BBC News (UK) has a countdown timer in its opener, for example see this video.

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On the bottom right, there's a countdown timer which counts the time until the news begin. But I find the timer somehow weird because it seems to count seconds and some unit I can't figure out. At the beginning, I thought it would be every tenth millisecond but that would mean that it would have to count down from XX:99 to XX:00 (XX being the seconds). But at some point I noticed that the highest number seems to be about XX:24. At least for the 2008 theme, Wikipedia mentions the countdown would indeed count down "every 10 milliseconds" but that can't be true for 2013 anymore :-).

  • N/B: I fixed Wikipedia and changed it from "10 milliseconds" to "frames". Nov 23, 2013 at 20:14

2 Answers 2


This is a PAL timecode.

In the PAL analog video standard used in the UK (and much of the rest of the world) before the advent of digitial video, there are 25 frames in a second (numbered 00 to 24 in the timecode displayed by most video devices, in the same way that seconds and minutes go from 00 to 59, so the hour from midnight to just before 1:00 am stretches from 00:00:00:00 to 00:59:59:24).

In Canada, the US, and several other places, NTSC, with 29.97 fps, was used instead.

These legacy units of 1/25 and 1/29.97 of a second are still used in the digital era.

Even when seen in jurisdictions using 30 fps, the BBC has retained as part of their branding the PAL timecode from Old Blighty, which makes sense, although presumably the numbers don't count down smoothly if you watch them carefully.


I haven't seen this myself, but if the highest number on the right is 24 than it is a timeframe stamp - so 44:23 means 44 seconds and 23 frames.

The highest number is 24, but there are 25 numbers, 0-24. In the UK the PAL (25 fps) timecode goes from 00 to 24.


Edited answer to reflect the clarifications below - thanks for the input user54609 and James.

  • 3
    I have downloaded a video and viewed part of it frame by frame. Indeed, the counter drops by 1 with each changing frame of the video. Nov 23, 2013 at 14:51
  • 2
    This answer is slightly wrong. The highest number is 24, but there are 25 numbers, 0-24. The correct answer is that the UK uses PAL, which is 25 frames per second, not 24 frames per second.
    – ithisa
    Nov 23, 2013 at 19:21
  • 1
    Agree with user54609 - I used to work as a developer on a broadcast automation system for a client from the UK, and PAL (25 fps) timecode goes from 00 to 24. (SECAM is also 25 fps, and NTSC, used in Canada, the US, South Korea, etc, is 30 fps) Nov 23, 2013 at 20:02
  • 1
    It's worse though because I'm a Brit living in the GTA :)
    – Nobby
    Nov 24, 2013 at 3:22
  • 1
    LOL then I have nothing soothing left to say. Nov 25, 2013 at 22:53

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