The government have announced they have been informed by the BBC that they will have to go off-air for an anticipated period of at least two months beginning from early March this year following confirmation from NASA that the earth's magnetic poles are definitely shifting( apparently it's something that happens about once every three thousand years).
The cause for concern is that it now seems certain that the shift(or 'flip') will be more than the 0.0046625 of one degree the BBC's scope 25 system can handle. NASA expect it to reach at least that by early March 2011.
Many of the world's television broadcasters chose to base their systems around the scope system 30 which can easily cope with a magnetic band change of up to a full five degree. The BBC's scope 25 system cannot and will have to be scrapped.
They say they could not choose scope system 30 back in 1936 when they first started broadcasting from Alexandra palace because at that time the technology wasn't there to make scope system 30 a workable option.
Having chosen scope system 25 they were therefore not keen to completely change the system - at great cost to the license fee paying public- but instead became further locked in to scope system 25 when moving into the 625 line used by the new BBC2 channel in 1964.
To change to scope system 30 now-which must be done - will mean having to go off air for at least two months.
Who is going to pay for it?
The BBC say they cannot afford to pay the 300m pounds it will cost without it seriously affecting the quality of it's period costume dramas later. Furthermore, they are not of the view that they should have to pay back two months of the television license fees to customers who have paid for a full year because again that would inevitably impact on the quality of it's later programmes.
The government may find itself having to 'bail out' the BBC in much the same way as it did the banks .
The BBC apologises in advance to it's customers for the inconvenience the off-air period will bring, but point out that events such as the royal wedding on 29th April will still be covered by their Radio 4 service which can already use the more modern scope system 25.