**UPDATE 18th October**
(Source: Arqiva website)
Last week a temporary, 80-metre mast was switched on, restoring TV services to approximately 95% of households across the North East and North Yorkshire. Following testing of the signal from the temporary mast, we now believe around 16,000 homes are still in so-called “not spots” and receive only a poor or no TV signal.
Arqiva is providing households in those specific areas a £50 voucher for Currys which can be spent - in store or online - on an alternative fix to receive free to air TV such as BBC or ITV. People can choose from a range of TV streaming devices, such as the Roku Express HD Streaming Media Player or the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite.
Letters containing instructions on how to claim the Currys voucher are being sent out this week. Residents will then need to enter their names, addresses and a unique voucher claim code. Any funds left over from the voucher after buying a TV streaming device can be used by the householder.
All of the available streaming devices can be found at www.currys.co.uk and anyone wanting help with choosing the most appropriate device can have a live video chat with Currys experts via ShopLive.
As these devices require WiFi and broadband they will not provide a solution for everyone affected in the specific areas receiving the letters. If that is the case, householders can call 0800 121 4828 to discuss alternative options.
Please find a number of FAQs below which we hope will be useful if you are discussing the support with constituents.
Arqiva: Help & Support Scheme FAQs
What if I need extra assistance and cannot use / do not want to use the e-voucher?
Please call 0800 121 4828 to discuss other options, including engineer support via Arqiva’s Home Support scheme. This freephone number is prioritised for those over 65, the clinically vulnerable, and other vulnerable people with carers. Please only call if you really have to.
What can I buy?
You can use the e-voucher to purchase any streaming device. Visit www.currys.co.uk to see what is available, or speak to a member of staff in any Currys store. An example of what you can buy is an Amazon Fire TV Stick at £29.99. You will need a good Wi-Fi connection (usually 10Mb or above) and an HD TV to make use of the streaming devices.
If you don’t have these, please call 0800 121 4828 and Arqiva can assess whether they can get you engineer support via their Home Support team.
Where can I go for more information?
If you have any questions about Bilsdale Mast Project Restore, you can find more information at www.bilsdalemast.co.uk
If I claim the e-voucher, can I still get support from Arqiva / Project Restore?
Arqiva will not be providing any additional support to those who claim an e-voucher, even if you don’t end up using it. Therefore please check you’re able to make use of the e-voucher before claiming it.
What if I don’t have the right set up in my home for any of the streaming options? (E.g. no or slow WiFi)
Please call 0800 121 4828 to discuss other options. This freephone number is prioritised for those most vulnerable in society, please only call if you really have to.
What happens if the item I want is out of stock with Currys?
The e-voucher provided is of a high enough value so you can choose from a range of TV streaming devices at different prices. You have until late 2023 to use your e-voucher. The exact expiry date will be shown on your e-voucher. Currys are doing their best to make stock available as quickly as possible. Please keep checking the Currys website for availability.
What if I purchase one of the lower cost devices (e.g. £29.99 for an Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite)?
You are welcome to keep the change, which will be presented to you as a revised gift card balance with Currys.
What if I want a device that costs more than the £50 e-voucher provided?
You will be responsible for paying the difference.
What if I’ve already purchased an alternative device to watch TV through?
Arqiva is unable to reimburse you for money already spent but please keep the e-voucher and spend it on another item of your choice.
What happens if the item I purchase from Currys is faulty?
Please return the item to Currys and ask for a replacement. It’s important to keep your receipt as proof of purchase.
What happens if I move home – do I need to leave any device I’ve purchased in the home?
If you have a landlord, you should discuss it with them. If you are selling the property, you can discuss it with the new owners.
The prices for the media players are different to what you’ve mentioned. Why?
Prices were taken from the Currys website on 12th October 2021. In normal trading practice, prices can change over time.
**UPDATE 14th October**
Earlier this week, I met with Arqiva regarding this ongoing issue and to represent the interests of Thirsk and Malton constituents.
I am pleased that today the temporary mast at Bilsdale has now been switched on, helping to restore TV services to approximately 95% of households across the region.
Affected constituents in Thirsk and Malton will now need to retune their TV sets. A guide on how to do this can be found here.
Unfortunately, not everyone is covered by the switch on and there is a Help and Support Scheme for people in these “not-spot” areas where TV services are still affected. The most vulnerable (elderly people, clinically vulnerable and those with carers) are being prioritised for this and, for these groups, there is a Bilsdale Project Restore Support Line: 0800 121 4828.
People living in the “not-spot” areas where services are not restored by the switch on will receive a voucher.
I will continue to keep constituents updated and if there are any concerns or issues, please do raise these with my office.
For the full update and further information please visit the Bilsdale Mast Project Restore Website.
**UPDATE 6th October**
(Source: Arqiva website)
North Yorkshire, UK, 06 October 2021: Arqiva, the company which owns and operates the Bilsdale mast, has confirmed that the 314m structure, which was damaged by a fire on the 10th August resulting in the loss of television and radio services in the area, was safely felled in a controlled demolition earlier today.
