Beeb high-def due in 2006

The high-def bandwagon is well and truly rolling – the BBC has just announced plans for trials next summer. Highlights from its schedule will be broa

The high-def bandwagon is well and truly rolling – the BBC has just announced plans for trials next summer.

Highlights from its schedule will be broadcast in high-def from mid-2006, although they'll only be available to 'selected digital satellite and cable viewers'. 

You might be luckier if you live down south – tests of the format will be offered on digital terrestrial TV in London.

The trials, which are to last for a year, will help the Beeb understand how best to transmit and receive HDTV broadcasts, and won't affect the reception of current channels.

For the uninitiated, high-def drubs today's 'low-def' broadcasts by increasing the number of lines that make up the images from 576 to 720 to give up to four times the resolution.

BBC director general Mark Thompson has also promised to deliver free-to-air HDTV of all BBC programmes 'as soon as practical', which could be as far away as 2010.

Still, two of its biggest series, Bleak House and Rome (pictured), have already been made in HDTV, and a BBC spokeswoman waved a huge carrot in the face of footie fans by saying that next year's World Cup in Germany might be broadcast in high-def. The emphasis being on 'might' - hi-res Rooney isn't guaranteed, even if Sven says he will be playing for the team.

2010 seems an age away for blanket high-def broadcasts but the announcement of BBC trials is still a hugely symbolic moment for the format. With Sky HD showcasing its content at the Best of Stuff show last weekend ahead of its Spring 2006 launch and Telewest about to deliver high-def content over cable before Christmas, the new age of super-sharp TV with surround sound suddenly feels within touching distance.

To help decide which HD-ready flat telly to go for, have a gander at the December issue of Stuff, out now.

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