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Major fire puts Granada region TV and radio at risk

FM, DAB and Freeview services broadcasting in the North West were put at risk by moorland fires.

Following the merger of two moorland fires around Winter Hill in Lancashire, the region's main transmitter found itself on the frontline of the blaze.

Tony Cook, Lancashire fire and rescue area manager, told reporters on Saturday that priority was being given to protecting the TV and radio mast, which is the main Freeview transmission site for the BBC North West / ITV Granada region.

The fire is being treated as a major incident and is the latest major fire in the area following an unusually early and prolonged dry spell. A man has been arrested on suspicion of starting a fire.

But on Saturday night, transmitter mast owner Arqiva reported that there was "growing confidence" that there would be no service disruption after a day of hard effort fighting the fire, which was reported to be "diminishing". Earlier, Arqiva had warned broadcasters that they could be taken off air by the fire.

The following services will be affected in the worst case scenario:

  • Freeview - all channels + including local TV for Manchester, Liverpool and Preston/Blackpool and Manchester only commercial channels. 
  • All services that piggyback off Freeview: channel range 1-299 & 600-799 on YouView / BT TV, TalkTalk TV, Plusnet TV.
  • Channels within the ranges 1-299 & 600-799 on EE TV. 
  • Terrestrially delivered channels on the Now TV Smart Box.
  • Digital Radio*: All national BBC and commercial stations via the following multiplexes: BBC National DAB, Digital 1, SDL National. Local, regional and semi-national services via the Manchester, Liverpool and Lancashire multiplexes.
  • FM radio^: BBC Radio 1 (98.2), BBC Radio 2 (88.6), BBC Radio 3 (90.8), BBC Radio 4 (93.0), BBC Radio Lancashire (103.9), Heart (105.4), Smooth (100.4), Rock FM (97.4)

* all digital radio multiplexes are also broadcast in the area from alternative transmitter masts as part of a single frequency network, so some reception will still be possible, although it would be subject to larger reception non-spots or weak signals.
^ FM: in parts of the North West, it will be possible to receive BBC Radio 1 - 4 via alternative transmitters on different frequencies in the worst case scenario.

The area was named "Winter Hill" after the harsh winter of 1955/1956, during which engineers were working against a deadline to build the TV mast. Prior to that time, the site was known as Rivington Moor.