Final tests ahead of the activation of a temporary transmitter mast at Bilsdale take place this week. It comes two months after a major fire disrupted telecommunications across North Yorkshire, Teesside and County Durham.
Transmitter company Arqiva says the new 80 metre mast will go live on Wednesday morning, serving 90% of viewers originally affected by the Freeview black-out on 10th August. An additional 50,000 homes will be able to receive services from the mast.
Ahead of go-live, viewers may lose Freeview signals for a time on Tuesday 12th October, as existing temporary transmitters are turned off for several hours. The switch-off will allow engineers to test the output of the mast on Bilsdale West Moor.
Transmitter operator Arqiva has also warned that Freeview services will also be off-air for a time during Wednesday 13th October.
Freeview advises that most viewers can retune after 6am on Wednesday. But viewers in Northallerton should wait until lunchtime. Viewers in Guisborough and Romaldskirk will have interruptions to services during the day while engineers work on local relay transmitters.
For the past month, Freeview signals have been broadcast from alternative sites while work at Bilsdale on felling the fire-damaged mast and constructing a temporary mast were completed.
Last week, the old mast was felled. This means that it will not obstruct signals from the new, smaller mast. From the perspective of a person located to the north-east of Bilsdale, the old mast would have stood right in front of the new mast.
The go-live date has changed: it was originally pencilled in for 5th October. Weather related delays threatened to postpone go-live to 19th October. Calmer weather has helped engineers complete the work faster.
Bilsdale reception updates
What happens if I don’t have a TV service after Wednesday 13th October?
Around 10% of affected viewers won’t be able to get a signal. This may include some households who could get a signal from a temporary site. That’s because the new mast is over 200 metres shorter than the mast it replaces. As a result, it can’t ‘see’ as well over the edge of the North York Moors. If you live close to the edge of the moors, you may be in a reception not-spot.
First, viewers should try to retune. Support videos are available from Freeview.
Freeview is advising viewers who haven’t been able to restore channels by the end of Wednesday to call them on freephone 0800 121 4828. In the first instance, retuning assistance will be provided. Where this doesn’t work, details will be logged and sent to Arqiva.
Arqiva has promised it will be build additional relays to serve the main not-spot areas and is in touch with local authorities to support vulnerable viewers. It has set up a support website with more information at bilsdalemast.co.uk.
Why is the new Bilsdale mast much shorter than the original mast?
Under the planning code applicable to telecommunications companies in such emergencies, structures can’t be more than 80 metres high. Any higher, and the mast needs to go through a full planning application. This would have delayed the construction of the mast, leaving viewers without a service for longer. However, the shorter size does mean that the new mast will never be able to completely replicate existing coverage.