Mast operator’s latest financial report reveal the multi-million pound bill incurred to restore Freeview TV services to parts of North Yorkshire and North East England after the Bilsdale transmitter was destroyed by fire.
- Mast operator Arqiva receives £41m total settlement from the insurers.
- But it’s not the full cost of rebuilding mast and supporting viewers
- Arqiva still faces legal action over loss of service.
In summer, Freeview TV services covering an area roughly spanning from Durham in the north to York in the south were fully restored after nearly two years of disruption. Radio services are only just being restored now.
The fire that hit the Bilsdale transmitter in the North York Moors in August 2021 resulted in a detailed investigation by both North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and mast operator Arqiva’s insurers.
Although the precise findings of the investigation have still not been made publicly available, insurers have now made their final payment.
The latest financial figures filed by Arqiva confirm it has now received the final instalment of £16m from its insurers. It forms a total settlement figure of £41 million.
Insurers won’t cover the full cost
Arqiva says the company has so far incurred £31.2 million in capital expenditure, plus another £14.3 million of “exceptional operating expenses”, which include the cost of community support.
And that figure could rise further, with the BBC continuing its legal action against Arqiva. Capita had to issue licence fee refunds to viewers in the area. And the BBC believes it is owed ‘service and other credits’ under the terms of its contract with Arqiva to deliver its signal to viewers. Arqiva says it continues to defend the claim. Meanwhile, the cost of power to Bilsdale and other transmission sites continues to rocket. Arqiva says unit costs are up over 200% this year after its existing energy deal expired back in the spring.
Final works taking place at Bilsdale site
At Bilsdale, work continues to complete the final transition of radio services over to the new mast. Radio services have until now been broadcast from temporary transmitter sites in the area.
Arqiva said it had taken over 26,000 phone calls and arrange over 8,000 engineer visits to support households. 300,000 users visited its dedicated support website. The Bilsdale help scheme was closed down this summer after Freeview channels were restored to their pre-August 2021 coverage levels.
Arqiva’s initial response to the fire was criticised. This, plus a separate incident involving Channel 4 and Channel 5 resulted in Ofcom ordering all broadcasters to improve their disaster recovery processes.