The arrival of new, more sturdy temporary mast at Bilsdale will result in some viewers along the coast losing their signal. But transmitter company Arqiva hopes to speed up the construction of a permanent structure.
TV reception across the area was disrupted after a fire at the Bilsdale transmitter site in August 2021.
The new temporary mast is designed to withstand bad weather and strong winds in the moors. The current temporary mast, erected in October already suffered reliability issues during Storm Barra in December. The new structure is of a similar height. Final work is taking place before the new mast goes live next month.
Arqiva is promising a signal improvement for around 100,000 homes in the coverage area. But for viewers mostly along a strip of the County Durham coast, line of sight will be lost. This is due to a ‘signal shadow’ created by the edge of the North York Moors between the new transmitter site and the local area.
Support to be offered
Arqiva is writing to around 2,500 households to let them know about the situation. It thinks half of these homes solely rely on Freeview for their TV service. As a result, they will lose their TV signal again. To help affected households, Arqiva is offering a free aerial repointing service. This will allow engineers to visit homes to switch aerials around to point at Pontop Pike or a relay transmitter.
In preparation for the change, signals from relays in Sunderland and Seaham have been improved to provide additional coverage.
Viewers in areas where there’s no alternative signal available will be offered a Freesat installation. All affected households have been notified of a contact telephone number to get in touch with Arqiva.
Permanent mast live sooner rather than later
RXTV revealed earlier this month that Arqiva had submitted plans for a new permanent mast at Bilsdale, replacing the one that was felled last year after a fire. Planning documents state that construction could take up to 19 months. A public consultation on the plans ends within days.
However, in its first official statement on the matter, Arqiva says it’s “working hard” with its suppliers to get the new mast up this year. If all goes well, the new permanent mast can go live before spring 2023. That’s six months sooner than the timeframe stated on planning documents.
Shuja Khan, Chief Commercial Officer of Arqiva, said;
“We want to restore and improve services to people across the region as quickly as possible, and today we have set out more details and likely timescales through 2022, including a huge construction project to permanently replace the old Bilsdale Mast. While we are making real progress, we also know that this work can cause disruption, and that is frustrating for many viewers and listeners. We are working hard with our partners to restore services, and to support those people whose services are affected.”
New mast key to restoring Freeview back to original state
As shown in the image above, the planning application is for 306.2 metres high mast. The mast is on a hill that is over 300 metres high, meaning the top of the mast will stand over 600 metres above sea level. This is tall enough to avoid most signal shadows, allowing line of side to most of North Yorkshire, Teesside and parts of County Durham. As was the case with the old Bilsdale mast, areas right under the edge of the moors remain out of coverage. In these areas, most aerials are already pointed at either Emley Moor or Pontop Pike.
At the moment, temporary relay transmitters are restoring at least the main Freeview channels to affected households.
Once the mast is live, households in the area will once again be able to receive a full set of Freeview TV channels, fully restoring services to how they were before August 2021.
Arqiva support (updated 26/01/2022)
Arqiva’s TV Signal Help Team will be visiting a number of locations to assist viewers:
Monday 31/01/22 AM – Hartlepool
Headland car park, TS24 7EN
Monday 31/01/22 PM – Blackhall
St Joseph Church car park, Blackhall Colliery, TS27 4HE
Tuesday 01/02/22 AM – Peterlee
Asda car park, Peterlee, SR8 1AR
Tuesday 01/02/22 PM – Hendon
Tatham Street car park, SR1 2QB
Wednesday 02/02/22 AM – Horden
Car park on Blackhills Road, Horden, SR8 4TQ
Wednesday 02/02/22 PM – Easington Colliery
Car park (opposite The Pet Salon), Seaside Road, SR8 3PF
Thursday 03/02/22 AM – Kelloe
Kelloe & District Workmens Club, Kelloe, DH6 4PD
Thursday 03/02/22 PM – Ryhope
The Village Green, Ryhope, SR2 0NQ
Friday 04/02/22 AM – Easington Village
Go Local Village Shop car park, Easington Village, SR8 3AT
Friday 04/02/22 PM – Seaham
Seaham Hall Beach Car Park, SR7 7AF
Saturday 05/02/22 AM – Dalton Park
Dalton Park Retail Park, SR7 9HU
Saturday 05/02/22 PM – Seaham
Asda Car Park, Byron Place Shopping Centre, SR7 7HN