Did we really lose ABC HD?

Before you lament the loss of ABC HD too much, remember that there wasn't much true high definition content on it anyway.

There’s been a fair bit of talk lately about ABC sacrificing ABC HD in order to launch ABC News 24.

But the reality is there was limited true high definition content being broadcast. The rest of ABC HD was upscaled content with many titles not even purchased in HD.

It is also true that very little of the content on ABC News 24 is being produced in true high definition.

The Sydney Morning Herald today notes the Broadcasting Services Act stipulates networks must air at least 1040 hours of HD content a year but this includes material converted from standard definition. It says ABC was in a difficult position. Having launched ABC2 in 2005 and ABC3 last year, it had no spectrum left to carry a new channel.

Viewers will already remember losing TEN drama and light entertainment shows from HD when ONE was launched.

Another scribe in The Brisbane Times says, “If the ABC wants to screen 24 hour news, that’s fine. If the ABC wants to cater to the under fives, that’s fine as well. But why not do it in such as way that doesn’t screw over existing viewers?”

ABC’s view of the situation is that it will re-assess its use of HD once the switch to digital is complete around the country -as far off as 2013.

Gaven Morris, Head of Continuous News already told TV Tonight this week, “All the broadcasters are going to have to think long and hard about the use of their HD in the short term, but by 2013 when analogue gets switched off and everybody has access to digital television we could all be in a different scenario as to which channels they might like to put where.”

But while the net loss of true HD content may have been minimal, it still doesn’t excuse the fact that HD television in this country continues to be maligned while we’re all being told to make the switch.

43 Responses

  1. @Paull: 720p actually *is* Real HD. For example, ABC and FOX in the US broadcast all their HD shows in 720p. Once upconverted by your STB to 1080i, 720p can look stunning.

    As for the ABC not broadcasting HD material… well, leaving aside their stubborn refusal to buy HD versions of any of the BBC shows, they brodcast quite a few Australian productions in HD. “Rain Shadow”, two seasons of “Bed Of Roses”, John Safran’s last series, various docos, etc etc. They looked great.

    When “Voyage To The Planets”, a local production made in HD, was shown in SD, it became clear that they never took HD seriously. They still aren’t – just check out the 4:3-safe presentation of ABC News 24, despite the fact that everyone viewing it will have 16:9 capability. Stupid.

  2. The overall issue is with the government (as with nearly everything these days).. They were lobbied by Everyone who had a clue to mandate mpeg4.. but no… they know better… Ok they stuffed up so allocate more bandwidth, and get on with it… We the people of Australia own that bandwidth and demand a proper solution…

  3. Hmmm…ABCNews24 is terrific so far in content. It’s soooo good to have a 24/7 News channel without having to have Foxtel. But – to me it still doesn’t seem to shine as an HD service. Is it transmitting at 720p? The compression artifacts on graphics/text and wide shots – this is studio stuff I’m talking about – is pretty terrible. Now I know I have a 51/2 grand Pioneer plasma (9th Gen Kuro – amazing blacks!!), and the bad thing about having a great set is that it shows up any faults in anything – only pristine Blu Rays really do it justice.

    But HD is supposed to at least look a tad better than SD isn’t it? I’ve seen an F1 broadcast look great in HD and some studio programming on ONE looks terrific and sharp (out of Global’s HD studio in Sydney I assume). But the studio stuff from ABC News24 just isn’t cutting it. Is it just me? Or am I being far too picky?

  4. There simply isn’t enough bandwidth for the channels to do HD justice with the extra SD channels.

    But Government regulations cause these problems. Broadcasters are required to broadcast about 1000 hours in HD a year. This is nonsense and has caused this silly situation with the ABC.

    It would be better for all concerned if the ABC was allowed to broadcast all SD. At least that way we’d get 4 top quality SD channels rather than 1 poor quality HD and 3 poor quality SD channels (ABC2 is terrible quality, and yet is the ABC channel I watch the most).

    If the ABC wanted to really push the boundaries they should have broadcast the news channel in MPEG4 HD. Better quality, less bandwidth. But the Government stuffed that by mandating HD too early, thus we’re stuck with MPEG2 for HD and more sensible countries (NZ, UK, France, etc) jump straight to MPEG4 for HD.

  5. @Paull: Heh, that’s true! (about recreating ABCHD)

    @Craig: Agree, F1 looks great on ONE, and I only have a SD TV. Hopefully Webs can win again tomorrow, altho’ last year it was at the Nürburgring not Hockenheim.

  6. I watched a couple hours of it last night and I can’t believe they’re not even broadcasting their own news program in HD… the telling sign of the channels lack of HD is the fact that their news “ticker” is just blurry and not crisp and clear like a HD one would be… quite disappointing really.

  7. There is only one real way to watch what you want to, when you want to, and we’re not allowed to talk about it here.

    I can’t see the point of PayTV HD…I don’t have it, but isn’t it the same shows over and over, many of them only upscaled, and an extra charge per month?

