BBC announces multi-platform HDTV trial

The BBC is to simulcast highlights of BBC One's peaktime schedule in high-definition from mid-2006 on digital satellite and cable, and conduct a London trial of high-definition television (HDTV) on the digital terrestrial platform.

The corporation said it was in discussions with BSkyB—which plans to launch its HDTV service early next year—and merging cable operators ntl and Telewest over the technical trials, which aimed to "test delivery and reception of high definition broadcasts on the major television platforms".

In order to conduct the trial on the digital terrestrial platform the BBC will need to use an unused frequency on a temporary basis. The BBC said it would apply to media regulator for a frequency "currently not allocated to broadcasters and unsuitable for conventional broadcast use".

Beyond the trial, capacity for HD broadcasts on the digital terrestrial platform will be limited until regions start the switch to digital-only television under the Government's 2008-2012 timetable. Liberated spectrum could be used for HD services, though policymakers have yet to decide the process by which it might be allocated, and how much capacity will be given to the digital terrestrial platform.

"The BBC would like to see some frequencies made available to broadcasters for high definition broadcasting and is working with other broadcasters, Ofcom and the Government to explore this possibility," said the corporation.

HD downloads are part of the BBC's iMP (integrated media player) trial, now underway with 5,000 trialists. The BBC said HD downloads should also soon be available to selected cable subscribers. Current broadband infrastructure does not enable live HDTV to be offered.

BBC director of television Jana Bennett said: "From colour and widescreen to digital radio and television, the BBC has always been at the forefront of innovations in broadcasting. Our promise to our licence payers is to give them the highest quality television, so the time is right for the BBC to get involved in high definition.

"High definition may take time to grow in Britain, but as with the other technologies we helped to build, the BBC wants to prepare now to be able to deliver the benefits of HD to all its licence payers in the long term."

BBC has a target to move all television production to high definition by 2010. Current series Rome and Bleak House are already made in HD.

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