The BBC wants £22.3 million back from Arqiva following the transmitter mast fire that knocked out TV and radio signals across North Yorkshire, Teesside and Durham Coast.
The fire at Bilsdale transmitting station in August 2021 resulted in households losing access to services. Some locations were without a signal for months. The BBC was forced to offer licence fee refunds for affected users.
Details of the lawsuit first emerged in The Telegraph earlier this month, but didn’t provide details of the monetary extent of the claim against Arqiva. The claim is for loss of service and other credits the BBC says is due under the terms of its existing contracts with Arqiva.
Arqiva says it has taken legal advice and is defending the claim. The company in turn has raised an insurance claim and expects to be able to recover some, but not all of the liabilities and costs incurred by the fire and the subsequent rebuild of Bilsdale transmitting station.
On 22nd May, the first TV signals were switched on at the new Bilsdale mast. In the coming weeks the full set of TV, radio and mobile services will migrate to the mast, finally restoring reception levels to those experienced before the fire.
Arqiva was blamed for poor communication in the aftermath of the fire. As anger over the prolonged outage grew, Arqiva’s PR stepped into action, with The Guardian’s Jim Waterson interviewing Arqiva’s boss Paul Donovan, blaming the local terrain and roads for the delays with restoration work.
Ofcom’s incident review, published in June 2022, took a dim view of the matter, saying Arqiva should have had a site-specific deployment plan ready.
The Bilsdale site is understood to be costing more than £50,000 a month to run.
New Bilsdale mast: 5 things to know
- The new Bilsdale mast only has planning permission for a maximum of thirty years. This means its lifespan will be shorter than the 1960s mast it replaced.
- As it’s slightly shorter, the TV signal radiation pattern removes the null in the direction of Pontop Pike transmitter.
- The local TV antenna is being set up to cover a wider area than on the original Bilsdale mast, meaning more Freeview viewers will be able to receive the local channel Teesside TV alongside a number of commercial channels.
- Bilsdale is also used to distribute FM, DAB and mobile phone signals to the area. The fire created a mobile signal not-spot in some of the remotest parts of the North York Moors.
- It’s also a rarity among main transmitter sites in only having one major power supply. Other main transmitters have two separate power feeds from different parts of the National Grid.
PICTURED: Bilsdale transmitter. COPYRIGHT: Arqiva.