Today, as every day, I got a viewer's letter pointing out that the picture on BBC Parliament, crammed illegibly into one quarter of the Freeview screen, is not good enough. They even sent me a photo, to show me. Our announcement that from the 13th November it will be a normal broadcast picture (just in time for the Queen's Speech on the 15th) has come not a moment too soon.
What was meant to be an improvement to the audio-only service offered in the days of ITV Digital was neither understood nor appreciated by anyone. Many viewers assumed that the 3/4 of a screen filled with (mainly) dead text was a whim on our part, a symptom of advanced mania for graphics. Others concluded that they were doing something wrong with their remote control and could we please tell them which button to push? Bandwidth constraints... nah, that didn’t wash.
After receiving thousands of angry and perplexed letters and emails, there’s one that sticks in my mind - “it’s like looking at a postage stamp while listening to the radio”. Quite.
Thanks to some brilliant work by the BBC's distribution department, the bandwidth issues finally got sorted and the channel on Freeview will look just like a proper one, as it already has done for years on cable and satellite. Sitting next to BBC News 24 on the EPG at channel 81, it makes that transition from the first part of a major statement or debate - which both channels are likely to carry - to the handover to BBC Parliament, both natural and easy.
BBC Parliament already reaches between three quarters of a million and a million viewers a month - this will go up with the growing success of that platform.
We’ve one more hurdle to cross. A lot of Freeview boxes are not very clever, and it means that many existing Freeview viewers will have to re-tune (from the 13th) to pick up the new full-screen channel. I think there may be one or two more letters and emails...