U.K.: BBC launches U.K.'s Free Terrestrial HD Testing

The BBC plans this week to start the United Kingdom's first free-to-air HD broadcasts, launching the start of a one-year trial for a select group of households in and around London.

According to its own research, the BBC said an overwhelming majority of people who know about HD expect the BBC to broadcast in HD -- and to do so for "free" terrestrially, to be funded by the mandatory license fee (which all U.K. broadcast users pay). BBC viewers also "expect" HD broadcasting to be available on all platforms including Freeview, the terrestrial digital service that will be used for the HD trial, among other venues.

BBC HD broadcasts are scheduled to start on Thursday (May 11) with a promotional preview, according to the BBC Web site and various publications. BBC has teamed up with ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five in London for the Freeview over-air trial.

BBC HD fare also will be carried by DBS provider Sky and NTL Telewest cable (see next item, this edition). Telewest also will carry some BBC HD coverage of the World Cup in June, as well as Wimbledon later this summer.