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BBC HD Eurovision Sound Problems

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Seetha Kumar Seetha Kumar | 09:22 UK time, Monday, 2 June 2008


I was embarrassed last week when blogs and Digital Spy discussed the sound problems which affected the coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest on BBC HD.

logo_bbc_hd.pngI sincerely apologise. The programme was being broadcast with 5.1 surround sound, but due to a technical fault at Television Centre the left, right and surround audio tracks were blocked from reaching viewers' set-top boxes, preventing the audio being decoded correctly.

We at BBC HD are mortified that the viewing of a much awaited event was ruined. We are urgently looking into how the problem occurred and why it took as long as it did to switch to our contingency plan. We want to ensure this sort of problem is not repeated.

I will update you as soon as I can.

Seetha Kumar is Head of HDTV, BBC Vision.


  • Comment number 1.

    Could you also check the coverage of the 'I'll do anything' Nancy final as I switched from the HD coverage to the BBC SD version due to sound problems.

    These are two big events for HD and the BBC seems to have had problems with them both. As you are not pushing BBC HD as a channel in its own right please try and make things work first time every time!

  • Comment number 2.

    My first thoughts were that it was a sound problem at the actual event and therefore ruining Andy's chances of winning, considering he appeared 2nd in the running order.

    Interested to know what the contingency plan is. I never really thought much about the processes involved in getting programming to our screens, but after reading this blog you guys have switched on my inner geek. :)

    Do you guys at the BBC then inform BSkyB when you discover these problems?

    For me I would just assume it was either a problem at the event or a problem with my Sky box and would consequently ring Sky up.

  • Comment number 3.

    So do you not monitor the HD broadcasts when they go out? Did this fault occur because you had to switch from normal (no idea what the normal audio config for HD is) to 5.1?

    Anyway thanks for informing us. Just a thought - shouldn't posts like these be more prominent than just on this blog? It's great that you communicate things like this with license fee payers, but perhaps it's difficult to find or realise that they are here.

  • Comment number 4.

    I agree with the comment re Saturdays I'd do anything. The sound during the first half of the programme as suffering from a lot of interference and break up. It came OK later on, but did take rather a long time to fix.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think FlyingRobotDog is onto something here (and I don't mean a hi-tech bone)! LOL.

    It would appear that BBC HD's content is not monitored very regularly. This is backed up by a member in the digitalspy forums calling up the BBC faults line when the problem just occured, to be told "we are not aware of a problem".

    It is also backed up by the fact that it took more than half an hour to switch to the "contingency plan" (and wildarpanet, by contingency plan they simply mean switching from the HD feed to an SD feed just in the way that cinemas would switch to a stereo analogue track when the Dolby Digital track goes down).

    If the BBC were one of my pupils it would be a case of "could do better".

  • Comment number 6.

    Oh yes, and RobotFlyingDog, "normal" for BBC HD is Dolby Digital 2.0 being broadcast with the incorrect label of 5.1, thus eliminating any possibility for the viewer to use Pro-logic modes and giving inferior sound as the subwoofer sits there like a div all day doing hardly anything!

    Dolby Digital should be broadcast with the correct labelling, so Dolby Digital Stereo should be labelled as 2.0 and 5.1 as 5.1!

    I am sure that if Dolby Labs found out about this, they wouldn't be very happy about it. As it is not only bad for the BBC's reputation but also impacts poorly on Dolby itself!

  • Comment number 7.

    I have been a long term SKYHD subscriber, from launch day in fact in May 2006. I have just joined this BBC forum as I really had to add to some of the very accurate comments here already.

    Jibberjabber above especially.

    2 years is a long time, certainly being able to monitor BBC HD and while I applaud the BBC for the free to air HD efforts such as Eurovision. The complete hash of the 2008 transmission has been one of a long list of technical inabilities over the years.

    I have been lucky to have lived with the original first year BBC HD quality in picture, never dropping below 19Mb transmission rates. Jools Holland was truly sublime in picture and in sound.

    Now two years on, the quality rate in picture has dropped enormously, in fact half the transmission rate and you really can see the difference.

    Monsters Inc was transmitted a couple of Christmasses ago, fantastic picture, but useless stereo sound. My complaint at the time to the BBC was just returned with a very feeble excuse about bandwidth not being able to transmit HD with DD 5.1 sound?.

    You can do it for Wimbledon, Football and New Years Eve Fireworks!, why not other broadcasts.

    Why also does SKY transmit all their movies in BOTH with no problems?.

    Again, Toy Story 2 was tranmitted recently on BBC HD, fantastic picture but again only stereo, although a label of 5.1 was attached, like JibberJabber quite rightly pointed out, Dolby will be none too pleased with this.

    I think the BBC HD department needs to wake up to the fact that their HD offering needs a few more 'knowledgeable' people behind the scenes.

    The BBC HD department would do a lot worse than follow some of the HD forums like the ones at Digital Spy and AVForums mentioned by Seetha in her original post, they might actually knock their HD service back into something which showed so much promise at the start.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Seetha!

    Is there any chance the chat shows will be in HD sometime? Such as Friday Night with Jonathon Ross and The Graham Norton Show?

  • Comment number 9.

    Where's that "as soon as I can" update then?

  • Comment number 10.

    I see (and hear) that the incorrect labelling of stereo (2.0) broadcasts has been resolved. So thank you for this fix BBC HD.

    We can now enjoy 2.0 broadcasts correctly as well as 5.1 broadcasts.

  • Comment number 11.


    Seetha told me it might take more than a few days before she can update. But I am hoping she will be writing another post in the next week.

    Nick Reynolds
    (editor, BBC Internet blog)

  • Comment number 12.

    I'm watching the Euro 2008 at this very moment. The sound is clearly in stereo and my centre channel speaker is sitting silent as the grave. At the same time my amplifier is clearly indicating that it's receiving a Dolby 5.1 stream.
    Get your act together Beeb. This sort of nonsense was acceptable when the HD channel was only a trial. Now you're advertising it and expecting people to shell out for a Freesat box it'd be nice if it worked properly.

  • Comment number 13.

    Alan Skippins;

    Andy Quested of the BBC HD technology team has sent me an email saying he had last nights HD transmission (off air) checked and "can confirm the Euros were in 5.1 with all speakers working".
    Are you still experiencing problems?

    Nick Reynolds (editor, BBC Internet blog)

  • Comment number 14.

    Still very disappointed for the poor quality of the Eurovision HD broadcast. There has been no mention of a repeat, which would be the least the BBC could do to us who like Eurovision. Is there any realistic chance of a repeat of the Eurovision final?

  • Comment number 15.

    I doubt it. The BBC barely care about it when it's live.

  • Comment number 16.

    The BBC can solved a problem.

  • Comment number 17.

    I see Seetha has been sooooooo busy ;-) she has moved to another dept.

    Well good luck Seetha and hello Danielle Nagler.

    Perhaps Seetha can fill you in, still seems we are all waiting for the BBCHD quality to show it's face again after outstanding start on launch, 'test' launch I should say. To the very below par quality we have now, no Dolby Digital 5.1 correct through a lot of programming and the distinct reduction in picture quality. I have early Jools Holland shows on my HD box recorded a few years ago on launch which look a million miles away from the quality shown at the moment.

    One more thing!, why has the BBCHD DOG (onscreen graphic) been turned right up from a transparent white to full white in the last few days.

    I would watch the fallout from this one Danielle and welcome aboard!

  • Comment number 18.

    Just in case people missed it, Andy Quested has now written a detailed account of what happened with Eurovision sound, which you can read here.

    Nick Reynolds (editor, BBC Internet blog)


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