  8. @Melbcity – only if you leave your TV on the channel 24/7

    @Russell – ABC and TEN are broadcasting in HD and now we have 24/7 news on FTA in HD (okay it’s 720 but still) and I wouldn’t give up my sport on ONE in 1080 HD even if my TV can’t take full advantage of it yet, F1 has never looked better on FTA.

    I have an LG with HD tuner but 1366×768 screen, not 1920×1080. Even so you can see the difference between say TEN and ONE when it comes to the F1. Or any of the other channels comparing shows.

  9. That “the reality is there was limited true high definition content being broadcast” is, in itself, a pretty poor state of affairs (not that the ABC is alone) and not a vaid opt out for broadcasters. HD TV is being squandered. Consumers are having 3D television marketed to them when ‘true’ HD TV is not yet being delivered and the likelihood of which seems to be going backwards.

  10. Thays exactly what I’ve been saying- abcHD was never anything more than a Teal coloured logo. That’s it! They never dsiplayed actual HD content (1080i or higher) and rarely displayed anything in 720p.

    AbcHD can still be achieved by watching abc1 on a set top box that upscales (via hdmi) the picture to 1080.

    @Melbcity: even if they made their logo semi transparent, what about the news ‘ticker’ on the bottom of the screen? Abcnews 24’s graphics are far more plasma friendly than america’s fox news channel, which usually has more on-screen graphics than they do actual picture. Sky news, and a fair few foxtel channels also have non-transparent on screen graphics. It’s the way of the future.

  11. W00t for 576p HD!
    Networks, such as Prime, were trying to convince us for so long that it was classed as HD. With most televisions able to deinterlace a 576i signal, its almost like watching a progressive signal anyway.
    What we watch on FTA may as well be classed as HD in the networks eyes.

  12. The ABC never bothered getting the HD version of content. Its helped confuse people into thinking there is no difference between HD and SD. Obviously they’ve been cost cutting trying to bring us extra channels.

    But what a waste of bandwidth for ABC3. Especially when 9 hours of the day it’s a test pattern! You could easily merge ABC3 & ABC2 and no one would notice.

    What happened to quality content on the ABC? If I people want heaps of crappy channels they turn to Foxtel.

  13. Warning

    The ABC NEWS logo is damaging to your TV.

    ABC News for some reason has opted for a solid graphic that includes the ABC logo and the number 24 with the time displayed underneath in the bottom right of your screen.

    Unlike the other ABC channel logos this one is not see through. As a result your TV is at risk of image burn as the ABC News logo etches in to the background of your screen.

    The solution is simple. ABC News needs to redesign their Logo and mak it semi tranparent as is the case on all other digital TV channels

  14. “If the ABC wants to screen 24 hour news, that’s fine. If the ABC wants to cater to the under fives, that’s fine as well. But why not do it in such as way that doesn’t screw over existing viewers?”

    How exactly does this guy envisage this be done? Move ABC1 to HD only?

    People, including Green Guide letters writers, need to get a grip, and know what they’re complaining about before whinging openly at the lost of their “HD ABC channel”.

  15. Both ABC2 and ABC3 seem to be children’s programming a great deal of the time. Also ABC3 is only running half a day, so there’s already a *lot* of bandwidth there being wasted, or duplicated. We could have had ABC2 as the HD channel and it could have been a “best of” what is on their other three streams. You buy a Rolls to drive to weddings, not to go to work.

    So what if some shows are upscaled SD recordings? I’d rather watch Doc Martin in upscaled SD than Afghan war footage shot on a phone. The point made is somewhat specious really.

  16. So currently ONE HD aside we only have 2 true full HD (1080) FTA channels, 7 & 9 but again how much of their content is actually in 1080 HD? I don’t mind the limited content because I don’t have a full HD set, but I can understand the frustration of those getting a shinny new 50 inch LED to find such limited viewing options.

  17. Great story David. It is a really odd situation we have in Oz. The rest of the world is moving forward with HD everything (in the US local news, commercials and even now promos are all in HD) where as in Australia, we seem to be moving backwards.

    When you have two of the big national networks (Ten and ABC1) not broadcasting in HD – there is a problem. But then again, the networks have never seemed interested in embracing HD. Very little Australian programming is produced in HD. A lot of sport is not in HD, and almost no news in HD.

    The idea of a third channel from each network (Ten, Nine, Seven) seems to have fallen by the wayside. What would be a perfect solution is if each network could have it’s main network in both SD and HD, and 2 digital networks in SD.

    So for say Nine you’d have:
    Nine HD
    Nine SD (downconvert)
    Go! SD
    New Channel SD

    But i don’t think each network has enough bandwidth for that?

    ABC did not embrace HD, so there is no big loss turning off ABC1 in HD. Even though even SD programming broadcast in HD looked better than just the SD broadcast.

    But they bult a new news network from the ground up with new studio, sets, control rooms, graphics and all. The fact that in 2010 none of is is in HD is a disgrace. The whole lot should have been done in HD.

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