BBC and ITV viewers on Freesat and Sky, this is your last call: the era of Standard Definition (SD) broadcasting is coming to a close.
Starting January 8 and 9, 2024, respectively, a sweeping change will see the shutdown of all BBC channels on older SD-only boxes, along with three ITV SD channels.
This means that households who are still using very old, SD-Only boxes on either Freesat or Sky, will have to replace their boxes by those dates. Otherwise, they won’t be able to watch the BBC’s live channels, and some of ITV’s channels, on those devices.
Here’s our full guide on the upcoming changes, how to know if you’re affected – and what to do if you need to replace your box.
The End of An Era: BBC’s SD Channel Shutdown
The BBC’s decision to discontinue its SD channels is a turning point in the UK’s television broadcasting landscape – even though it’s only on satellite-based platforms (Sky and Freesat), for now.
Last year, the BBC undertook a major step by making all its channels available in HD, including its regional news on BBC One. HD offers a dramatically improved picture quality compared to SD.
Then, the BBC started a multi-phase set of changes, to gradually remove the leftover SD channels from its satellite-based roster.
In the first phase, viewers with SD-only equipment were no longer able to watch local news on the BBC’s SD-channels on Freesat and Sky.
A help scheme was put in place to facilitate the transition, with measures such as eligibility checks to determine the support needed for different households (see more on that below).
Initially, the BBC had planned to phase out its SD channels by March 2024. However, this timeline was revised to January 8, 2024.
The decision to bring forward the date was influenced by several factors. Notably, the demand for resources and support, gauged through the uptake since the initial announcement, was much lower than anticipated.
This lower demand suggested that a significant number of households had already made the switch to HD-enabled devices, indicating a readiness among viewers for this transition
In September, the BBC introduced a ‘lower-third-of-screen’ messaging campaign, specifically targeting the remaining homes still using SD-only satellite equipment.
This campaign was a final push to encourage these households to upgrade to HD-enabled devices. The effectiveness of this effort seems to have expedited the transition process, allowing for an earlier shutdown of the SD channels.
The BBC Channels That Are Being Shutdown
The affected channels that will be phased out, from January 8, 2024, include:
- BBC One SD
- BBC Two SD
- BBC Three SD
- BBC Four SD
- CBBC SD
- CBeebies SD
- BBC News SD
- BBC Scotland SD
- BBC ALBA SD
- BBC Parliament SD
From January 8, there will be a message displayed on the affected channels, advising that the channel is closed.
This message will be displayed on screen until March 31, 2024, after which the channel will no longer appear on the EPG.
ITV Follows Suit: Shutting Down SD Channels
In a parallel move to the BBC’s shift towards HD broadcasting, ITV has also announced the discontinuation of some of its Standard Definition (SD) channels on Freesat and Sky platforms.
A significant aspect of this transition has been the upgrade of regional news programmes to HD. While ITV’s UK-wide channel, ITV1, was already available in HD, the regional programming remained in SD in some specific areas.
But in December, ITV completed its HD rollout across the country. Regions including Channel, UTV, Wales and Border Scotland, previously not covered, finally got access to ITV1 in HD.
This paved the way for the upcoming closure of some of ITV’s SD channels on Freesat and Sky.
The ITV Channels That Are Being Shutdown
Starting January 9, 2024, ITV will cease broadcasting the following SD channels:
Unlike the BBC, ITV won’t be shutting ALL of its SD channels, and ITV1 will continue to be available on SD boxes, for now – but without the regional news, which will be HD-only.
Freesat: Am I Affected By The SD Shutdown?
Both the BBC and ITV have noted that there aren’t a lot of SD-only satellite device users still out there (as in, people who are still using very old Freesat/Sky boxes).
However, viewers who are not sure what type of set-top box or TV they have, can use the BBC’s checking tool, which is live on Channel 799 on Freesat.
On that channel, you will see one of two messages:
- Good News, you’re not affected and can continue to use your box as normal.
- Sorry, your satellite set-top box is not capable of receiving high-definition services. You will be affected by the satellite changes.
