The BBC is drawing up plans for a high-definition television (HDTV) service to run beyond its current year-long HD trial, due to end in June. BBC HD chief Seetha Kumar confirmed the plans would first need to be approved by the BBC's governing body, the BBC Trust. The Trust would conduct a public value test, in much the same way as it did recently for the BBC's on-demand TV services.
Media regulator Ofcom would be asked to look at the possible impact a BBC HD service would have on commercial rivals, while the Trust would look at the public value such service would create. A consultation would then take place, "with a final decision likely in the autumn".
Kumar said any BBC HD service would "inevitably launch with limited content, and would be based, as the trial has been, solely on HD originations". The BBC had an aspiration for the service to be universally available "on all technically capable platforms". That included the Freeview platform, though Kumar said additional broadcast capacity would be required "to accommodate five HD channels, which research shows is around the number viewers will find attractive".
While Ofcom had concluded in its digital spectrum review that an auction of liberated analogue spectrum was the most efficient way of allocating capacity, Kumar said there was "a case for Ofcom to consider reserving some of the digital dividend spectrum for HD channels in order to safeguard the future health of Freeview".
The BBC is a member of the HD for All alliance of terrestrial broadcasters, TV manufacturers and retailers currently lobbying ministers over the HD spectrum issue.
Meanwhile, nearly than 4,500 people have signed an electronic petition calling on prime minister Tony Blair "to force Ofcom to allocate the unused radio spectrum after the analogue switchover to HDTV services". The e-petition, on Blair's 10 Downing Street web site, closes today.
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