Film I've received a more coherent answer on the BBC aspect ratio question from someone called Pinback at AskMe:
"They've purchased the right to show a particular version N times, where N is a number between 1 and infinity. (I say "version" quite specifically because, depending on the distributor and the deal, they may not be allowed to hold the print in their library). [...] Regardless, the rights they've purchased will be specifically for, say, "3 broadcasts of the 1996 UK M-rated TV edit 4:3 version". They can purchase different rights at any time, e.g. for the 16:9 or 2.35:1 version, but it'll cost money - of course, it's cheaper to buy more playings of the version they already hold than for a different version, even if they don't hold a copy in their library.
That is surprising but certainly explains a lot about the quality of the 'prints' which keep turning up on the main channels for popular films. In the original BBC email, the answerer from BBC Information talks about how "the BBC has undertaken a commitment to reduce its running costs to secure its future in the digital age." Surely part of the process of maintaining the tv wing's security in the digital age is to show films -- one of the mainstays of the schedule -- in the best form possible -- otherwise people will look for that type of entertainment elsewhere.

I'll shut up about this now. For now.

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