrow it would still have the 8.8 Mbps of null byte at its disposal to increase the bit rates of BBC1 HD and BBC2 HD by 4.4 Mbps each.

    Also, as paul_geaton has just said, the BBC isn't planning on launching a 2nd HD channel until 2012 anyway.

    As things currently stand, the BBC had absolutely no reason whatsoever to reduce the bit rate of BBC HD on satellite, so the only plausible explanation is that they did so because they're biased towards Freeview.

  • Comment number 29.

    #22 and 25: Unless the BBC plan to close one of the two kids channels then both BBC Three and Four are safe, I suspect that any space will be created by 'better' (read worse) compression and better 'house-keeping' - also remember, the BBC has already closed the Freeview LCN302 'interactive' channel to make space for Freeview HD.

    25. At 9:18pm on 22 Feb 2010, paul_geaton wrote:

    "If I could have any influence on the BBC's thinking re: their 2 x HD channels from 2012, then I'd like to see them continue with Ms Nagler's present-day experimental HD channel showing the "best of the BBC", but with a little more movies and sport on it in lieu of the current repetition and kids stuff, and for the other HD channel to become BBC 4 HD, but with even more classical music and the arts in lieu of the current, albeit limited, repetition and game-shows."

    Couldn't agree with you more Paul, the BBC needs to offer what isn't available on other channels, not more of the same, BBC HD needs to be as adventurous as Ch4 was when they first launched back in the 1980s. Other FTA HD channels, even those from Ch4, have to follow the market to a large degree these days, only the BBC can be the HD show-case, funded by the TVL as it is.

  • Comment number 30.

    Interesting, if scary, posts from Briantist.

    #21: 'The Freeview HD looks identical to the Freesat service'. Assuming this means you have seen the output from a freeview STB, this is a bit of a showstopper. There have been plenty of posts and evidence about freesat being bit starved, but the thinking has quite reasonably been that stat muxing will at least relieve if not banish this. Hasn't this worked out, then?

    #22: 'I'm guessing that they will close BBC FOUR and make the main two channels HD, leaving BBC three and the news and parliament channels in SD'. If they close BBC four I want a refund! BBC three is the waste of bandwidth. (If there was an emoticon for half a smiley I'd use it here.)

    'The space being left is for these two HD channels. They don't want to over-allocate the bitrate to the HD channel because everyone remembers how good BBC FOUR was at 8-12Mbps.'

    This combines personal memory with unfortunately due skepticism. I wasn't able to measure bitrates years ago, but this comment does remind me of how I came across an old recording of BBC four and was startled by just how good it looked. Not HD, but very robust looking to the point where I didn't feel very much could be improved. In retrospect this was probably simply because there were so few compression artefacts. And the point about why null bytes are broadcast rather than allocating them to picture info, a move which has been frequently asked for on these blogs, is all too credible. I have an emoticon for that though: :(



  • Comment number 31.

    @digitalradiotech: I've read somewhere on these blogs that channel 6945 is some sort of pointer or alias rather than an actual data stream.

  • Comment number 32.

    HD_fan428,

    So they're wasting 18.6 Mbps of capacity on one satellite transponder alone - yet Danielle Nagler claimed in one of her blogs that the BBC has a duty to use bandwidth as efficiently as possible!

    BTW, has the BBC Trust responded to complaints about Danielle Nagler being dishonest on her blogs yet, and if so, do you know what they said?

  • Comment number 33.

    @digitalradiotech: I meant that they are wasting 8.8 Mbps; channel 6945 doesn't use any data. At least, that's what I've read.

    As for the 'dishonesty' issue, I don't know anything I'm afraid. Describing adverse viewer reaction as amounting to one complaint, if that's what you are referring to, has always struck me as an ill advised move whose consequences might take some time to unfold, FWIW.

  • Comment number 34.

    HD_fan428,

    Sorry, I got what you said the wrong way round, but I think whoever said that it's a pointer/alias must have been wrong, because otherwise the number of null bytes would be higher.

    The satellite transponder has a capacity of 36.67 Mbps, and the services listed have bit rates of 2 x 9.725 Mbps + 2 x 4.1 Mbps = 27.65 Mbps, so there should be 36.67 - 27.65 = 9.0 Mbps remaining, which is almost exactly the same as the 8.8 Mbps null bytes shown on the chart (the 0.2 Mbps not accounted for must be due to capacity being consumed as overhead when multiplexing services together).

  • Comment number 35.

