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Full Freeview on the Pontop Pike (County Durham, England) transmitter

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The symbol shows the location of the Pontop Pike (County Durham, England) transmitter which serves 700,000 homes. The bright green areas shown where the signal from this transmitter is strong, dark green areas are poorer signals. Those parts shown in yellow may have interference on the same frequency from other masts.

Are there any planned engineering works or unexpected transmitter faults on the Pontop Pike (County Durham, England) mast?

Pontop Pike transmitter - Pontop Pike transmitter: Possible effect on TV reception week commencing 06/12/2021 Possible Pixelation or flickering on some or all channels Digital tick

Choose from three options: ■ List by multiplex ■ List by channel number ■ List by channel name

Which Freeview channels does the Pontop Pike transmitter broadcast?

If you have any kind of Freeview fault, follow this Freeview reset procedure first.

Digital television services are broadcast on a multiplexes (or Mux) where many stations occupy a single broadcast frequency, as shown below.

 H max
C39 (618.0MHz)447mDTG-3100,000W
Channel icons
1 BBC One (SD) North East and Cumbria, 2 BBC Two England, 9 BBC Four, 23 BBC Three, 201 CBBC, 202 CBeebies, 231 BBC News, 232 BBC Parliament, 250 BBC Red Button, plus 15 others

 H max
C42 (642.0MHz)447mDTG-3100,000W
Channel icons
3 ITV (SD) (Tyne Tees), 4 Channel 4 (SD) North ads, 5 Channel 5, 6 ITV 2, 10 ITV3, 13 E4, 14 Film4, 15 Channel 4 +1 North ads, 18 More4, 26 ITV4, 30 E4 +1, 35 ITV +1 (Tyne Tees),

 H max
C45 (666.0MHz)447mDTG-6100,000W
Channel icons
56 5SELECT, 101 BBC One HD (England no regional news), 102 BBC Two HD (England), 103 ITV HD (ITV Granada), 104 Channel 4 HD North ads, 105 Channel 5 HD, 106 BBC Four HD, 109 BBC Three HD, 204 CBBC HD, 205 CBeebies HD, plus 1 others

 H -3dB
C32 (562.0MHz)447mDTG-850,000W
Channel icons
12 Quest, 20 Drama, 21 5USA, 29 ITV2 +1, 32 5STAR, 33 5Action, 41 Legend, 42 GREAT! movies action, 46 Channel 5 +1, 58 ITVBe +1, 59 ITV3 +1, 64 Blaze, 67 CBS Reality, 74 Dave ja vu, 78 TCC, 81 Blaze +1, 89 ITV4 +1, 203 CITV, 208 Pop Player, 211 Ketchup TV, 212 YAAAS!, plus 15 others

 H -3dB
C34 (578.0MHz)447mDTG-850,000W
Channel icons
11 Sky Arts, 17 Really, 19 Dave, 31 E4 Extra, 36 pick, 40 Quest Red, 43 Food Network, 47 Film4 +1, 48 Challenge, 49 4seven, 57 Smithsonian Channel, 60 Drama +1, 70 Quest +1, 75 Yesterday +1, 83 Together TV, 233 Sky News, plus 9 others

 H -3dB
C35 (586.0MHz)447mDTG-850,000W
Channel icons
 FreeSports, 25 W, 27 Yesterday, 34 GREAT! movies, 39 DMAX, 44 HGTV, 71 Quest Red +1, 73 HobbyMaker, 82 Talking Pictures TV, 84 PBS America, 91 Classic Hits, 235 Aljazeera English, plus 18 others

 H -13dB
C56 (754.0MHz)447mDTG-125,000W
Channel icons
from 22nd September 2014: 7 Made in Tyne and Wear,

 H -4.7dB
C55 (746.0MHz)447mDTG-633,800W
Channel icons

DTG-3 64QAM 8K 2/3 24.1Mb/s DVB-T MPEG2
DTG-6 256QAM 32KE 2/3 40.2Mb/s DVB-T2 MPEG4
DTG-8 64QAM 8K 3/4 27.1Mb/s DVB-T MPEG2
DTG-12 QSPK 8K 3/4 8.0Mb/s DVB-T MPEG2
H/V: aerial position (horizontal or vertical)

Which BBC and ITV regional news can I watch from the Pontop Pike transmitter?

regional news image
BBC Look North (Newcastle) 1.6m homes 6.0%
from Newcastle NE99 2NE, 15km northeast (42°)
to BBC North East and Cumbria region - 70 masts.
regional news image
ITV Tyne Tees News 1.4m homes 5.4%
from Gateshead NE11 9SZ, 12km north-northeast (29°)
to ITV Tyne Tees region - 47 masts.
All of lunch, weekend and 50% evening news is shared with Border

Are there any self-help relays?

Kieldor DamActive deflector6 homes Holiday complex
Low HaberActive deflectorWest Allen Dale, 18 kn SW Hexham caravan site
North HartlepoolTransposer84 homes

How will the Pontop Pike (County Durham, England) transmission frequencies change over time?

1950s-80s1984-971997-981998-20122012-1313 Nov 2019

tv_off Being removed from Freeview (for 5G use) after November 2020 / June 2022 - more
Table shows multiplexes names see this article;
green background for transmission frequencies
Notes: + and - denote 166kHz offset; aerial group are shown as A B C/D E K W T
waves denotes analogue; digital switchover was 12 Sep 12 and 26 Sep 12.

How do the old analogue and currrent digital signal levels compare?

