The high definition version of Welsh language service S4C has joined Freeview. S4C HD utilises bandwith (space) vacated each evening on the BBC B/PSB3 HD multiplex, when CBBC HD stops broadcasting at 7pm at the end of it programmes.
Unfortunately, this means that S4C HD can only broadcast for a limited time. The standard definition version remains broadcasting 24 hours a day, and can be found on usual channel number 4. Additionally, to give more time to S4C HD at the weekend, CBBC HD now hands over to S4C HD at 2pm. This means that CBBC viewers in Wales have to switch to the standard definition version of CBBC, in order to continue watching on Freeview.
Unfortunately, the new S4C/CBBC HD arrangement means BBC Three will be standard definition only in Wales, due there being no available space left on the BBC B multiplex. A similar issue prevents BBC Three from broadcasting on Freeview in HD in Scotland, thanks to a time sharing arrangement with CBBC HD and BBC Scotland HD.
BBC Three will be available in standard definition across the UK on Freeview, with viewers in England and Northern Ireland being able to access a HD version. A full article on BBC Three availability will follow in due course.
Perhaps the biggest story missed in the past week is that the regulator Ofcom have given approval for BBC Three to return to our screens. The part-time channel with return to terrestrial platform Freeview, cable platform Virgin Media, and satellite platforms Sky and Freesat. The channel had closed in traditional form in February 2016, with programming moved to the BBC iPlayer.
Sadly, as the previous channel numbers have been re-allocated to other services, BBC Three will have different channel numbers on each of the platforms, but platform operators are required by Ofcom to give BBC Three a prominent channel number. This means that BBC Three will appear near the top of electronic programme guides (EPGs), but channel numbers are yet to confirmed.
Platforms operators have 18 months to accommodate this, meaning that BBC Three may initially appear with a temporary channel number. On Sky, Virgin Media, and Freesat, it is expected that a channel number will be made available by the launch of full regionalisation of BBC One HD (high definition). This will allow BBC One HD to take the top spot on the EPG, allowing the standard definition to drop down to a less prominent number, thus freeing up a slot for BBC Three.
On Freeview, it is expected that all channels from 25 onwards will be moved down 1 number to accommodate BBC Three, except Dave Ja Vu (+1 version of Dave) which will move from 23 to 25. This will allow BBC Three to occupy channel number 23. In Scotland, BBC Four occupies channel 24, with that number left unused in other parts of the UK.
It is expected that BBC Three will make its return some point during February 2022, only a few weeks after the initial planned return month of January, despite the lengthy consulation. Satellite re-configurations have already been made to accommodate the channel. As the channel will share bandwidth with CBBC, the latter channel will revert back to a 7pm finish time, from 9pm.
While I was away, it was confirmed that BBC Three is returning as a linear TV channel, to the Freesat, Freeview, Sky, and Virgin Media platforms.
CBBC will revert to its original finishing time of 7pm. BBC Three will feature a strand of programmes suitable for 13 to 18 year olds from 7pm to 9pm. The return of BBC Three is scheduled for early 2021.
Although frequencies are available for the return of BBC Three, the original channel numbers have been reassigned to other services. It has not been confirmed which numbers BBC Three will be given, but as a BBC service, it will be given priority for a low number high on the EPG.
BBC Four remains, but will become an archive channel, and will no longer receive new commissioned shows. Some live art programming will remain, as part of the cost reducing changes.
BBC Alba, the Gaelic TV service from the BBC and MG Alba, is has moved to a new channel number on Sky. BBC Alba will take over channel number 117, last used by the short lived STV2 service.
With Disney having withdrawn its linear children’s TV channels, CBBC and CBeebies has moved to vacated numbers 607 and 608 respectively. If you have a HD box, the SD versions are on 643/644, and vice-versa for older SD boxes
The number swaps took place on 1st October (2020). Viewers should not need to take action, as the changes will be made automatically.