    Can I just remind people that picture quality issues on BBC HD are better discussed on Andy's post.

  • Comment number 36.

    #35. At 09:43am on 23 Feb 2010, Nick Reynolds wrote:

    "Can I just remind people that picture quality issues on BBC HD are better discussed on Andy's post."

    But not when it's directly related to what can be expected of Freeview HD, if you are seriously suggesting that Andy's blog is the catch all place then just what is the point in Danielle publishing her 'open letter' (for that is what they seem to be regarded as) in a blog were nothing other than self congratulatory back slapping seems to be welcome.

    I'm very against the concept of Freeview HD, HD belongs on DVB-S in the UK in my opinion (as it's an extra, non core, service), so it would seem I can either discus it here and not mention why I'm against it or I can muddy Andy's blog even further by bringing up (for that blog) an irrelevance there, but at least I would be allowed to mention why I'm against Freeview HD!...

    I hope that we do not have to revisit the moderation debate Nick, PQ and bit-rates are as much on-topic here (were they relate to the BBC's future Freeview HD service) as they would be in Andy's blog, there is considerable cross-over. It is also valid to compare what is known about the DVB-T HD service with that of the DVB-S HD service, if for no other reason than some might well be wondering whether they should hang on for the Freeview HD service or if they would be better to buy into the DVB-S HD platform.

  • Comment number 37.

    This is the only open blog where we have the ear of the Head of HD so it is valid to bring our feedback to her -especially as all other avenues have been closed. This should not be a place to trade technical arguments (as on Andy's blog) - proving a technical point should not be our concern. Danielle should be under no illusion that many people believe the service is worse than 9 months ago - whatever the reason for it is upto the BBC to resolve -not us.

  • Comment number 38.

    I agree with Boilerplated: how on earth can PQ and bit rates be off-topic for a blog about "high-definition"??

    It's like starting a blog about Manchester United then saying "sorry, football is off topic on this thread, please discuss Manchester United only".

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    Re: #31 You are correct, there is only one instance of the channel being broadcast, but with two ID's.

    The purpose has never been explained AFAIK, the only difference I've found is that the EPG data is not accessible through 6945 (on two of my boxes, anyway).

  • Comment number 41.

    As many have said before, And personally now I can only think that one of the main reasons for the bit rate cut, this was to make sure the quality didn't outshine freeview HD output. This decision was probably made long before the encoder change in August 09 as it was reaching end of life. At the point of then introducing the new encoder, is was the perfect opportunity to tighten the bitrate and reduce it as this to coincide with the freeview HD Technical launch a few months later. If you had an option of the same HD channel on different platforms offered at better quality, what would you choose? Sadly this could be potentially quite damaging for Freesat, not all consumers are technically minded, and they would opt for a platform with a greater HD offering. BBC are possibly more biased towards freeview HD, regardless they will have another platform to push out their HD channel.

  • Comment number 42.

    post #41 by zubeirp

    I agree with your post - strange then that I also read that that first showing of Freeview HD was at a HIGHER bit-rate than it is expected to actual go out with on the service!

    Cheers, daveac

  • Comment number 43.

    You should of used the space ofcom is selling off to mobile phone companies for HD

  • Comment number 44.

    This whole BBC HD debacle with bitrates on satellite needs to sorted out - NOW!

  • Comment number 45.

    #43. At 8:25pm on 23 Feb 2010, Hyperstar wrote:

    "You should of used the space ofcom is selling off to mobile phone companies for HD"

    I expect that the BBC and other broadcasters would have done so had Ofcom/HMG allowed them, the decision to sell off the 'Digital dividend' (space freed up after DSO) not been made without much consultation with the broadcasters...

  • Comment number 46.

    44. At 8:30pm on 23 Feb 2010, goldMarkL1 wrote:

    "This whole BBC HD debacle with bitrates on satellite needs to sorted out - NOW!"

    Wrong blog!

  • Comment number 47.

    @Boilerplated, no this is not the wrong blog at all.

    It's clear that one of the reasons, if not THE reason, for the bit rate to be cut for BBC HD on satellite was to ensure Freeview HD didn't look bad in comparison. Now, we are all subjected to this lowest common denominator of "High" Definition from the BBC.

    Hopefully, the BBC Trust who are (at last) investigating this, will sort it out.

  • Comment number 48.

    Dear goldMarkL1 - please can you move the bit rate discussion to the PQ blog

    Andy

  • Comment number 49.

