Transmitter company Arqiva has added an emergency transmitter at Sutton Bank, restoring TV services to another 100,000 homes.
It’s the third emergency site to go live around the edges of the North York Moors, giving viewers on each side access to at least some Freeview channels. The company has been criticised for the length of time it’s taken – this week marks a full month since the Bilsdale transmitter fire.
Viewers in parts of York, Harrogate, Leyburn, Masham, Pickering, Ripon will now be able to receive all the basic Freeview channels, including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. This amounts to around 100,000 homes.
Arqiva has deployed an existing mast used for mobile phone services just north of the Sutton Bank visitor centre.
The Sutton Bank transmitter is using Bilsdale’s old frequencies. This means TVs that weren’t retuned over the last month should automatically receive the channels. However, viewers who did try to retune after the transmitter fire should attempt another retune to restore channels.
Sutton Bank manual tuning information
- BBC-A: UHF channel 27 or 522000 kHz
- D3&4: UHF channel 24 or 498000 kHz
- BBC-B (HD receivers only): UHF ch. 21 or 474000 kHz
In total, 500,000 homes are now in areas where a signal has been restored.
Services have been restored in two ways:
- Through three emergency transmitter sites (see below).
- By reconfiguring relay sites. Relay sites are where repeaters are situated – they previously relayed a signal from Bilsdale to local communities. Most sites are now being fed via satellite. Relay sites include Guisborough, Peterlee, Ravenscar (for Robin Hood’s Bay), West Burton (for lower Wensleydale) and Whitby (Business Park).
The three emergency transmitter sites
The three sites cover different areas around the edge of the North York Moors.
- Sutton Bank serves areas to the south and west of the North York Moors. It is broadly in line with the direction of aerials pointing at Bilsdale transmitter.
- The Arncliffe Wood emergency transmitter mast serves areas immediately to the west and north-west of the North York Moors. This includes Scotch Corner, Catterick, Darlington and Northallerton. It is broadly in line with the direction of aerials pointing at Bilsdale transmitter.
- The Eston Nab emergency transmitter mast, which replaced the existing relay, serves areas immediately to the north and north-east of the moors. This includes Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and Redcar. For viewers in Hartlepool and Redcar, the mast is broadly in line with the direction of aerials pointing at Bilsdale transmitter. However, for viewers in Middlesbrough, the temporary mast is to the left of where most aerials are pointing. This may affect reception in some households.
In addition, all of Bilsdale’s relays have been reactivated, either now receiving from a different transmitter or via a special satellite back-up.
Why can’t there be a single mast for all areas?
No one site can replicate the coverage of Bilsdale, as that mast was strategically located to cover all sides. The top of Bilsdale mast was over 700 metres above sea level.
Which channels have been restored?
Viewers can now receive the following services from all emergency transmitter sites:
- BBC One,
- BBC Two,
- Channel 4,
- Channel 5,
- BBC Four,
- Channel 4+1,
- BBC News,
- BBC Parliament,
- BBC RB 1,
- BBC Radio.
Via HD receivers:
- BBC One HD,
- BBC Two HD,
- ITV HD,
- Channel 4 HD,
- Channel 5 HD,
- CBBC HD,
Additional commercial TV services are being broadcast from Arncliffe Wood and Eston Nab transmitters. Eston Nab is also broadcasting local channel Teesside TV, plus a number of additional HD channels, including ‘Quest HD’.
What’s the latest on restoring services from Bilsdale?
Due to legal issues which have stopped Arqiva from accessing land to build a temporary 80 metre mast, plans to restore services have been delayed.
As a result, the focus has been on restoring services using the three emergency transmitters. In the last week, additional channels have gone live from Arncliffe Wood and all main Freeview channels from Sutton Bank.
What will happen to the current Bilsdale mast?
Arqiva has confirmed that there is high probability that the fire-struck mast will need to come down.
How long will this take?
It is likely to take months. A fire at Oxford transmitter mast in 2010 took five months to resolve. The Bilsdale incident involves rebuilding a mast in exposed moorland during the inclement autumn and winter months….
Is the BBC offering refunds?
TV Licensing is offering conditional refunds to affected households. However, the BBC’s services are one of the first to be restored in the area – BBC television services are now live from all relays and emergency transmitters. Satellite and cable viewers are also unaffected. All BBC channels can be live streamed from the iPlayer.
Shouldn’t the BBC be doing more to restore channels?
The BBC is not responsible for the transmitter – its transmitter network was privatised in the 1990s.
The BBC has a satellite back-up which is being used to supply emergency transmitters and existing relay transmitters with a signal.
Arqiva is the current owner of Bilsdale transmitter and the rest of the UK’s Freeview transmitter network. That might not be the case for much longer: Arqiva is currently trying to sell its TV transmitter business. In the meantime, it is Arqiva who is responsible for ensuring that services are restored as quickly as possible. The company is liaising with landowners, local authorities and MPs regarding the situation.
Is there a telephone helpline?
Freeview has set up a telephone helpline for those who cannot access updates on the internet: Bilsdale Freephone number: 0800 121 4828
Updated 12/09/2021: Article amended to clarify that the Sutton Bank mast itself is not new. Instead, Arqiva has added an emergency TV transmitter on the site of an existing mobile phone mast.