BBC Choice Scotland
BBC Choice Scotland was an opt-out from the network BBC Choice digital station which operated from 23 September 1998 to 9 February 2003 (though regional variants were discontinued on 31 March 2001).
BBC Choice was the first British TV channel to broadcast exclusively in digital format, as well as the BBC's second non-terrestrial channel launch (following on from the BBC News channel in 1997).
It initially broadcast from 5pm nightly; this later switched to 7pm. The 7pm starts carried over into its successor BBC Three. BBC Choice also aired children's programmes, initially at weekends and subsequently daily during the daytime; this duty transferred to CBBC Channel and CBeebies in February 2002.
Audiences were minimal at first. The digital satellite platform, SkyDigital, did not launch until 1 October 1998, and its rival, the digital terrestrial service, ONdigital, did not launch until 15 November 1998.
Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland were to have its own versions of BBC Choice which initially ran for two of the seven hours (10pm to midnight) that the channel broadcast daily. Ahead of launch, BBC Scotland announced that it aimed to fill its airtime with a variety of new sport, news and entertainment packages together with a small number of repeats of popular shows from its archives. Controller John McCormick said news and current affairs output would be beefed up and new digital transmission suites and other hi-tech improvements installed in anticipation of the twin birth of digital broadcasting and the Scottish Parliament.
With the £200 set-top decoders needed to receive the service not expected to be available in the shops until two weeks after launch, initial audiences were expected to be very low. As a result, BBC Choice Scotland initially limited itself to a two-hour opt-out slot between 10pm and midnight each weekday.
Nonetheless, even this limited ten hours per week of programming almost doubled output from BBC Scotland to 1,200 hours a year, and saw BBC Scotland receive additional funding of £2m to develop programming. However, shows were made for around 10% of the cost of producing an equivalent show on BBC1, according to Ewan Angus, commissioning editor for BBC Choice Scotland.
The first night included a news programme called Newsline, a repeat of the comedy show Naked Video, a debate programme called Late Flyte, and a music show called The Beat Room. Its new presenters included former Border TV presenter Penny Macmillan (Newsline) and radio presenter Tam Cowan, who hosted a new football show called Offside.
There were plans for a substantial increase in programming in 1999.
At the time the BBC's digital offering included the national variants of BBC One (England, Scotland, Wales, NI) and a single nationwide BBC Two.
The regional variations of Choice were discontinued in 2001 in favour of introducing regional opt-outs on BBC Two to digital services; in some cases, such as BBC 2W in Wales, analogue and digital versions of BBC Two were separately scheduled, but by 2010 all differences between the analogue and digital variants of BBC Two had ceased, and there is now one version of the channel in each area, broadcasting on analogue (until switchoff) and digital platforms. The English regional variants of BBC One were made available digitally from 2003.
- 'BBC unveils plans for Choice', Glasgow Herald, 2 September 1998.
- 'Dawn of new TV age', Glasgow Herald, 19 September 1998.
- 'No-one gets the Choice: BBC launches digital TV', Glasgow Herald, 24 September 1998.
- 'First the hype, now the hardware as digital revolution powers up', The Herald, 1 October 1998.
- Sunday Herald, 18 April 1999, 2.