    If I buy a box now, will it stop working if DRM is added as the BBC wants?

  • Comment number 50.

    @ 47 goldMarkL1 wrote:

    "Hopefully, the BBC Trust who are (at last) investigating this, will sort it out."

    Just to clarify, the BBC Trust are not investigating this.

    Someone (Paul Eaton) has made a submission to the Trust, but this has still to be accepted by them. So there is no investigation under way at present AFAIK.

    And they may reject the submission if Danielle and Andy can convince them it has no basis.

  • Comment number 51.

    Dave Parker - re DRM - see this blog post which hopefully will reassure you.

  • Comment number 52.

    @Nick Reynolds

    The article doesn't really help. It refers to the proposed system so I assume that if the EPG information is encrypted, my current box will not be able to decode it.

    So my question is, if I buy a box now, will I need to buy a new one if DRM is introduced or can it be updated?

  • Comment number 53.

    Treads carefully .........

    I am reluctant to get into the PQ territory, but would feel terribly disappointed to discover that the current loading on the DVB-T2 mux is being maintained artificially so that more space is being allocated to the current two channels than there will be with the third channel on air in April and the fourth at the end of the year. Perhaps the space for the two further channels should be occupied by the test loop until the CH4 and Five services launch.

  • Comment number 54.

    Andy Quested,

    Could you explain what's off-topic about PQ and bit rates on a thread about "high-definition", please?

  • Comment number 55.

    Dear digitalradiotech thanks for the post - goldMarkL1 comment was primarily about the current channels bit rate and speculation about terrestrial. The discussion (which can include DTT HD comments is going on in another blog and I can easily miss comments in non-PQ blogs or answer very late

    Andy

  • Comment number 56.

    digitalradiotech - Danielle does not mention bit rates or picture quality in her post. That's why comments about these subjects are better left on Andy's post.

  • Comment number 57.

    Andy Quested,

    HD stands for "high definition", so discussion about bit rates and PQ are obviously on-topic on blogs about the BBC "HD" channel, and trying to stop people posting PQ-related comments on blogs other than your own is obviously an attempt to put this issue to bed without increasing the bit rates.

    Whilst you're here, I've got a question that I have yet to see anyone from the BBC provide an answer to: WHY did the BBC NEED to reduce the bit rate of the BBC HD channel? The question has been directed at you on numerous occasions, yet I have never seen you even attempt to answer the question.

    If you do attempt to answer the question, please could you include an explanation for why the BBC has been wasting 18.5 Mbps of capacity on the satellite transponder that carries the BBC HD channel?

  • Comment number 58.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 59.

    #57. At 8:21pm on 25 Feb 2010, digitalradiotech wrote:

    "Andy Quested,

    HD stands for "high definition", so discussion about bit rates and PQ are obviously on-topic on blogs about the BBC "HD" channel, and trying to stop people posting PQ-related comments on blogs other than your own is obviously an attempt to put this issue to bed without increasing the bit rates."


    No, that is not what he was doing, the reply was to a comment that was talking about "Freesat" (DVB-S) and not "Freeview" (DVB-T), whilst both are HD the original poster was asking a purely DVB-S question - as your later points in comment #57 are doing also!

    Talking about HD DVB-S in a blog about HD DVB-T is straying off the topic and if Nick was to decide such comments are off topic I do not think I will be posting as many comments as I have been of late, if you get my drift...

  • Comment number 60.

    Boilerplated,

    BBC HD is all about picture quality, so PQ will always be on-topic on blogs about BBC HD.

    Also, my last post (#57) was implicitly about both satellite and Freeview platforms, because in a previous post I'd said that the BBC has deliberately degraded the quality of BBC HD on satellite down to the level it will be forced to deliver on Freeview.

  • Comment number 61.

    I read these blogs / threads with interest.
    I feel that that the `censorship` or monitoring as Nick would describe it, now means that posts that even slightly touch on the drop in picture quality are being deemed as off topic, even though as already has been said the whole idea of HD be it via Sky or Freeview HD or any other source is to give a better quality picture ( or have I got that wrong ? ).
    I am no techie so do not really understand the dvb / s, bit rate, transponder stuff.
    Would I get BBC HD via freeview HD with a better picture quality than I currently do via Sky HD ? and if it is better then will it be as good as it used to be via Sky before I and I think many others saw the `imaginary` drop in picture quality ?
    If I can get a better quality BBC HD via freeview HD then why is that the case ?

  • Comment number 62.

