UK lags behind in standard definition while France sets its sights on 4K broadcasting

French flag and Olympic flags in a crowd of people for the 2024 summer games
(Image credit: Paris Olympic Games 2024)

While most countries are still broadcasting in standard definition, across the channel France is looking to take its television networks to the next step. The country plans for full 4K broadcasting before the end of the decade, and it's starting with next year's Olympic Summer Games being hosted in Paris. 

According to the former president of the Ultra HD Forum industry organisation Thierry Fautier, France has set a goal of switching off its terrestrial HD broadcasting network by 2029; this should free up capacity on the network to allow for the same channels to be broadcast in UHD. 

In comparison, the UK's primary terrestrial TV channels are broadcast in standard definition, with separate high-definition broadcasts found elsewhere on the channel guide – although this isn't standardised and relies on your TV, set-top box and location. 

While this full standardisation of all native French channels isn't set until 2029, there are plans to broadcast next year's Paris Olympic Games in UHD, with further plans to broadcast sporting events in 4K afterwards on the France 2 and France 3 networks. 

So why is France pushing ahead with this while most other nations lag behind in standard definition? With an estimated 76 per cent of households in France set to have a 4K TV by 2024, and a potential 95 per cent of households estimated to have a 4K TV by 2029, France hopes to spearhead the transition and present itself as a pioneer globally to adopt the higher resolution standard. 

Not only is France expanding to 4K broadcasting, but it's also exploring broadcasting in HDR10, as well as Dolby AC-4 which will allow for higher-quality channel-based audio delivery, as well as potentially Dolby Atmos support. 

There could be some roadblocks, however, as a smooth transition will rely on TVs with the correct HEVC decoding, which could be an issue for older 4K TVs; for example, Sony quotes that all its TVs released after 2019 are compatible with HEVC, while TVs released between 2014 and 2016 will likely require an update to adopt the feature.


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Lewis Empson
Staff Writer

Lewis Empson is a Staff Writer on What Hi-Fi?. He was previously Gaming and Digital editor for Cardiff University's 'Quench Magazine', Lewis graduated in 2021 and has since worked on a selection of lifestyle magazines and regional newspapers. Outside of work, he enjoys gaming, gigs and regular cinema trips.