All of the BBC’s SD channels on Freesat and Sky will be shut down, following their upgrade to HD – the BBC has announced.
While the HD upgrade is good news for most viewers – those with older SD-only devices on the digital satellite platforms (Freesat and Sky), won’t be able to keep watching any of the BBC’s channels – unless they replace their set-top boxes.
Those listening to the radio via older SD satellite receivers, will lose access to the BBC’s radio stations as well.
The shutdown is going to be gradual, and will coincide with the roll-out of BBC One’s Regional HD News.
The final shut down will take place in March 2024 – but certain features – like the regional news on SD channels – will be gone much sooner (see the full timetable below).
The closure of the BBC’s SD channels on satellite will happen regionally and in two main phases – and will impact all SD-only satellite viewers in the UK.
According to the BBC, there aren’t a lot of SD-only satellite device users still out there – therefore, in its announcement, the BBC recommended to people to “consider treating yourself or one of your family members to a new set-top box or television for Christmas.”
However, for any of those impacted by the changes who need extra support, The BBC will be running a help scheme “to ensure no one gets left behind” in the migration to HD on satellite.
Full details of this scheme, along with the criteria for eligibility, will be provided once the switchover to HD on satellite starts in mid-January.
Freesat was established in 2007 by the BBC and ITV. It offers more than 200 free-to-air TV channels and radio stations, all transmitted via digital satellite.
To watch Freesat, you need a dish outside your house and a Freesat receiver (see our recommended Freesat boxes here), which is why it sometimes works better in areas where Freeview reception is lacking.
Last year, a big shakeup was announced, when Freesat and Freeview came under the roof of a single company, Digital UK, which is owned jointly by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
Therefore, Freesat and Freeview are now developed and operated by the same company.
However, there has also been more bad news for Freesat users with older devices this year – when ITV Hub stopped working on older Humax Freesat boxes, with its replacement app – ITVX – also not working on those devices.
SD Channels Leaving Freesat And Sky
In mid-January 2023, the BBC is starting to finally roll-out the HD version of regional news on BBC One HD.
Along with that, the BBC will start the process of removing the SD versions of all their channels from Freesat and Sky.
Do note that this change won’t affect Freeview – where the BBC’s SD channels will remain as before.
A more exact timetable for the SD channels removal will be published early next year, but for now, these are the planned changes:
From mid-January 2023 to end March 2023
On a region-by-region basis, SD-only satellite viewers will start to lose their local programming on BBC One and BBC Two.
These users will be automatically switched to a pan-UK version of each of these channels, and will get special versions of BBC One and BBC Two that won’t feature any local or Nations programmes.
The primary impact of this change will be the removal of the regional news programmes during BBC Breakfast and at 1:30pm, 6:30pm and 10:30pm on BBC One on weekends, and similar programmes at weekends.
During these times, viewers with SD-only boxes will see an on-screen message that will advise them to replace their set-top box.
At this point, if you already have an HD-enabled satellite set-top box or satellite TV, then you will automatically get the correct version of BBC One for your region in HD at the top of the EPG (on channel number 101).
During Phase 1, SD versions of all the other BBC channels, along with the BBC’s radio services, will be maintained for all viewers.
By end of March 2023
All of the BBC’s satellite regions will have migrated over, so by this time any SD-only satellite users will have lost their regional version of BBC One and have been switched over to the special “non-regional” version of BBC One.
HD versions of the rest of the BBC’s channel portfolio – including BBC Two Northern Ireland, BBC ALBA and BBC Parliament, will all be on-air on satellite by this date.
SD versions of all the BBC’s other channels, along with the radio services, will still be maintained for all viewers at this point in time.
April 2023 to March 2024
During this time, the BBC will be reminding any remaining SD satellite viewers of the forthcoming closure of their SD channels.
There will be periodic messaging on BBC One SD (on Freesat and Sky), advising viewers of the need to upgrade and where to get more information on the options available.
By end of March 2024
By this time, the BBC anticipates that all SD users will have purchased or have already migrated to HD-enabled satellite viewing equipment.
Therefore, the BBC will be closing all SD channel feeds on satellite by the end of March 2024 – so anybody that hasn’t upgraded to satellite HD by this time will lose access to all BBC TV channels.
If you haven’t upgraded to HD-enabled satellite equipment by this time, you will also lose access to all BBC radio channels on Sky and Freesat.
How Do I Know If I’m Affected By The SD Shutdown?
Viewers who are not sure what type of set-top box or TV they have, can use the BBC’s checking tool, which is now live on Channel 799 on Freesat.
The message you see there will tell if you’re all set up for HD or if you need to replace your set-top box.
On Sky, the best way to check is to see whether you’re already getting BBC HD channels.
If you have an older Sky device, without HD support, then this change will impact you – and you will lose access to every BBC channel by March 2024.
According to the BBC, they are working closely with Sky on future plans.
- Update: Sky is now offering a free upgrade to affected customers.
In the coming months, the BBC will publish more details and more exact timings on the upcoming changes, on the BBC’s reception advise page, and on a special website that was set up with Freesat – www.hdsatelliteupgrade.co.uk
How Can I Continue To Watch The BBC?
If you are affected by these upcoming changes, you’ll need to find a solution before March 2024 – otherwise, you will lose access to the BBC’s channels on your TV.
If you’re on Freesat, you can buy one of the newer 4K Freesat boxes, that also have streaming apps like BBC iPlayer and All4.
The boxes are currently discounted for Black Friday – but, generally, they’re not cheap – especially for vulnerable people who were still using older SD boxes.
Another option is to watch the BBC’s channels via BBC iPlayer – which streams content via broadband, and has all of the BBC’s on-demand content as well as live channels.
As mentioned above, the BBC is planning to run a help scheme for the elderly and vulnerable who will be impacted by these changes.
Full details of this scheme, along with the criteria for eligibility, should become available in mid-January.
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