BBC launches UK's first free high definition broadcasts
The BBC will give the UK's first high definition viewers a curtain-raising treat of the whole of Planet Earth part one, followed by classic Dickens drama Bleak House over Whitsun Bank Holiday - 27 to 29 May 2006.
The BBC starts the UK's first free-to-air high definition (HD) consumer broadcasts this week, at the start of a 12 month trial of this new sharper, clearer TV format.
Meanwhile research disclosed by the BBC today suggests that an overwhelming majority of people who know about HD expect the BBC to broadcast in HD, and to do so free to air, funded by the licence fee.
They also expect high definition broadcasting to be available on all platforms including Freeview.
The BBC's HD stream starts broadcasting on 11 May with a promotional preview.
The broadcasts will initially be available to viewers on satellite who have the right HD equipment.
Sky has announced it will start installing HD set top boxes from 22 May.
The BBC can confirm its HD stream will also be carried in some cable areas in time for the World Cup, following a successful carriage agreement with NTL Telewest.
Starting on 9 June, the BBC's World Cup coverage will be simulcast in HD, as will major Wimbledon matches.
From July onwards the stream will show BBC highlights in drama, documentaries, events and music for a few hours each day.
BBC Director of Television Jana Bennett said: "These are small but exciting first steps in the BBC's ambition to offer the option of high definition to all in the future.
"It's clear that licence fee payers expect high definition broadcasts from the BBC, the same way they have moved to colour television, widescreen, digital radio and online services with us in the past."
High definition is a new digital format which provides sharper, clearer pictures and the potential for surround sound.
It needs different technology from 'standard definition television' at every link in the chain, from the way programmes are shot and broadcast to the equipment in viewers' homes.
The BBC is conducting an end-to-end trial of HD broadcasting over the next 12 months as a test of the technology and trial of the audience appetite for the format.
The findings will inform any ongoing offer.
BBC HD broadcasting will start officially at noon on Thursday 11 May 2006 when the offer appears for the first time to viewers on the Sky electronic programme guide.
First broadcasts will be a preview of upcoming programmes in high definition.
The first true high definition programming will start on the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend.
All five opening films of Planet Earth part one will be shown from 7.00pm on Saturday 27 May.
The 16 half-hour episodes of Bleak House will screen from 8.00pm to midnight on Sunday 28 May and Monday 29 May.
GfK NOP conducted an online survey for the BBC of a representative sample of about 1,500 respondents.
They were asked what they knew and thought about high definition television.
73% of the sample had heard about high definition television. The figure was much higher for men (83%) than women (62%) and digital homes (77%) rather than analogue homes (62%).
Of those that were aware of high definition:
87% said they expected the BBC to broadcast in high definition in future;
93% expected those broadcasts to be free to air;
95% expected high definition broadcasts to be available on all platforms - satellite, cable and Freeview;
88% disagreed that high definition viewers should pay a higher Licence Fee.
For information on how to get high definition and the BBC's trial: