A Brief History of BBC Parliament on Freeview

Posted on 28 October 2006 in BBC red button, Interactive TV, Television (No comments)

Well the news is out - BBC Parliament on DTT/Freeview will be going full screen in November, rather than the horrible quarter screen format that it goes out in now.

The quarter screen was of course better than what BBC Parliament originally launched with on DTT - due to complete lack of bandwidth, the BBC only had the space to transmit the station in audio only - they did the same for a while on DAB as well.

When OnDigital went bust and the BBC gained more transmission space, and there was, all of a sudden, more space to broadcast things. The BBC gained an extra multiplex, which for the non-technical people reading, is the way things are bundled up on digital TV. A multiplex is a way of cramming in a number of digital channels in to the same space needed to broadcast one analogue one.

At the time, each BBC multiplex held four video channels, plus some space for radio stations and data space for BBCi. As the BBC had two multiplexes, there was space for eight video channels.

Three of those went on BBC One, BBC Two and BBC News 24. Another two went on CBBC/BBC Three and CBeebies/BBC Four. Two were assigned for the BBC's interactive TV services for interactive TV services around programmes (so stuff like sport, Proms, Pets TV and so on). That left one video stream.

There were two things that could fill that space - BBC Parliament in full video, or BBCi's News Multiscreen service which was already available on satellite.

BBC Parliament in quarter screen, and two BBC News multiscreens shoved into one video stream

The 'behind the scenes' as you were - one video stream, three bits of video. The two News Multiscreens on the left, BBC Parliament on the right

Using the wonders of digital TV, in the end, someone decided to combine both in the same space.

Ah, the wonders of modern technology. At the BBC, there's a piece of equipment that combines all three into one piece of video, and sends it out on air. Then there's an interactive application which surrounds the two services. For BBC Parliament you get a rather brown interactive application which was made in 2001. The News Multiscreen does something in red. Each application hides the bit of video that it doesn't want you to see.

The BBCi News Multiscreen in 2003

BBCi News Multiscreen as it looked in 2003

Of course it was never an ideal situation for BBC Parliament. No one ever understood it, but but it was a decision that was made at the time, and until recently there wasn't another option.

A couple of years on, things have changed and the wonders of modern technology now mean the BBC can bung BBC Parliament full screen amongst all the other services. From audio only, to proper TV - only took eight years!

So with BBC Parliament going full screen, what happens to the BBCi News Multiscreen? After all they shared the same space and there will soon be a big gap on the right of the screen...

Ah well, that's something you'll just have to wait patiently for another press release...

< previous | top ^ | next >

Share this page on

Have your say

Sorry but comments on this post are closed, but you can still email me.

Cookies Policy | Contact Us