A help scheme designed to assist vulnerable users with the migration to HD broadcasting on satellite is still not up and running, weeks after the BBC shut down regional services in standard definition.
The BBC completed its satellite HD upgrade last month, allowing Sky satellite and Freesat viewers across the UK to access all BBC channels in HD for the first time.
But for viewers with older standard definition (SD) equipment, the upgrade has left them without access to regional programmes. BBC regional services on satellite were replaced with single UK-wide versions of BBC One and BBC Two during January and February to create space to launch the new HD regions.
Sky is helping affected subscribers with a free upgrade to Sky Q, leaving the BBC to operate a help scheme covering Freesat users.
Affected viewers were advised to submit their details and wait back for a response to see if they are eligible. Details of the eligibility criteria were not made public, meaning those applying did so on a speculative basis.
But even after the regional switch-off, viewers have yet to hear back to see if they are eligible for support. In the meantime, viewers are advised that the “quickest way to get yourself ready for the switchover” is to “buy your own HD TV box” from a retailer.
Addressing affected viewers, the BBC says it apologises “for any frustration you experience whilst you are waiting to check what help we can provide – we are just finalising the last details to ensure we are able to provide a good service to impacted viewers. “
Freesat SD boxes used during the original digital switchover help scheme
- Freesat receivers have universally supported HD since around 2013.
- At the time, the last SD-only receivers, from brands such as Bush and Grundig, were sold off cheap by retailers.
- But SD-only Freesat receivers were also handed out to eligible persons in some regions as part of the original digital switchover help scheme, which ran from 2008 to 2012. Eligible persons included the elderly, users claiming disability-related benefits as well as blind and partially sighted users and those in care homes. This allowed users to make the switch from analogue TV to satellite in areas where the digital terrestrial (Freeview) signal was poor.
- It’s unclear how many of these boxes are still in circulation.
The BBC says that the help scheme, once operational, will offer either a voucher for a new satellite receiver or a home installation visit, depending on eligibility criteria.
However, the BBC will continue to broadcast a basic service in standard definition on satellite until early 2024. Regional news is replaced by an on-screen slate advising of the changes. Programmes broadcast on BBC One in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are replaced by programmes on BBC One in England. Affected viewers in Wales and Northern Ireland also miss out on local programmes on BBC Two.
Viewers can check Freesat channel 799 to see if they need to upgrade their equipment.
Freeview users are not affected by the changes.