    The problem is that the BBC want to talk about things related to HD - like Freeview HD, Drama on HD, and so on - but don't want to talk about HD itself.

    As is constantly pointed out by us - the viewers, the licence payers - HD only exists to provide a better PQ. It has no other purpose.

    So if you can't talk about PQ in the context of HD, then these blogs related to HD are almost meaningless.

    Instead Nick and the BBC would rather bury the whole issue of BBC HD PQ by forcing us to only discuss it in a blog entitled, "The Hitchhikers Guide to Encoding: The Salmon of Style". How obscure a topic title is that?

    In this way, the problem is hidden away from the casual or first time visitor as no one would look at the list of blog posts and assume that was the blog in to discuss BBC HD PQ.

    And any attempt to discuss BBC HD PQ elsewhere is quickly stiffled.

    Clearly an attempt to make sure anyone visiting the blogs can't find anything about BBC HD PQ and therefore must assume there isn't a problem and it must be in their imagination as Danielle would like us all to think...

    Here's a simple challenge to Nick and the BBC.

    Start a blog simply entitled "BBC HD Picture Quality", then it is very clear to everyone, first time visitors included, there is the place to discuss it.

  • Comment number 63.

    @62 citizenloz wrote:

    "Start a blog simply entitled "BBC HD Picture Quality", then it is very clear to everyone, first time visitors included, there is the place to discuss it."

    I should of course point out there already was one. But you closed it...
    Reopen that one, or start another.

  • Comment number 64.

    I think 2 points need to be cleared up that I see repeated over and over again:

    Astra service ID 6945

    According to Oliver Linow who runs the Linowsat satellite monitoring website, 6945 is not using any bandwidth, it is merely a pointer to another elementary stream, in this case, service ID 6940 (BBC HD)

    HD

    People are starting to talk about receiving HD transmissions via Freeview with an expectation of receiving a better picture than they would see if received on an SD channel. With the BBC's current practice of transmitting programmes on its HD channel, particularly dramas, that have been heavily 'styled' to the point that any semblance of HD has been completely removed, those people new to HD via the Freeview HD service are in for a big disappointment. And that is nothing to do with bandwidth restrictions.

  • Comment number 65.

    Dear burnlea - thanks for the post. I hope you have more luck than I did with 6945!

    Andy

  • Comment number 66.

    #62/63, I agree, that makes perfect sense. Perhaps Nick would consider amalgamating all the previous blogs on the subject and their corresponding comments into one Blog. I'll now explain why I think he should consider doing so.

    Until my Trust Appeal submission on 30 Dec I had done just such a compilation, into MS Word. Even with a small font it extended to over 1000 pages of A4, however, the "find" facility in that program meant that I could instantly drill down to areas of interest, e.g. freeview, DVB-T2, etc. to find everything that had been written on the respective subject. It was a very time consuming exercise for me to keep my document up-to-date (and incidently also to catch any so-called "off-topic" comments before they were removed) but I found it very worthwhile and useful.

    If a similar document was produced and published as a (new) BBC Blog under the simple heading that you suggest, then it would be the perfect place for the Senior staff from the BBC's HD channel and technology teams to discuss the PQ issues, and the technology behind them, with us the viewers. And with the search facilities in our browsers, it'd be also be the perfect place for us to look anything up. And easily found using Google, etc. too.

    Such a Blog could then be allowed to run and run, anything to do with PQ would be on-topic, be it related to Freeview launch, transponder space, NTSC cameras in Canada, etc. Meanwhile, DN could continue to publish other Blogs on entirely non-PQ related topics surrounding her HD channel in which she would not be "bugged" by our comments on that particular issue. Everyone wins! Nick, I'll send you a copy of my compilation by email, it shouldn't be too difficult for you to add everything from the first two-months of this year to that.

  • Comment number 67.

    I fear the BBC has de-rated what was a gold standard HD service that was defined by a comprehensive Trial period on Satellite to cram in an inferior quality HD service into the limited bandwidth available on Digital Terrestrial Television. BBC HD seem to be unwilling to have a lower quality service on DTT so have de-rated the Satellite service!!

    The Head of BBC HD has stated this reduction will not be noticeable by the majority of HD viewers and by implication, those of us who have perceived a reduction in Picture Quality are not part of their targe audience.

    My reason for posting is that this blog announces the BBC HD DTT service. I wanted to restate my anger at the BBC's decision to reduce their PQ to meet their DTT obligations.

