Twenty Years of Channel Five [Part Two]

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Tests, Transmissions and Turbulence

 

Tests, Transmissions and Turbulence

 

The test pattern for the Channel Five test card consisted of a set of five mock colour bars, with the station’s slogan Give Me Five and some helpline information (Figs. 1 and 2).

More detailed transmitter identification information was not normally included, although at least a couple of sites did display this information, for instance at Croydon and Reigate (Figs. 1 and 3).

At the time when the Channel 5 re-tuning exercise was carried out, from the autumn of 1996 onwards, the transmitters were still in the process of being installed.

They remained largely inactive – apart from short tests, which were conducted at some sites – to prevent interference, until a certain percentage of re-tunes had been carried out within the service area, or in those cases where the transmitters were simply considered less of a ‘threat’.

Test broadcasts were mainly undertaken during the day, so as not to disrupt any evening video viewing in homes that had not yet been re-tuned.

 

Later Transmitter Launches

The batch of transmitters airing on Channel 35 did not enter service until after the official launch date.

This seemed to suggest that plans were considerably off-target. Some transmitters, such as the one in Waltham, did not in fact air until about August 1997.

Some of the Channel 35 transmitters were located geographically ‘too close for comfort’. These included Waltham (250kW), The Wrekin (100kW), Fenton (10kW), Ridge Hill (100kW) and Hannington (60kW).

Needless to say, that there were plenty of visible co-channel effects at times, even in primary service areas, and under relatively ‘flat’ reception conditions.

The preliminary information supplied by Channel 5 in early 1997 stated that, “once the Channel 35 transmitters are airing, there are no further plans yet to add any more analogue terrestrial transmitters.”

Yet’ was very much the operative word here….

After its launch, some relays had Channel 5 added, depending on frequency availability, and local reception conditions permitting.

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In a handful of cases, some locations were granted relays operating on very low-power.

In addition to this, a few ‘self-help’ sites began operating, some of these in an unofficial capacity.

Eventually, there were almost 70 transmitters, relays and self-help sites broadcasting Channel 5.

After 2002, the service eventually became available via Freeview.

However, ironically, viewers who were dependent on local relay stations (i.e. where analogue Channel 5 was not available), were not able to receive the digital counterpart either!

Fig. 4 shows Kirsty Young reading the news on 30th March 1997.

Fig. 5 displays the official Channel 5 logo, as it appeared twenty years after launch, in 2017.

 

Transmitter Switch-On Timetable

According to the official Channel 5 information disseminated during the re-tuning exercise, the switch-on dates for the first batch of 33 transmitters were as follows (Table 1):

 

Table 1: Switch-on dates for the first 33 Channel 5 Transmitters (ERP=Effective Radiated Power)

 

SWITCH-ON                              TRANSMITTER                         CH/POL.                   ERP

               

  1. Nov 1st, 1996                     Cambret Hill                               37                             20kW
  2. Nov 21st, 1996                   Belmont                                     56                             50kW
  3. Dec 10th,1996                    Tay Bridge                                 34V                           4kW
  4. Dec 11th,1996                    Churchdown Hill                         48                             1kW         
  5. Dec 11th,1996                    Caldbeck                                   56                             10kW
  6. Dec 17th,1996                    Sandy Heath                              39                             10kW
  7. Jan 5th,1997                      Black Hill                                   37                             500kW
  8. Jan 5th,1997                      Black Mountain                           37                             50kW
  9. Jan 7th,1997                      Huntshaw Cross                         67                             2kW
  10. Jan 9th,1997                      Plympton                                   30V                           2kW
  11. Jan 9th,1997                      Fawley                                      34                             10kW
  12. Jan 15th,1997                    Chelmsford                                63                             1kW
  13. Jan 15th,1997                    Londonderry                               31V                           10kW
  14. Jan 26th,1997                    Croydon                                    37                             1000kW
  15. Jan 28th,1997                    Craigkelly                                  48                             4kW
  16. Feb 16th,1997                    Lichfield                                     37                             1000kW
  17. Feb 20th,1997                    Perth                                         55V                           2kW
  18. Feb 23rd,1997                    Emley Moor                               37                             870kW
  19. Feb 25th,1997                    Durris                                        67                             100kW
  20. Feb 25th,1997                    Tacolneston                               52                             4kW
  21. Mar 2nd,1997                     Mendip                                      37                             126kW
  22. Mar 4th,1997                      Oxford                                       49                             40kW
  23. Mar 5th,1997                      Storeton                                    39V                           2.8kW
  24. Mar 6th,1997                      Burnhope                                   68                             50kW
  25. Mar 9th,1997                      Presely                                      37                             100kW
  26. Mar 9th,1997                      Redruth                                     37                             3kW
  27. Mar 11th,1997                    Mounteagle                                67                             100kW
  28. Mar 11th,1997                    Sheffield (Crosspool)                   67V                           2.5kW
  29. Mar 18th,1997                    Blaenplwyf                                 56                             4kW
  30. Mar 18th,1997                    Fenham                                     56V                           2kW
  31. Mar 19th,1997                    Nottingham                                34V                           2kW
  32. Mar 19th,1997                    Selkirk                                       52                             50kW
  33. Mar 20th,1997                    Winter Hill                                  48                             12.5kW

 

Table 2 is a list of Channel 5 transmitters opened after March 1997.

 

TRANSMITTERS                                                                                      CH/POL                     ERP

 

  1. Bilsdale                                                                                            35                              500kW
  2. Croydon (Old Town)                                                                           59V                            300W
  3. Darvel                                                                                              35                              100kW
  4. Fenton                                                                                             35V                            10kW
  5. Hannington                                                                                       35                              60kW
  6. Hastings                                                                                           35V                            1kW
  7. Kilvey Hill                                                                                          35V                            10kW
  8. Madingley                                                                                         34V                            5kW
  9. Middleton (Manchester)                                                                      22V*                          40W
  10. Millburn Muir                                                                                     45V                            250W
  11. Norwich (Central)                                                                               33V                            30W
  12. Oliver's Mount                                                                                   66V                            1kW
  13. Peterhead                                                                                         68V                            100W
  14. Reigate                                                                                            42V                            10kW
  15. Ridge Hill                                                                                          35                              100kW
  16. Salisbury                                                                                          68V                            2.5kW
  17. Sudbury                                                                                            35                              50kW
  18. The Wrekin                                                                                       35                              100kW
  19. Tunbridge Wells                                                                                 37V                            10kW
  20. Waltham                                                                                           35                              250kW
  21. Whitehawk Hill                                                                                   35V                            10kW

 

* N.B. - A temporary mast was radiating BBC-1 on Channel 22 by the end of June 1999.

 

SMALL & SELF-HELP RELAYS                                                                  CH

 

  1. Aberdeen                                                                                          49
  2. Ardlui                                                                                               62
  3. Bakers Wood                                                                                    63
  4. Balquidder                                                                                        30
  5. Blackpool Football Club (SH)                                                               34
  6. Blair Drummond                                                                                 54
  7. Craigie Gardens (SH)                                                                         52
  8. Culloden (SH)                                                                                    56
  9. Enochdhu                                                                                         48
  10. Llandyfriog                                                                                        35
  11. Torridon (Active Deflector)                                                                   56
  12. Torridon (Translator)                                                                           56
  13. White City                                                                                         54

 

All very low-power.

 

 

This article was featured in the February 2019 issue of Radio User