More than two months after the transmitter fire that left a million people without Freeview TV channels and radio stations, some are still unable to watch free-to-air TV.
Therefore, it was announced this week that those still affected, will receive vouchers for free streaming devices – such as the Amazon Fire TV and Roku sticks.
With those devices, viewers will at least be able to watch live and catch-up content from the main broadcasters, via apps such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All4.
This comes a month after the BBC announced it will offer partial TV License refunds to customers who were unable to access TV services due to the mast fire.
The whole ordeal started on August 10, 2021, when a 300-meters-tall transmitter located in Bilsdale burnt down.
The mast provided services to areas in northern England, from Tadcaster to Leyburn, Seaham and most of the way down the coast to Filey – both Freeview and YouView TV signals, as well as FM radio.
Once a transmitter goes down – all the houses in the area lose their over-the-air Freeview access, unless they can get reception from another nearby transmitter – which was not the case here, for most of those affected.
Arqiva – the company that operates Freeview transmitters – has been working since the fire to restore services. A temporary mast was due to be constructed back in August, but it was delayed due to legal issues.
This week, the temporary 80-meters-tall mast has finally been switched on – and many people in the area can finally get their Freeview channels back – though some may need to retune their Freeview devices (see more details below).
However, because the new mast is considerably shorter than its predecessor – some customers are still unable to get Freeview reception.
According to Arqiva, it is estimated that 23,000 homes fall into this category – living in areas now designated as “not-spots”.
Streaming Vouchers Instead of Freeview
To help those tens of thousands of people who still can’t get Freeview reception due to the fire, Arqiva is rolling out a Help and Support Scheme.
Some specific vulnerable groups – such as those over 65, the clinically vulnerable and other vulnerable people with carers – are being prioritised for now.
People who belong to those groups (and only them, for now) can call the Bilsdale Project Restore Support Line – 0800 121 4828.
All the affected homes that reside in the “not-spots”, will be eligible for vouchers that cover the cost of “an alternative fix” which can be chosen from a range of products – including the Amazon Fire TV Stick and a Roku streaming stick.
The vouchers can be redeemed in-store and online, and eligible homes will reportedly receive a letter with further instructions.
The idea is that those without Freeview reception will at least be able to watch streaming content from the main broadcasters – such as the BBC, ITV and others.
Which Freeview Channels Can I Watch Online?
If you can’t get any Freeview reception over the air (via an outdoor or indoor aerial), you can still watch some Freeview channels via broadband.
The streaming sticks offered by Arqiva, would let you stream those channels directly to your TV. Alternatively, you can watch Freeview via the mobile app which is available to download for free.
The channels you can stream via broadband (either on a TV, or from a browser) are, currently:
- BBC One
- BBC Two
- BBC Four
- BBC News
- BBC Parliament
- BBC Scotland
- BBC ALBA
- Channel 4
Remember, however, that if you watch BBC iPlayer via broadband on any of your devices at home – you will no longer be eligible for the TV Licence refund mentioned above.
Should I Do A Freeview Retune Now?
If you live in an area that IS serviceable by the new temporary mast, Freeview suggests you try and do a retune on your device, as partial reception may have been restored for you.
Some Freeview devices (see our recommended Freeview boxes here) perform channel retunes automatically.
If yours doesn’t, you may need to do a manual retune – You can find more information on how to retune your device, on Freeview’s retuning help section.
More information on the restoration of Freeview in the affected areas can be found on Arqiva’s Project Restore page.