The operator of the fire damaged transmitter mast have confirmed that a temporary solution is being prepared to restore TV and radio across North Yorkshire and Teesside.
But timeframes will depend on an assessment of the situation on Wednesday morning, meaning viewers and listeners may face several days before television and radio coverage returns.
Around 1 million households have lost their Freeview terrestrial TV signal as a result of the fire at the Bilsdale West Moor transmitter on Tuesday afternoon. FM transmissions are also down. DAB radio continued via neighbouring transmitters, with some listeners experiencing a weaker signal or signal not-spots. A small number of mobile phone users in the villages and moors directly around Bilsdale have lost their mobile phone signal.
Mast operator Arqiva has now confirmed it is preparing “temporary equipment” to be deployed on site. However, the timeframes for restoring services are still unclear. A 300 metre exclusion zone is in place around the site.
Earlier, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service confirmed there had been no injuries or casualties. But there are questions about the structural integrity of the mast. Arqiva will be assessing the situation with the Fire and Rescue service on Wednesday morning. As a result, a temporary mast may need to be erected next to the site. But services may need to be run at lower power once restored. The duration of the temporary mast will depend on the extent of the damage to the original mast, which may need to be demolished and rebuilt.
If you’re affected…
Freeview advises viewers to not retune. All broadcasts from the mast and through its relays across North Yorkshire and Teesside are down.
Satellite, cable and online services are unaffected.
Broadcasters are advising viewers with smart TVs to use their online services in the meantime.
Why can’t anyone say when the services will be back?
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will be assessing the situation with the transmitter operator on Wednesday. Only then will they be able to make decisions on the future of the fire-damaged mast and building. The situation means a temporary mast construction is likely. This will take time.
Can I receive a service from another transmitter while Bilsdale is offline?
Most TV aerials are fixed to point at a particular transmitter. Bilsdale normally fills a coverage hole in and around the North York Moors where alternatives are not available. But for some, an alternative transmitter is available – although the signals may be weaker. However, the aerial would need to be changed to point in another direction.
In parts of North Yorkshire, it is possible to receive a signal from the Emley Moor transmitter – look to see if all your neighbour’s aerials are pointing in the same direction for clues as to if an alternative is available. If this looks like it’s an option for you, please note that many local TV installers have been inundated with requests for help since the outage began.
For FM radio, providing you are not using a fixed aerial, reception of most national services should be possible from alternative transmitters. However in some areas, you may experience a much weaker signal. Some local stations may not be available at all. On DAB, you may find you can’t receive all the stations you previously had access to. This is because the high ground of the North York Moors or Yorkshire Dales themselves may block signals from alternative transmitters.
About Bilsdale transmitter
The television mast at Bilsdale entered service in 1969, originally to bring colour television to the region. It filled a coverage gap between the Pontop Pike mast serving Tyne and Wear and the main Yorkshire mast at Emley Moor. The height of the structure is 314.6 metres. Although most of its users are in North Yorkshire and Teesside, small pockets of County Durham and West Yorkshire receive a signal from the site.
Controversially for viewers in North Yorkshire, it has always carried BBC and ITV regional services for the North East. This is because the majority of the transmitter’s users are in Teesside. As a result, some households south of Northallerton have aerials pointing at Emley Moor rather than the much closer Bilsdale transmitter. For remote communities in the North York Moors and parts of the Yorkshire Dales, Bilsdale provides their main TV service. Here, online services are not necessarily an alternative option.
The North Yorkshire coast, with the exception of Scarborough, is served by relays of Bilsdale.