  • Comment number 68.

    Trouble is Bill that you (and I, and no doubt the 2069 people who've currently signed the No. 10 petition) think that the BBC has reduced their PQ, whilst they think that their changes have made it at least as good, if not better! So, where do we go from here?

  • Comment number 69.

    #68: Paul: Keep the problem in the news. Hence my response to DTT HD service announcement.

    Compare with other providers.

    Complain when events that have to be on BBC by HMG intervention are excluded from other HD service providers.

    Highlight information from AndyQ (BBC HD Engineer) that provide insight on the BBC's decision process) eg. Recently has had to revert to the defence that BBC HD is still compliant with the HD international standards (ie no longer providing what was the Gold Standard in the UK; and the BBC were proud of it; and I spent my blog time trying to get the BBC to remove the HD DOG)

  • Comment number 70.

    Thanks for your suggestion Paul.

    However we already have a blog post about BBC HD picture quality where I see that Andy is still commenting.

    While that post remains open to comments I see no good reason to start a new one.

    The document you sent is best posted on your personal website (if you haven't done so already).

    As I've said before this is a BBC blog, not a message board. If you want a message board style experience got to the Points of View message board or Digital Spy or any of the other message boards out there.

    Any more comments about picture quality on this post will be removed. Go to Andy's blog post if you want to talk about that.

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 76.

    Nick Reynolds Blog 70
    The point is the Blog is called, ,,,
    The Hitchhikers Guide to Encoding....

    What we all should have is a Blog that is called ,,,,,,,,,,,
    BBC HD PICTURE QUALITY.........
    because this is what we are are talking about,
    This is the Point that we are all makeing to you Nick.

  • Comment number 77.

    Just come back from holiday so I am just catching up. I see the BBC trying to divorce picture quality from HD. The top of this post says

    Post categories: Freeview HD, freeview, hdtv

    HD means High Definition and High Definition means picture ( and sound ) quality. The article is entitled "The arrival of Freeview HD" and to make discussion of HD is illogical.

    Actually Danielle does mention picture quality by refering to the TechRadar review which includes the following comments:

    "What is noticeable, is that there is visibly a touch more noise in the hi-def images on BBC HD than on rival pay-TV services, such as Sky and Virgin Media"

    "BBC HD's pictures are also slightly disappointing, but that's no fault of the HD-Fox T2 - it's the variable bitrates offered by the Beeb."

    So Danielle refers to an article of which one of its main conclusions is that the Freeview HD picture quality is not very good.

    I would therefor sugest that any comments removed for mentioning picture quality should be reinstated.



  • Comment number 78.

    Hi Folks,

    Is there anywhere that I can find out when some Freeview HD kit comes available.

    I've looked at the Sagem site -

    http://www.sagemdigital.co.uk/sagem-freeview.aspx

    and also the Bush (www.bush-digital.co.uk) and Grundig sites but can't find any mention of when the products will be released. Is it possible to get Freeview HD with existing kit - I assume not...?

    Thanks

  • Comment number 79.

    #78: a Humax stb is available. You are right that you need new kit.

  • Comment number 80.

  • Comment number 81.

    I note that Freeview HD is going to benefit from a £6m advertising campaign starting shortly and running up to the World Cup. This due to the way it is funded will largely be paid for by the BBC.

    They will never admit it of course, but the last thing the BBC will want during this period is people saying that HD picture quality (PQ) is far better via satellite.

    Hence the discussions on the poor PQ of BBC HD via satellite serves them very well...

    AFAIK, there is no corresponding Freesat HD advertising programme planned during this period - because of course they will say that has already been launched.

    But in the run up to the World Cup where they expect a big take up of HD services, it seems clear where the BBC will be steering them.

  • Comment number 82.

    I am guessing this might be relevent.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/mar/15/channel-five-hd

    No Channel 5HD on Freeview HD, so suggestions of 2nd BBC HD channel sooner rather than later on Freeview HD, hence sooner than later on Freestat HD one would assume...

  • Comment number 83.

    The best answer would be to not try cramming an extra channel in where there really isn't room!

    Maybe by the time 5HD is really really ready to go encoders might actually be capable of delivering reasonable quality at that rate, they clearly aren't yet.

  • Comment number 84.

    #83. At 11:17pm on 15 Mar 2010, AndreNewman wrote:

    "The best answer would be to not try cramming an extra channel in where there really isn't room!"

