**UPDATE 22nd September**
(Source: Arqiva website)
This week, Arqiva has begun lifting materials on to the Bilsdale site by helicopter as part of urgent work to build an 80m-high temporary mast.
Materials being lifted by air to the site include around 200 x 750kg concrete blocks which will anchor the temporary mast in place. The helicopter will also be used to transport the sections of the mast itself to the moorland site, along with the metal ‘sledges’ which house the concrete blocks.
The lifts are part of progress towards the building of the mast as teams work around the clock to help restore services to people. Once the material is in place, the helicopter will be used to then erect the mast itself by lifting separate sections one at a time to be secured in place by specialist riggers.
In total, the helicopter is expected to complete more than 230 lifts over the coming days.
Work to erect the temporary mast is dependent on the weather, but it is currently expected to be completed on Tuesday, 5th October.
In order to properly check that the new, temporary mast is covering the area in the desired way it is necessary to turn off other temporary sites for a period the day before, Monday 4th October. That means households will see some disruption on that day, for which Arqiva apologises in advance.
A video update from the site is available and can be viewed here.
Further updates on the work to restore service and the support scheme will follow. The latest information on the situation can be found on Arqiva’s website and further advice is also available from Freeview at 0800 121 4828 or https://www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale.
**UPDATE 15th September**
(Source: Arqiva website)
On behalf of Arqiva we wanted to provide you with the latest updates on work to restore broadcast services following the fire at the Bilsdale transmitter.
Arqiva can now confirm that work has commenced on the temporary mast at its Bilsdale site. A team of around 100 people began construction work at Bilsdale yesterday (Monday 13 September) with materials being transported into place and ground preparation beginning for the mast’s installation. The team are working at pace to clear the site and put foundations in place for the ground-based transmission equipment.
Once operational, the 80m-high temporary mast is expected to provide Freeview TV signals to an area covering over 90% of households which were served by the existing Bilsdale mast, which was damaged by fire on August 10.
The clearance includes excavating heather after which the area will be re-seeded. Stone used on site has also had to be specially selected to ensure the right levels of acidity for the surrounding environment.
Arqiva’s priority is now on working with organisations across the affected area including local councils, housing associations, charities and also local MPs to reach and support those who may remain without signal following the mast build, and to prioritise the most vulnerable people affected.
**UPDATE 9th September**
I today met virtually with Arqiva and the minister responsible for this issue. They have now secured planning consent for the erection of an 80 metre-high temporary mast close to the existing site and work should be completed within 21 days. Following this, most households should have service restored but some minor adjustments may need to be undertaken for some households, for example retuning, repointing of aerials. In the next few days here will be a dedicated staffed advice line and email which we will provide as soon as it is made available by Arqiva. We have been assured that the temporary mast and wider solution will withstand the inclement weather commonly experienced in the area. We will provide further updates as soon as we glean any new information.
**UPDATE 8th September**
(Source: Arqiva website)
– Arqiva Chief Executive to meet local leaders and community groups as latest new transmitter comes online at Sutton Bank
– Around 500,000 households now returned to a Freeview coverage area
– Arqiva will be meeting local organisations to discuss support for the most vulnerable affected
North Yorkshire, UK, 08 September 2021: Arqiva, the leading UK communications infrastructure and media services provider, today provided an update on Bilsdale Mast following the recent fire that affected services across the region.
Chief Executive Officer, Paul Donovan, will be meeting council and community leaders across the area to discuss the restoration of services and how to prioritise the most vulnerable people affected, and he returned to the site to view progress. A new, temporary mast has today restored some TV services to over 100,000 more people in North Yorkshire.
While investigation into the cause of the fire continues, the implementation of the company’s recovery plans has now resulted in around 500,000 households being returned to a Freeview coverage area.
Arqiva’s view is that the damage caused by the fire means it is probable that the existing mast will have to be dismantled.
The company has used a combination of its existing sites and new, temporary structures to restore services and was today able to announce that an additional new transmitter site at Sutton Bank was now providing Freeview TV signals to over 100,000 households in areas including Harrogate, Knaresborough, Pickering, Ripon, Masham, Leyburn and northern parts of York.
The next stage of the plan is to build an 80 metre-high temporary mast on land near the existing mast at Bilsdale.
A team of around 100 people are in place to undertake the site preparation, helicopter lift for the mast structure and transmission set up. Working with local authorities, planning bodies, central Government, broadcast customers and regulators, the national park and others, good progress has been made in recent days. It is expected that this temporary mast will restore Freeview TV services to over 90% of affected households in the coming weeks.
Speaking close to the damaged mast, and after meeting council leaders, Chief Executive Paul Donovan said:
“First and foremost, I want to apologise again to those who people who have had their services disrupted by the fire at Bilsdale Mast; and especially to those who rely on television for companionship.
“Our absolute priority is to restore services as quickly as we can. We have a detailed recovery plan which continues to progress as quickly as possible. This morning Freeview television services were restored for over 100,000 more homes in the region.
“However, this is a complex task and there is clearly a lot more to do, so we are working with our partners as quickly and safely as possible. I would like to extend a special thank you to all those people who have been supporting friends and neighbours who may not have access to the internet or other sources of information and entertainment. We will prioritise the most vulnerable people affected.
“Our teams are doing everything in their power to restore services for as many people as possible as quickly as we can and we will provide further updates on progress.”
**UPDATE Saturday 28th August**
A statement issued by the BBC to the Northern Echo stated: Customers in the affected area who have been unable to receive TV coverage for over a month, and who are unable to view BBC programming through BBC iPlayer and on cable and satellite platforms, will be eligible for a refund or be offered a free extension to their TV Licence to cover the months affected.
