THE recent announcement of a temporary television transmitter mast at Sutton Bank to provide services to Harrogate and the surrounding areas as a result of the Bilsdale mast fire, is, sadly, too little, too late.
The temporary transmitter only provides a limited set of Freeview channels, and at many locations in Harrogate, mine included, the signal strength of the multiplex carrying the high definition channels is too low to provide a reliable, break-up free viewing experience. Over a month has passed since the fire in August, yet many of us in Harrogate are still without a (full) television service.
The failure poses the most obvious of questions: why was there no proper back-up facility available for something so important? Many elderly viewers, who have no access to the internet, rely on television as their sole window on the world, a world which is still neck deep in a global pandemic.
Mast failures do occur. The television mast at Emley Moor, which also provides Freeview television to parts of Harrogate, has twice been taken out of service for protracted periods since its inception.
Imagine the uproar if viewers in London were deprived of their television service. Oh wait, Crystal Palace, the transmitter covering London and the Home Counties, does have a back-up facility. That’s alright then. Here ‘oop north’, we’re expected to sit and twiddle our thumbs whilst we wait.
Those viewers who have managed to have their aerials realigned to get a signal from the Emley Moor transmitter may find that not all Freeview channels are available to them. Only the Bilsdale mast delivered all channels to the town consistently. The temporary mast is unlikely to restore services to those without reception. It will not be tall enough or powerful enough to deliver the coverage afforded by the failed mast.
Moreover, its temporary nature and concerns about its durability during the winter months suggests that further lengthy outages could occur again. Hardly reassuring.
Can we look forward to actually being able to watch some of the new programming, such as All Creatures Great And Small? It seems not. If restoring the Bilsdale site is so problematic, why not make the temporary Sutton Bank site permanent, increase its power output and enable it to provide the full Freeview service for Harrogate and the surrounding areas?
How much longer are we going to have to wait? Answers on a postcard...
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