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Thursday, June 11, 1998 Published at 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK


BBC World Cup coverage kicks off digital TV revolution

Thinking football? Think digital...

Wide screen coverage of the World Cup is at the heart of the world's first digital TV channel, just launched by the BBC.

Few digital TV receivers have yet been built, and none are on sale, but television manufacturers have demonstration sets in several London locations including Heathrow airport and the Trocadero.

Sony plans to showcase the technology at a number of county shows, and widescreen televisions will also be provided in the receptions of many of the BBC's buildings around the country.

The BBC became the world's first digital terrestrial broadcaster with a test signal in April 1996 and there have been other test transmissions around the world, but this is the first continuous broadcast.

The digital difference

Digital TV offers a different view of the World Cup from the rest of the UK.

Not only will the picture be wider, there will also be high-quality stereo sound, the camera angles will be different and there will be different commentators.

As well as the World Cup, the new preview channel will broadcast the Trooping of the Colour, Ascot, and drama and arts coverage.

The first opportunity to see digital television in British homes will come with the launch of digital satellite by BSkyB later this month.

Full range

The first new publicly available digital channel, BBC Choice, will offer a complementary service to other BBC programmes when it is launched in September.

Viewers will have to buy a set-top digital decoder at present - later, television sets will come with a built-in digital receiver.

Patricia Hodgson, the BBC's director of policy, has predicted that between a half and two-thirds of British homes will be receiving their television digitally by 2007.

The BBC has been a digital technology innovator before - it has been broadcasting digital radio since 1995.

Coverage is now 60% of the UK, although receivers are still very expensive. However, car manufacturers are expected to announce soon that they will soon make digital car radios available.

Click here to get all the latest news from France at the BBC World Cup 98 website.

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