Following comprehensive investigations, the 500-tonne structure was considered beyond repair. As a result it was brought down by a specialist team using controlled detonations in order to preserve sections for the continuing forensic investigation into the cause of the fire.
The mast was built in 1969 and has provided TV and radio services to North Yorkshire, the Tees Valley and County Durham ever since.
The direction of dismantling was specifically chosen to minimise the impact on the surrounding environment. Arqiva will also ensure the moorland is restored fully, whilst also taking specific measures to minimise the impact of the clean-up activity.
As the damaged mast was deemed unsafe, an exclusion zone was set up in a two-kilometre circumference around it as part of the dismantling operation. Today’s dismantling work was not publicised in advance to ensure safety and minimise the risk to those involved in the dismantling.
A temporary, 80-metre tower close to the original mast is currently nearing completion which will restore TV services to more than 90% of households across the region. Arqiva is also setting up an online hub which will provide up-to-date information on help and support for priority groups affected by the loss of TV services, including how to retune or repoint your TV. It will be found at bilsdalemast.co.uk
**UPDATE 1st October - Weather disruption and subsequent delays**
(Source: Arqiva website)
Arqiva today announced that poor weather conditions have forced a delay in switching on the new, temporary mast at Bilsdale.
A 100-strong team using helicopters have been working around the clock on the temporary mast, which is 80 metres tall, over recent weeks, and the building of the mast itself has been completed. However high winds, low cloud and heavy rain in recent days have forced a delay to the proposed switch on date next week.
The final installation work, checks and tests require good visibility and line of sight from the ground, while rain and winds above 20mph make it dangerous for workers to climb to heights and to lift equipment into place. Power lines and feeder cables to the antenna must be installed, and equipment has to be kept dry as it is fitted together to ensure safety.
As the safety of staff is the most important factor, the weather has unfortunately forced a delay. Arqiva’s aim is to complete all work, carry out the required checks and tests, and switch on the temporary mast to restore TV services for thousands more people in the period of October 13th to the 19th – again, dependent on the weather. Arqiva will provide more details in a media briefing in North Yorkshire on Monday.
The temporary mast will restore services to more than 90% of households across the region, which has been affected by the fire at the main Bilsdale Mast on 10th August. Work to dismantle the old, fire-damaged mast will begin soon.
Arqiva this week set out plans – working with local authorities, housing associations and charities - to support and help those who will still not receive a service as a result of the switch on of the temporary mast. Called Project Restore, the priority focus will be on over 65s, and clinically vulnerable and vulnerable people affected. A new website will carry information and updates for those affected and their families and friends to find out more.
Adrian Twyning, Arqiva’s Chief of Operations, is visiting the site this afternoon to meet the team, see progress and view conditions.
He said: “The team have been working tirelessly since we broke ground to meet the go-live date of 5th October. Unfortunately the one thing we cannot control is the weather and that has turned this week. I want to apologise to those people who were really hoping for their services to be restored after a long wait this week. We had worked hard for that that too, and this is immensely frustrating.”
“The wind, cloud and rain has a heavy impact on how we can work at height, and safety is our absolute priority. We will continue to work flat out to restore services to the people who deserve them, and we will provide a further update as soon as we can.”
**UPDATE 29th September - Arqiva holds meeting in Darlington**
This week Arqiva's chief executive, Paul Donovan, provided an update on the Bilsdale replacement mast in Darlington Town Hall. The meeting was attended by representatives from local authorities, housing associations and charities from across the region and was followed by a virtual meeting today. The temporary replacement mast is due to go live on Tuesday 5th October, which will result in a few hours of disruption on Monday and Tuesday while the signal is reparented.
This ongoing issue has caused a great deal of distress to many of my constituents. After weeks of meetings with Arqiva I am pleased we are now reaching a point where some form of service will be restored to residents. It is right Arqiva prioritises the vulnerable and disabled and I would encourage constituents who are in this category, or who have a friend or family member who is vulnerable, to get in touch with either myself or Arqiva.
The temporary mast is expected to restore a signal to over 90% of households that were affected, but for those who will not have full service after the temporary mast is switched on on Tuesday, support will be made available including an online hub and a call centre. Once launched, constituents can register their postcodes in order to gain access to this support. There will be some 'not-spot' areas which require further support and at the meeting, attendees were told dedicated and accredited engineers will be sent to help households. People aged over 65 and those whom are either clinically vulnerable or vulnerable, including carers, will be prioritised for support. Moreover, all of the options outlined as part of the support scheme package such as providing Roku - where you can watch regular TV using an internet connection - will be provided by Arqiva free of charge to those that are eligible.
£150,000 will be provided by Arqiva for three regional charities, Two Ridings Community Foundation in North Yorkshire and County Durham Community Foundation. Each organisation will receive £50,000 to help identify those vulnerable people affected by the loss of their TV service, and to support work on digital inclusion and social isolation.
The most up to date information on the situation can be found on Arqiva’s website and in Arqiva’s latest video update here. Further advice is also available from Freeview at 0800 121 4828 or https://www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale.
**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.