We are continuing to work with our suppliers Arqiva to ensure services in the affected area are resumed as soon as possible.
To request an extension to your TV licence visit the TV Licensing website, or cal TV Licensing call centre on 0300 790 6096 after September 10th. Those households affected for less than a month will not be able to claim for a refund, according to TV Licensing.
**UPDATE Friday 27th August**
Arqiva continues to work through the process to enable access to the Bilsdale site to build the temporary mast. We are continuing to work round the clock to find a way forward.
Meanwhile, this week has seen the successful restoration of some Freeview television services for those who receive signals from the smaller relay sites in the following areas:
- Grinton Lodge
- West Burton
These relays normally receive a signal from the main Bilsdale mast (Aislaby actually takes its signal from Ravenscar) and ‘pass it on’ to the communities in the area that cannot see the main mast.
Arqiva once again apologises that services have not been restored as quickly as we’d hoped and will provide a further update as soon as possible.
**UPDATE Tuesday 24th August**
Arqiva now assesses that the majority of homes affected by the loss of coverage, more than 400,000, have now had their TV services restored, and FM radio and Digital Radio have also returned to most households.
Arqiva’s teams are working round the clock, alongside partners, to return services to normal for people across the area as quickly as possible. Arqiva fully recognises that, for those who remain affected, this is a frustrating time as services have not been restored as quickly as hoped and Arqiva apologises for this.
The remaining stages of the recovery plan require access to the original mast site to deliver materials, build and commission the temporary 80-metre mast which would expand TV services to the vast majority of households. The legal process to secure appropriate access to the site to build the temporary mast is taking longer than initially anticipated and as a result it will not be operational by this weekend as was hoped.
Arqiva is making representations to the court as to the severity and the urgency of the situation. Arqiva is also continuing to speak to the site landowner to see if an access agreement can be reached whilst the application is being processed. Arqiva wishes it to be known that it is doing everything possible to move this forward as quickly as possible.
Freeview has also commented on the latest situation:
“We share in our viewers’ disappointment that the new temporary mast at Bilsdale has been delayed, particularly at such short notice. However, we have faith that Arqiva is doing everything in its power to reach a new access agreement with the landowner. We will continue to keep viewers up to date with the latest information and guidance via our website and social channels.”
As ever, the latest information on the situation is being published on Arqiva’s website.
**UPDATE Thursday 19th August**
Arqiva is pleased to announce that this morning it successfully achieved a planned power increase to its Eston Nab site. This important step in the recovery plan has now seen an increase in TV coverage (covering PSB1, 2 and 3 multiplexes featuring the main BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 services) to more than 250,000 households.
The SDL and D1 Digital commercial radio multiplexes, which include stations such as Absolute Radio, Classic, Planet Rock, Times Radio, Scala Radio, Boom Radio, Kiss, Magic and Talksport are now also broadcasting from the site to much of Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees and the coast to Hartlepool. Arqiva also would like to confirm that in the last 48 hours the Digital TV relay at Peterlee has returned to service. Work to install additional equipment at Arncliffe Wood to further extend coverage is also in progress and is still expected to be complete by this weekend.
Freeview has also issued a comment on the latest situation:
“If you live around Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar, Thornaby-on-Tees, Darlington, Barnard Castle, Richmond or Billingham, you may now see some channels on your TV as a result of the continued engineering work. If your TV is still struggling to pick up any signal, an automatic retune could help. For information on how to retune, alongside detailed advice for each area, please visit our website at https://www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale-transmitter”
“If your TV still can’t pick up a signal, we understand how frustrating this must be, and engineers are working round the clock to further improve the coverage as soon as possible. If you have an online connection, you can watch Freeview content via a connected Freeview Play TV, the Freeview website, or the Freeview mobile app.”
The latest information on the situation is being published on Arqiva’s website.
**UPDATE Tuesday 17th August**
On behalf of Arqiva, following our email on Friday concerning the impact to TV and Radio broadcasting services in some parts of the North East of England due to a fire at the Bilsdale transmitter mast, we now wanted to provide you and your constituents with the latest updates.
Later today, Arqiva expects to return digital radio services from SDL and D1 from its Eston Nab site, providing digital radio on those multiplexes for much of Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees and the coast to Hartlepool. Arqiva continues to be in constant dialogue with all of its broadcaster customers, Freeview and the regulator Ofcom regarding its plans.
Arqiva now expects to have completed the improvement of TV coverage from Eston Nab, and also the installation of a further 15m mast at a site in Arncliffe Wood by the weekend. These two developments should deliver a significant improvement in TV coverage for viewers in the areas including Darlington, Stockton, Catterick, Leyburn, Masham and Ripon. We will update viewers on any action they need to take with further updates later this week.
Work on phase 2 of the recovery plan continues. Arqiva still anticipates that the temporary mast will be effective by 28 August.
**UPDATE Monday 16th August**
I have today written to the BBC to raise the issue of the Bilsdale transmitter fire. I asked if compensation will be provided to those constituents who have lost service following the fire which broke out last Tuesday. Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire and investigations are ongoing about the cause, which is not suspected to be related to criminal activity. Nonetheless, the loss of transmission is especially hard for those constituents who are elderly, do not have access to internet or homebound due to disability where access to television is a lifeline.
I’m sorry to any constituents who are affected by this disruption and grateful to Arqiva for providing updates on the ongoing situation. As I understand it, the work to rectify the issue is expected to be completed in less than two weeks. Given the issues, I have written to the BBC to ask if there are any plans to compensate licence fee payers for the loss of service.
The latest update from Arqiva stated “Efforts are fully underway to reinstate TV and radio broadcasting services and coverage in the area. Below is the latest update on the situation.”
The full update can be read here.