Mass Freeview Disruption Expected This Weekend

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Planning to sit down for a cosy weekend in front of the TV? You might want to prepare for some unexpected interruptions, as some of your favourite Freeview channels may disappear from the screen.

Yes, once again, Freeview viewers may need to brace themselves for potential disruptions to their TV reception – but this time not due to a heatwave but rather the opposite: the winter’s high air pressure systems. 

As the BBC and Freeview have announced, significant disturbances are expected from Friday, January 26, and into Sunday, January 28, 2024, due to high air pressure conditions.

Affected homes across parts of England and Wales could lose some of the Freeview channels they’re normally able to watch, with some extreme cases potentially losing Freeview reception altogether.

In light of this, Freeview and the BBC have issued warnings on what you should NOT do if this affects you this weekend (see full details below).

New Freeview Play 2022 mockup

We’ve seen this happen several times during the hotter months – and now, the phenomenon is back.

Freeview And Weather Disruptions

Freeview, a mainstay in British households, provides free-to-air TV channels and radio stations, but it’s not immune to the whims of nature, especially atmospheric conditions.

Under normal circumstances, the signals transmitted from various stations across the UK travel relatively straight from the transmitter to your aerial.

This direct path ensures stable and clear reception under typical weather conditions. However, high air pressure can significantly alter this dynamic.

TV Transmitter aerial communications tower

High air pressure is characterized by the accumulation of a mass of cool air that is denser and heavier, often leading to clearer skies but also to a meteorological phenomenon known as “temperature inversion.”

In this scenario, a layer of warm air overlays a layer of cooler air nearer to the ground. This warm air acts like a lid, trapping the cooler air and everything in it, including pollutants and, crucially for Freeview viewers, TV signals.

The crux of the issue lies in how this temperature inversion affects the Freeview signals. These signals, rather than travelling in their usual straight trajectory, start to bend or refract.

The signals are then ‘trapped’ and can travel much further than intended.

TV off angry man

This extended range causes them to interfere with other signals, particularly those from distant transmitters, which, under normal conditions, would not affect your reception.

This interference manifests in various ways: viewers may notice pixelation on their screens, certain channels might become temporarily unavailable, or in more severe cases, there might be a complete loss of reception.

The BBC created a helpful video, hosted by Matt Taylor from BBC Weather, that explains why high pressure weather conditions can affect Freeview reception on your TV:

Potential disruptions are expected on both Freeview and the YouView service, but they shouldn’t affect Freesat reception, which relies on different types of signals.

These problems also won’t affect viewers who are getting Freeview channels via broadband, on Sky’s streaming TV – Sky Glass, Sky’s Stream box, EE TV’s IP channels, or the Stream box from Virgin Media.

Do Not Retune Freeview This Weekend

The critical takeaway for Freeview users is that these disruptions, though inconvenient, are a natural consequence of atmospheric conditions and not a fault with their equipment or the Freeview service itself.

Retuning, while a common fix for reception issues, is counterproductive in this scenario as it may cause your device to pick up the wrong signals, further complicating the issue once normal conditions resume.

Freeview scanning for channels

If you do happen to do a retune, there isn’t much you can do at that point other than wait until January 29 (or possibly 30), when the high-pressure conditions are supposed to pass – and then, you should retune again.

You can find more information on how to retune your device, in Freeview’s retuning help section.

What Can I Watch If My Freeview Channels Are Down?

If you can’t get some (or all) Freeview channels properly, you can still watch some of the channels via broadband.

If you have a Freeview Play device that’s connected to the internet, such as the Manhattan T-3R, Humax Aura, or a Freeview Play TV, you can watch the streaming versions of the main broadcast channels, via apps like BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4, etc.

Alternatively, you can watch Freeview via the mobile app which is available to download for free (but the app can only help you watch Freeview Play channels that have their own apps on your phone – so again, BBC iPlayer, ITVX and the other big broadcasters).

You can also find streaming apps for all the public broadcasters, and several other big Freeview channels, on streaming devices such as Amazon Fire TV and Roku, and on most Smart TVs.

And as always, other TV services shouldn’t be affected by this issue – so you can continue to watch streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Paramount+ and all the others.

Later in 2024, the company behind Freeview is expected to launch Freely, which will provide most of the current Freeview channels via broadband at no extra cost – but that service is still months away from launch.

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