Also, at this point, you should be seeing warning messages on the actual SD channels – if you’re affected.
If you are affected by this change – that is, your current Freesat box only supports SD – you will need to get a new box (assuming you want to continue watching Freesat).
You have to get the new box before January 8, 2024 – otherwise, you will lose access to all the BBC channels, and most ITV 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 ITVX.
There’s also a cheaper, more basic, Freesat box – the Manhattan SX – which doesn’t have recording capabilities or any streaming apps. It typically costs £69.
The BBC’s HD-Replacement Support Scheme
Vulnerable viewers – those aged over 75 and/or those in receipt of one of a small number of particular benefits – are eligible for assistance.
If eligible, they will be able to get a £40 voucher (via e-mail) to use towards the purchase of a new Freesat box – either the 4K box, or the Manhattan SX.
Subject to a financial hardship test, some viewers may be eligible for a voucher to cover the full cost of a replacement Freesat box to enable continued reception of BBC channels – but this voucher can only be redeemed on the cheaper Manhattan SX device.
Furthermore, vulnerable viewers who are not able to install the box by themselves, may be eligible for a Home Visit.
Those who are eligible for further help through the HD Satellite Upgrade scheme will need to meet the following requirements:
- Watching services on the primary television in their home via an SD-only satellite set-top box
- Are over 75 or are in receipt of one of the following benefits: Personal Independence Payments (PIPs); Attendance Allowance, or War Pensioner’s Mobility Support.
The BBC says that exceptions to the eligibility criteria may be made: for example, “where a viewer with mobility issues relies on a secondary set”. These will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
To check whether you’re eligible – you can answer simple questions on the BBC’s “Eligibility Checker“.
What Can Affected Sky Users Do?
To check if your Sky Box is SD-only and won’t be able to show the BBC’s HD version, Sky suggests you:
- Select Channel 105 on your remote.
- If you see Channel 5 HD, you’re not affected. If you see Channel 5 in SD, you are, and you’ll need to upgrade your Sky box.
(Note that Channel 5 isn’t affected by these changes – it’s just a way to check whether your box is currently capable of showing HD channels, and any HD channel can be used for this test).
Alternatively, you can:
- Press Services on your Sky remote
- Press 4 ,then 5
- Check your box’s version number, as seen here:
The affected Sky boxes are:
- 4F01 to 4F06 (Amstrad)
- 4E01 to 4E05 (Grundig)
- 9F01 to 9F08 and 9F0A (Pace)
- 0F01 to 0F05 (Panasonic)
- 4E06 to 4E08 (Thomson)
- 4F2001 to 4F2006 (Amstrad)
- 4F2101 to 4F2118 and 9F2101 to 9F2137 (Amstrad or Pace)
- 9F2001 to 9F2024, PVR2, 9F2201 to 9F2235, 9F2301 to 9F2339 (Pace)
- 4E2101 to 4E2141 (Thomson)
If you have one of the affected, older Sky SD-only boxes, you can upgrade to Sky Q at no extra cost.
Importantly, Sky says there’ll be no change to your Sky TV package or pricing.
This is important, as usually customers who wish to upgrade their Sky equipment are also asked to upgrade their plans and contracts – and that won’t be the case here (see our guide on Sky’s HD pricing changes).
Once you sign up, the new Sky Q box will be installed by one of Sky’s engineers on a date that suits you.
At that point, you’ll be able to watch all the BBC channels in HD – including all local programmes.
In order to start the upgrade process, Sky customers can call 0333 759 5121, or upgrade online via this link.
Sky has also setup a dedicated help page for this issue.
It’s important to note again that people who don’t upgrade to HD-enabled satellite equipment by January 8 – will lose access to all BBC TV and radio channels on Sky and Freesat, and three ITV channels on the next day.
Will I Lose Channels On Freeview?
No. These changes will only affect Freesat and Sky users.
Viewers using Freeview (including on pay-TV platforms, such as Virgin Media TV and BT TV / EE TV) will see no changes in the BBC and ITV’s broadcasts.
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