S4C HD Joins Freeview at Expense of BBC Three HD

The high definition version of Welsh language service S4C has joined Freeview. S4C HD utilises bandwith (space) vacated each evening on the BBC B/PSB3 HD multiplex, when CBBC HD stops broadcasting at 7pm at the end of it programmes.

Unfortunately, this means that S4C HD can only broadcast for a limited time. The standard definition version remains broadcasting 24 hours a day, and can be found on usual channel number 4. Additionally, to give more time to S4C HD at the weekend, CBBC HD now hands over to S4C HD at 2pm. This means that CBBC viewers in Wales have to switch to the standard definition version of CBBC, in order to continue watching on Freeview.

Unfortunately, the new S4C/CBBC HD arrangement means BBC Three will be standard definition only in Wales, due there being no available space left on the BBC B multiplex. A similar issue prevents BBC Three from broadcasting on Freeview in HD in Scotland, thanks to a time sharing arrangement with CBBC HD and BBC Scotland HD.

BBC Three will be available in standard definition across the UK on Freeview, with viewers in England and Northern Ireland being able to access a HD version. A full article on BBC Three availability will follow in due course.

BBC Three Relaunch Day Confirmed

Tuesday 1st February (2022) will see the return of BBC Three. The part time channel will return at 7pm, with a mixed genre format targeting younger viewers.

The channel will be available on Freeview terrestrial TV, Sky and Freesat via satellite, and cable through Virgin Media. As yet, channel numbers are yet to be confirmed, with the BBC stating that these will be confirmed at a later date.

Additionally, the channel will be available to live stream on internet connected devices via the iPlayer.

Pre-launch tests have already begun ahead of launch, using a promotional loop. These are being broadcast on satellite and terrestrial. The satellite transmissions are free to air and can be manually tuned, but the terrestrial transmissions are hidden so Freeview receivers won’t yet be able to tune in to the channel.

BBC Three will appear on the respective platform EPGs in due course. Except Freeview, this will happen automatically. Freeview viewers may need to retune, but should wait until the channel becomes visible before doing this.

BBC Three Cleared to Return

Perhaps the biggest story missed in the past week is that the regulator Ofcom have given approval for BBC Three to return to our screens. The part-time channel with return to terrestrial platform Freeview, cable platform Virgin Media, and satellite platforms Sky and Freesat. The channel had closed in traditional form in February 2016, with programming moved to the BBC iPlayer.

Sadly, as the previous channel numbers have been re-allocated to other services, BBC Three will have different channel numbers on each of the platforms, but platform operators are required by Ofcom to give BBC Three a prominent channel number. This means that BBC Three will appear near the top of electronic programme guides (EPGs), but channel numbers are yet to confirmed.

Platforms operators have 18 months to accommodate this, meaning that BBC Three may initially appear with a temporary channel number. On Sky, Virgin Media, and Freesat, it is expected that a channel number will be made available by the launch of full regionalisation of BBC One HD (high definition). This will allow BBC One HD to take the top spot on the EPG, allowing the standard definition to drop down to a less prominent number, thus freeing up a slot for BBC Three.

On Freeview, it is expected that all channels from 25 onwards will be moved down 1 number to accommodate BBC Three, except Dave Ja Vu (+1 version of Dave) which will move from 23 to 25. This will allow BBC Three to occupy channel number 23. In Scotland, BBC Four occupies channel 24, with that number left unused in other parts of the UK.

It is expected that BBC Three will make its return some point during February 2022, only a few weeks after the initial planned return month of January, despite the lengthy consulation. Satellite re-configurations have already been made to accommodate the channel. As the channel will share bandwidth with CBBC, the latter channel will revert back to a 7pm finish time, from 9pm.

BBC Radio Cumbria To Go DAB+

Page last updated on November 29th, 2021 at 02:05 pm

BBC Radio Cumbria is joining digital radio for the first time next Wednesday, with the station joining the new Carlisle/North Cumbria and Morecambe Bay DAB multiplexes. Both multiplexes are expected to launch on 1st December (2021), and are operated by Bauer Media and Muxco Cumbria respectively.

However, unlike most BBC stations, and following in the footsteps of BBC Radio Guernsey and BBC Radio Jersey, the station will use the newer DAB+ format. Reasons for this are unknown, as the BBC have 128 kbps of space reserved on each multiplex, enough to broadcast in joint stereo using normal DAB.

There is some speculation suggesting that the BBC may use the Morecambe Bay multiplex to improve coverage of BBC Radio Lancashire to the north of that station’s coverage area. Speculation also suggests that the BBC may use spillover from the North Cumbria multiplex to broadcast BBC Radio Scotland on digital radio to parts of south west Scotland, but this appears less likely.

In any case, the use of DAB+ will mean that some listeners with incompatible DAB radios will be unable to access BBC Radio Cumbria on digital radio.

Channel 4 and Channel 5 Disrupted by Red Bee Media Incident

Viewers of Channel 4 and Channel 5 are continuing to face disruption caused by an incident at transmission provider Red Bee Media. Some BT Sport channels are also affected, as is the BBC.

Red Media Media provide playout facilities, forming part of the infrastructure that enables the channels to broadcast. An incident has caused damage to the servers which enable this.

The BBC were able to switch seamlessly to a backup service, allowing all TV channels to continue broadcasts as or close to normal. Channel 5 has also returned to air, with a black and white triangle logo in the right hand corner of the screen indicating the channel is using back up facilities.

