I understand that; my point was that on the UK system the older productions aren't actually transmitted with black space to either side, but the sets are triggered automatically to display them like that (though if you want to override it, you can get your set to streeetch every image into widescreen if you so choose), so I wondered if there was some difference between the two transmission systems that meant that couldn't happen in the States, so the the broadcasters had to decide whether to 'sidebar' or stretch at source.
US sets aren't configured to do that automatically, I think, though you can choose that setting. I think that standard-definition signals are broadcast in 4:3 and HD signals are broadcast in widescreen. The BBCA Doctors Revisited
specials show up on my (old, standard-def, 4:3) TV as letterboxed (i.e. with black space above and below to fit into a 4:3 frame) and stretched out. But that's on the standard-def BBCA channel, as I understand it. I would assume that if I got the BBCA HD feed, it would be a full widescreen image with no bars (which means that the sides would be cut off on my set, and the image would fill the screen on an HDTV).
I think this is just the modern equivalent of colorization. They decided to alter the image to make it fit what's become standard, even though that means changing it in an unauthentic and unappealing way.
Allyn Gibson wrote:
My parents have to adjust their HDTV manually. There's something like four different settings on their television -- letterboxed all around, letterboxed on the sides, stretched, cropped. (The cropped one is weird -- it stretches the 4:3 to the 16:9 width and then lops off the top and bottom.) They usually have me fix it when I visit, because they do something like get the television stuck on the cropped setting.
I'll never understand why HDTVs don't just default to the correct aspect ratio for any image with black space on the sides or top/bottom as needed, just like my computer monitor does when I'm watching an online video. I get so sick of seeing HDTVs in public places that are broadcasting standard-def 4:3 images stretched and flattened to fit a wide screen. Nobody but me seems bothered that the people and objects are unnaturally squashed. They'd rather see everything misshapen than tolerate some harmless black space. And HDTVs seem to be designed to cater to that bizarre set of priorities as the default.