Today, Sky News HD appeared on EPG channel 517 of Sky+ HD boxes, displaying a countdown to the station’s Prime Ministerial election debate next week, on April 22nd.
If you’ve tuned in to Sky News in the last few weeks, you might have noticed that the newsreaders have often been sitting in front of a green screen, with a pre-recorded newsroom background keyed in behind them. This is because they’re in a different studio while work is on going on to upgrade the newsroom to high definition, a milestone in British television news. While this work is happening, we’ll be able to see some HD programmes that originate outside of the Sky News Centre. It all starts on the 22nd at 7pm, with the build-up to the Sky News Debate, somewhere in the South West of England. It’s another step towards the country’s first HD news channel, following on from last year’s Sky News broadcasts of President Obama’s inauguration and Michael Jackson’s funeral on Sky Arts HD.
Following the 22nd, the channel will revert to a loop of promotional material to fill time until the channel is ready to full launch. I suspect the reason why they are not showing an upscaled version of Sky News the rest of the time is to prevent someone from tuning in and thinking “is that it?” Coverage of the BBC’s debate on April 29th is expected to also be in high definition. At 9pm on May 6th, Sky’s election night coverage will swing into action with all 20 hours in HD. The date of the full launch of Sky News HD is yet to be announced, but speculation suggests it will be on polling day.
Being able to see the studios and reports in the clarity of high definition is a nice little enhancement, but some would say it’s not as important for news as it is for other genres. However, news channels have been HD for some time in the United States, and Sky have learnt some tricks from across the Atlantic. The on-screen graphics not only look sharper and clearer in HD (with some swish new glassy effects) but much more information can fit onto the HD screen. This is because broadcasters know that if a viewer is watching in HD, they must be watching in widescreen, so do not need to keep all of the information to the middle of the screen, as is necessary on the standard definition channel. This means that Sky News HD will have extra facts and figures appear on the side of the screen from time to time, meaning that the enhanced service goes beyond simply having a better picture. The high definition image will also allow for the graphics and text to be smaller and neater compared to it’s standard definition counterpart.
Of course, for some people the main draw of Sky News HD will be the chance to see weathergirls such as Lucy Verasamy in high definition. Those people might be interested to know that Sky Sports News will also be going HD later in the year!