Channel 4 and it’s sister channels (including the Box Plus Network) is experiencing the most disruption. The disruption varies from platform to platform, but E4 +1 is currently off-air on Freeview, and most Box Plus Network channels are simulcasting either The Box or Kiss. Online live streams are off-air, and viewers are reporting problems with sound and picture quality.

It is unclear what the exact cause of the disruption is, or when problems will be resolved.

Bilsdale Transmitter: Alternative Arrangements for Radio

I’ve held of publishing further updates on the Bilsdale transmitter disruption due to the rapidly changing situation, but as things have started to settle, I’m now confident in being able to provide summaries on the alternative arrangements that are being put in place. This post focuses on digital and analogue radio services, and where possible refers to information published on the Arqiva website (although supplementary information from other sources may be used).

Most radio services have been relocated to the Eston Nab transmitter, which has been upgraded using a temporary mast. Joining Smooth Radio which permanently broadcasts from this site, are national stations Capital and Heart, local BBC station BBC Radio Tees, and network station TFM. These are broadcasting on their normal frequencies, so there is no requirement to retune your radio. All stations have RDS (station name display) output, and should be available to most places within their normal coverage area.

For DAB, the D1 National and SDL National multiplexes have also been added to the Eston Nab transmitter. As these multiplexes operate on a single frequency network, there is no need to retune. These join the BBC National and Teeside local DAB multiplexes which permanently broadcast from this transmitter.

A further article on TV arrangements will follow.

Partial Restoration of Services Following Bilsdale Fire

Some TV and radio services have resumed following the Bilsdale West Moor transmitter fire, from other transmitters in the area.

Alterations have been made to the Easton Nab relay transmitter to allow it to recomence terrestrial (Freeview) broadcasts to Hartlepool, Redcar, and the eastern edge of Middlesbrough. Temporary frequencies are being used, so a retune is required in these areas.

BBC Radio Tees 95.0 FM service has been relocated to the Easton Nab transmitter, which already broadcasts Smooth Radio to the Teesside area. Albeit with more limited coverage, most listeners should now be able access this service, particularly in the north of the normal coverage area. It is unknown whether further FM services will follow.

Further relay transmitters are being reconfigured to operate from a satellite backup link, which should allow more viewers to access terrestrial TV services. However, these may not broadcast the correct regional programmes.

A temporary mast is being transported to the Bilsdale site, to allow more services to resume whilst the damaged transmitter is repaired.

Bilsdale Transmitter: Services Affected

The Bilsdale West Moor transmitter broadcasts terrestrial TV, FM radio, and DAB digital radio to the North Yorkshire and Teesside areas. These services are impacted in slightly different ways, but all are facing major disruption.

The transmitter is a main terrestrial TV (Freeview) transmitter, broadcasting all public service broadcaster (PSB) and commercial multiplexes, including temporary multiplex COM7, and the local TV multiplex. The transmitter also provides the provides the feeds for the PSB relays in the area (excluding Scarborough). As a result, all Freeview services from these transmitters are off-air. If you can, repositioning your aerial towards Pontop Pike to North, or Emley Moor to the south may be an alternative.

For FM, the Teesside frequencies of national stations Capital, Classic FM, Heart, and BBC Radio 1 to 4 are off-air. Additionally, local station BBC Radio Tees and network station TFM are also off-air. For most national services, signal from another transmitter should be available, although as Classic FM uses a network of fewer but larger transmitters, this may not always be the case.

Local FM services are facing more disruption. The BBC Radio Tees relay at Whitby should still be operating, but otherwise there is no FM service for BBC Radio Tees. TFM has no relays, and is off-air completely on FM. In the north of the area, Capital and Heart may be available on frequencies from Pontop Pike, but are otherwise off-air completely.

DAB is likely to be the least impacted by the disruption, as the Bilsdale transmitter is one of a number within the networks. National multiplexes BBC National, D1 National, and SDL National are broadcast alongside the Teesside and North Yorkshire local multiplexes. For BBC and D1 national services, other transmitters in the area should provide some service. SDL National listeners will face more disruption, as this network uses fewer but larger transmitters.

Local DAB should still be available to most listeners, with listeners in northern fringe of the North Yorkshire multiplex most like to be affected. For all multiplexes, DAB transmitters broadcast using single frequency networks. As all transmitters use the same frequencies, your radio should automatically pick up the signals from other transmitters if signal is available.

This list is not comprehensive, and there may be other alternatives for receiving TV and radio, such as cable, satellite, and online.

Reduced Summer Service for BBC Parliament

As a result of the latest round of BBC cuts, the BBC Parliament channel has been suspended over the summer, coinciding with the national and devolved governments summer recess.

The suspension is a result of a reduction in the amount of programmes commissioned specifically for the channel, and sees a simulcast of the BBC News channel air in its place.

However, the option to reactivate the channel remains, in the event of a major political development during the summer break. The channel will return when the parliaments reconvene.

5Live Formula 1

The BBC has launched a pop-up channel offering live coverage of the British Grand Prix, the UK round of the Formula 1 (motor racing) World Championship being held at Silverstone.

Broadcasting using 64 kbps mono DAB, the station is available on the BBC National DAB multiplex, until sometime just after the conclusion of the racing action. Re-tune your radio, and scroll until you find ‘BBC R5LFormula 1’ in the stations list.