After almost 2 years of disruption due to a fire at the previous Bilsdale mast serving Teesside and North Yorkshire, the first transmissions from it’s replacement go live tomorrow (Monday 22nd May 2023).Continue reading Bilsdale Transmitter Enters Service
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 second post focuses on terrestrial TV (Freeview) services, and where possible refers to information published on the Arqiva website (although supplementary information from other sources may be used).
The arrangements for TV are a little more complex that those for radio, but can grouped into four segments. In short, TV coverage is utilising Eston Nab relay in a greater capacity, temporary transmitters at Arncliffe Wood and Sutton Bank, re-activated relays, and a temporary mast at Bilsdale.
The first stage of recovery centred on the Eston Nab relay. Using a temporary mast, this has in effect been turned into a main transmitter, and now broadcasts a full Freeview service (minus the temporary COM7 multiplex). Initially broadcasting to of Hartlepool, Redcar, and the eastern edge of Middlesbrough, further work has seen the power output increased to reach more homes including parts of the Darlington, Richmond and Barnard Castle areas.
A second temporary transmitter at Arncliffe Wood has now entered service, to provide or improve coverage to the Darlington, Stockton, Catterick, Leyburn, Masham and Ripon areas. This is only broadcasting the PSB1, PSB2, and PSB3 multiplexes, providing coverage of the main BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 services. A third transmitter similar to that at Arncliffe Wood has now followed. Sutton Bank provides coverage to the Harrogate, Knaresborough, Pickering, Ripon, Masham, and Leyburn areas, as well as northern parts of York.
If you are in the areas covered by the Arncliffe Wood, Eston Nab, and Sutton Bank transmitters, you will need to retune your TV/set top box to restore services, as both transmitters are using temporary frequencies.
The situation with the existing relay transmitters is a little more complex, but all relay transmitters have been restored. In some cases, these transmitters have been reconfigured to relay the Pontop Pike transmitter, in which case a normal service with full local programmes is being broadcast. These include the Peterlee relay.
Other transmitters are broadcasting from a backup satellite feed. This utilises a permanent BBC satellite back up facility, alongside a temporary facility mirroring the PSB2 multiplex. The permanent BBC back up is allowing all BBC national channels to be broadcast, plus HD versions of ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5. Local variations, and local radio services are not carried on this backup, so remain unavailable. However, the PSB2 backup feed is carrying full regional variations, to ITV Tyne Tees news and other local optouts is available to these viewers.
All relay transmitters are using their normal frequencies, so unless you’ve already tried retuning, you won’t need to retune. However, if you have previously retuned, you may need to do this again to restore services.
Finally, a longer term temporary solution is the building of an 80m temporary mast at Bilsdale. This will provide a reduced coverage compared to the damaged mast, but will restore Freeview services to more households. Arqiva have now confirmed that construction has now begun, following legal hurdles.
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.
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.
The Bilsdale West Moor television and radio transmitter is currently off-air due to a fire, causing major disruption to some services in North East England.
The transmitter broadcasts terrestrial TV (Freeview), FM and DAB radio to around 1 million people in the Teesside and North Yorkshire. A further post will follow explaining how these services are disrupted in more detail.
It is understood that problems were caused by a lightning strike, but it does not appear that this is the direct cause of the fire. The fire was first reported by an engineer working at the transmitter site, with North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service sending multiple engines to site.
Arqiva, the operator of the transmitter, are currently working on a temporary transmitter to restore services, but this will take time to complete. The temporary transmitter may need to operate at a lower power output, meaning a reduced coverage area.
GB News, the proposed new news channel with backing from Discovery, will be on all major UK TV platforms, including terrestrial (Freeview including YouView based platforms), satellite (both Freesat and Sky), and cable (Virgin Media).
Infrastructure provider Arqiva has been selected to deliver the channel, and will oversee the launch and manage programme delivery. The channel should reach 96% of households in the UK.
A proposed launch date has not yet been revealed, but the channel is expected to launch this year (2021).
A name which may be unfamiliar to some, Arqiva is the largest UK broadcast transmission company, and they are planning to make 500 staff (around a third of their workforce) redundant.
This forms part of a wider restructuring plan at the company, owned by a consortium of foreign investors.
Arqiva operate most of the TV and radio masts in the UK, as well as operating in other areas of transmission.
Some radio stations, including Rathergood Radio and Love Sport have complained about the high costs of Arqiva’s services in recent years.