Today the Grandads Technology Centre (GTC) received its latest upgrade. A DVD player with the ability to play Ultra High Definition (UHD) blu-ray discs and Super-Audio CDs via its sole UHD television.
This technological advance at the GTC comes at the same time as the BBC are streaming UHD versions of some FIFA football matches from Russia. And have just announced that much of this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships will be shot in UHD (2160 pixels high) with access via iPlayer.
However this technological advance only serves to show the weaknesses rather than the strengths of the world’s largest broadcaster. Most UK broadcast channels are transmitted as standard definition (576 pixels high) and even though the BBC’s (and ITV’s) main channels are available in HD (up to 1080 pixels high) the vast majority of the channels on Freeview are not; including those part owned by the BBC. Worse still some of the programmes, for example the never-ending repeats of Dad’s Army, are so old that they are in the square format used in the days of analogue television.
The problem for the BBC is its scale and scope. At one extreme it is using the latest technology – for a very limited audience – while at the other extreme it is providing most tax-payers with broadcasts using standards that are long past their best. Low-tech may be justified for transmissions to distant countries – but not within the UK.
For example, to enjoy the optimum experience of Wimbledon in UHD the BBC says audiences need a 40 megabit per second Internet connection. A speed much beyond what is actually available for most UK viewers at present. And sadly the UK seems extremely unlikely to have a powerful enough broadband network able to provide the capacity needed for everyone to watch Eastenders or Corrie in UHD at 40mps in the foreseeable future.
So for now getting something new and appealing, that will test our 4K TV, will have to be sourced via UHD blu-ray discs – despite them retailing for around £20 each. At least then we can repeat some new material rather than shows that have already been repeated ad nauseam on TV.