Viewers in the Cheltenham and Gloucester area officially have two ITV regions to choose from on Freeview.
While many viewers may be able to receive another television region via signal overspill from a neighbouring area, two different versions of ITV are deliberately broadcast from Herefordshire’s Ridge Hill transmitter site.
The special arrangement was introduced after ITV closed the Central South region in 2006, which used to stretch from Herefordshire and south Shropshire across north Gloucestershire and The Cotswolds into Oxfordshire. Herefordshire and south Shropshire reverted back to the Central West after the best part of two decades, while north Gloucestershire was reassigned to the ITV West service. Oxfordshire was initially reassigned to a new sub-region called ITV Thames Valley, which later merged into ITV Meridian.
Without changes at the Ridge Hill transmitter, TV viewers in the north of Gloucestershire would start to receive ITV Central West, with no option to watch their newly assigned ITV region from Bristol. The Cotswolds block reception from any of the main transmitters serving the West of England.
Uniquely in the UK, a second version of ITV – a relay of the Bristol-based ITV West Country – was made available from Ridge Hill, broadcasting on its own and broadcast in a south-easterly direction from the mast, with the specific purpose to reach households in the Cheltenham and Gloucester area – initially as an analogue TV service, switching to digital at switchover on a standalone multiplex.
Some viewers may not know about the choice
Viewers in the area are able to choose between it or the main ITV Central service broadcast from the transmitter. But as both services are assigned to channel 3, some Freeview TVs and boxes will assign one ITV region to channel 3 and the other one at the bottom of the channel list in the 800s – meaning some viewers in the area may have not noticed they have two ITV regions in their channel list and a choice of news relevant to their area. But newer TVs do provide viewers with an option to select a preferred region if multiple versions of a channel are detected during tuning.
Changes to the signal were recently made as part of the 700MHz 5G clearance project, allowing the extra ITV service to continue – a luxury when frequencies are being repurposed for mobile services – but with new parameters to ensure a robust signal despite the various changes to TV frequencies in the area. New data from digitalbitrate.com confirms the ITV West multiplex on UHF channel 29 (538MHz) carries ITV West Country on its own, plus around 6Mbps of empty capacity.
However, while viewers in North Gloucestershire can enjoy the correct regional ITV, they still receive the Midlands version of Channel 4 for advertising purposes and have to receive BBC Midlands Today rather than Points West, which covers Gloucestershire, although BBC Radio Gloucestershire is available through Freeview. ITV HD carries Central West.
Further anomalies exist in North East Wales and Cumbria, where some transmitters carry multiple regions or sub-regions – however these carry full multiplexes with the full set of channels carrying regional variations, not just one channel on its own.