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.

BBC Channel Changes

While I was away, it was confirmed that BBC Three is returning as a linear TV channel, to the Freesat, Freeview, Sky, and Virgin Media platforms.

CBBC will revert to its original finishing time of 7pm. BBC Three will feature a strand of programmes suitable for 13 to 18 year olds from 7pm to 9pm. The return of BBC Three is scheduled for early 2021.

Although frequencies are available for the return of BBC Three, the original channel numbers have been reassigned to other services. It has not been confirmed which numbers BBC Three will be given, but as a BBC service, it will be given priority for a low number high on the EPG.

BBC Four remains, but will become an archive channel, and will no longer receive new commissioned shows. Some live art programming will remain, as part of the cost reducing changes.

Tit for Tat Move from China

Following Ofcom revoking CGTN’s license to broadcast in the UK, China has made a similar move against BBC World News, banning the channel from broadcasting in China.

Despite this, BBC World News is not widely available in China, except in some hotels. China has accused the BBC’s news coverage in China as being untruthful and unfair, claims which have been refuted by the BBC.

The move appears to be ‘tit for tat’, and is a sign of worsening tensions between the UK and China. Hong Kong’s RTHK government broadcaster has also removed the BBC World News channel.

Integration Planned for Freesat and Digital UK

UK public service broadcasters BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 are planning to integrate Digital UK and Freesat. Digital UK facilitates the provision of Freeview TV services, whilst Freesat is the UK’s main subscription free satellite TV platform (not to be confused with the entirely separate Freesat from Sky).

This proposed move is intended to help ensure viewers continue to have access to a range of free to view TV platforms. Additionally, the move is also intended to help viewers benefit from technological innovations and developments across the two services.

The move requires regulatory approval, and should complete a few months after approval is given.

BBC Sounds App Added to Sky Q

A new app has been added to the Sky Q connected satellite platform. BBC Sounds allows users to access live radio, music mixes, playlists, and podcasts produced by the BBC.

The app is now available to all Sky Q customers, and can be launched using the voice control remote by saying “Launch BBC Sounds”.

Among the functions of the app is the ability to pick up where they left off on other devices. Users can subscribe to shows so they don’t miss an episode, and bookmark their favourites.

The deal expands on existing collaboration between the BBC and Sky, which saw iPlayer launch on Sky Q towards the end of 2019.