    Good idea, so lets scrap the idea of Freeview HD until after DSO is complete and then have a rethink the proposals in the light of any change in Ofcom/HMG's wish to sell off some or all of the old analogue spectrum, this might mean that Freeview HD won't be available until after the 2012 Olympics but is that really of concern considering that HD is already available via cable or satellite.

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 86.

    Re 85 citizenloz wrote:

    Whoops! wrong forum... mods please delete.

  • Comment number 87.

    It looks like Freeview HD has got a kick in the family jewels, No Five HD until at least 2012, then the statement anounced today that it will be joining Sky HD lineup, nice one Mr Murdoch...

  • Comment number 88.

    Humax HD -FOX T2 REVIEW

    BY HOME CINEMA CHOICE.

    What is noticeable, though is that there is visbly a touch more NOSIE
    in the HI Def images on BBC HD in this instance than on rival pay TV
    services............

  • Comment number 89.

    Dear 128fish - thanks for the post - which T2 pay services would that be?

    Andy

  • Comment number 90.

    Andy it does not say T2 pay services. It does not make any difference here if the "bits" are delivered by DVB-T2 or DVB-S2.

    I have never believed that Freeview HD would be economicaly viable. Terestrial Transmission costs are far higher than those of satellite. Also Freeview HD will only have a maximum of 5 channels by 2012 by which time there will probably be more than 100 on satellite. Ofcom has given the spare Freeview HD channel to the BBC and so the BBC is going to have to finance a whole new HD channel at short notice. Where will the money come from?.

    The BBC has put alot of money into Freeview HD. The main attraction is the limited competition with only 3 other non BBC channels. The unencrypted stream also helps to protect the TV Licence by preventing the BBC changing to a pay tv.

    The big problem here is that of viewing figures. It seems to me that most people will choose satellite for HD because of the increase choice of channels. There are also more SD channels and a beter interactive service. Picture quality is also an issue against Freeview HD. Freeview HD will not go national till 2012 so many people will not want to wait that long. Satellite also gives the viewers the choice of Freesat or Sky. Sky has also been working on ways for people to have pay tv subscriptions without joining Sky's package.

    The amazing thing is that the similar problems are associated with DAB. DAB too is very expensive and Ofcom alowed a reduction in bitrate to make it cheaper which of course reduced the sound quality to an unacceptable level. The government is keen to increase coverage of DAB but this will be very expensive and no one wants to pay for it.

    So the prognosis for Freeview HD is very poor indeed. It is just too expensive.

  • Comment number 91.

    To Andy

    The Home Cinema Choice Review is saying there is visbly a touch of
    more Nosie in the HI Def images on BBC HD in this instance than rival
    pay TV services.

    ie the other channels on SKY HD look cleaner and sharper,
    and are not soft looking,
    Like BBC HD.............

    Andy this is what we have all been telling you for over 6 months now.
    The bit rate was droped far to low with the new encoder,

    Now BBC HD looks bad on all broadcasting formats,
    ie SKY HD, FREESAT HD, and on the new FREEVIEW HD Humax HD-fox T2
    boxes on DVB-T2........

  • Comment number 92.

    Andy Quested

    Have you now closed down the BLOG ??????
    The Hitchhiker,s Guide to encoding ???????

    if so i would like a new Blog called,

    BBC HD PICTURE QUALITY.

  • Comment number 93.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 94.

    I found this blog accidentally. There's been no mention by the BBC that HD Freeview is available unlike Freesat HD which was rammed down our throats for months!

    Some, including my home, can't receive satellite signals for various reasons. We have 60ft high trees blocking the signal. Also if you don't live in the 'big cities' or suburbs you can't get Cable either.

    So I would welcome HD Freeview with open arms.

  • Comment number 95.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 96.

    Seajay, I am sorry to hear that you can't get satellite. But the vast majority can - right now, not after a future rollout.

    Danielle mentions that many people have chosen Freeview. But how much is the perceived lower cost of DTT at the point of use, actually due to the BBC subsidising DTT from the licence fee, more than other platforms, hence distorting the market? So much for 'platform neutrality'.

    I would like the answer to a simple question. How much does it cost, per household, to provide BBC coverage via DTT and via satellite?

    If as I suspect, DTT is much more expensive, the Beeb could subsidise 'self help' relay schemes for our friend Seajay and those in a similar position, while still saving large amounts of licence fee by not duplicating the existing satellite coverage.

  • Comment number 97.

    What is the resolution for freeview HD (7020p or 1080i or 1080p?

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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