Analogue 1-4 500kW
BBCA, D3+4, BBCB(-7dB) 100kW
SDN, ARQA, ARQB(-10dB) 50kW
com8(-11.6dB) 34.6kW
com7(-11.7dB) 33.8kW
Mux 1*, Mux 2*, Mux A*, Mux B*, Mux C*, Mux D*(-17dB) 10kW
LNE(-20dB) 5kW

Which companies have run the Channel 3 services in the Pontop Pike transmitter area

Jan 1959-Feb 2004Tyne Tees Television
Feb 2004-Dec 2014ITV plc
Feb 1983-Dec 1992TV-am•
Jan 1993-Sep 2010GMTV•
Sep 2010-Dec 2014ITV Daybreak•
• Breakfast ◊ Weekends ♦ Friday night and weekends † Weekdays only. Pontop Pike was not an original Channel 3 VHF 405-line mast: the historical information shown is the details of the company responsible for the transmitter when it began transmitting Channel 3.

Saturday, 15 January 2022

3:40 PM

Brian Richardson:

Hi. A couple of things, first this site has a bug, occasionally you get a fatal error message and also posts take a while to appear. Just ignore that but make sure you have a text copy of what you are trying to post and wait a short while to see if the post then appears. I'm hoping the site owner will get this fixed, it's a pain!

Pontop Pike has just been listed for Planned Engineering, they don't give detail, so "why" is an unknown.
Recent weather conditions with the current high pressure won't have helped either, temperature inversion/tropospheric ducting has been having an impact at various times across the UK in the last couple of days. The BBC and Freeview currently have warnings about interference to reception.

I want to look at a couple more things, so I'll post this and come back later with a bit more explanation and further suggestions.

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Chris.SE's 3,039 posts GB
Sunday, 16 January 2022

2:29 AM

Brian Richardson:

If the aerial is very similar to that link which did appear in the first post it looks like a standard 10 element Yagi.
Do the elements in front of the dipole look fairly equi-spaced and equal length?
If so, I'm going to guess it's an old Group C/D aerial which was Pontop Pike's Group before the 700MHz Clearance program when all the multiplexes were on the high UHF channels.
Have a look with some binoculars (or telescope!) and see if it's a Green plastic plug in either end of the boom.

Since 700MHz Clearance, Pontop Pike is Group T (Wideband would do) is you include COM7, otherwise it's Group K (as an aside some decent group K aerials have sufficient gain for UHF C55).
If the elements at the end of the boom are much shorter than the ones nearest the dipole and spacing between them changes, it could be wideband but I'm sceptical from those strength figures you've posted especially C55, C45 and C42.

Group C/D aerials will not respond well to the lower UHF channels now used by Pontop Pike, although strangely I've come across some 10 element contracts that do reasonably well on C32 but have a quite uneven response up into the low 40s. Things are not helped in this situation as it's COMs4-6 on these channels and they are half the transmitted power of the PSBs at Pontop Pike.

Under normal conditions you should get very good reception from Pontop Pike (leaving aside the possible aerial query at present). The current "tropo" conditions may clear for a while Sunday a.m but according to 2 different predictions they're like to return Sunday p.m. and this could continue through Monday, Tuesday and into Wednesday a.m.
If you can post some more of the strength and error figures for all muxes during Sunday a.m. that might give a further feel for things.

Essentially what happens with the "tropo" is, it can/often will be frequency dependent, and depending on where interfering signals are coming from, which UHF channels will be affected. Whilst the interference isn't too strong, you might see an increase in the strength figures but the error (or quality) figures get worse. But beyond a certain point, the strength figure can drop as the set eventually sees the combined interference and wanted signal as just noise and if the set sees zero signal it may see no errors. If the interfering signal gets strong enough , the strength could be good and errors low you might find a different multiplex on the UHF channel if you were to retune - not advised (unless you want to go dxing of course) - if you upset your correct tuning you don't know when things return to normal and you have to keep retuning to find out. Confusing!

There are a number of powerful transmitters to the south of you and further afield in France, it'll depend on conditions at the time as to which ones might interfere. E.g. hypothetically if you were to find a good signal with low enough errors on C34 but your usual COM5 channels were blank, if a retune of C34 gave ITV West (it may get put in the 800s as you have LCN3 etc already tuned) then the signal would likely be PSB2 from Mendip (Somerset).

Anyway, strength and error figures when there's no tropo will give a guide as to a way forward.

But there's one thing you can check when convenient, as the 2-way booster is in the loft, you could check the coax to the aerial with a meter (or maybe bulb and battery if you don't have an ohm-meter) - a check between centre core and sheath should appear short/very low resistance because of the folded dipole. It doesn't distinguish between this and a plain short on the coax, but you probably wouldn't have as good a signal across the muxes if it was a plain short. If it's open circuit, it's likely a break in the centre core but strangely it doesn't mean no signals get through but they won't be the strength they should be.

Does the 2-way booster have variable gain, what model is it?
Another experiment you can try if you have time when there's no "tropo" - couple the aerial direct only to the coax for your main TV (ie. no booster) and see what signal & error figures you get.

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Chris.SE's 3,039 posts GB
Monday, 17 January 2022
Brian Richardson
4:00 PM

Chris.SE: Had a good look at the aerial through binoculars, could not see any sign of a green plasti plug, but the elements appear to increase slightly in size and spacing on the boom from front to back.
Checked the aerial from the loft to the aerial with a multimeter, reading was 0.00 ohms. Also tested over the braid and core of each cable going down stairs in two situations, one with the braid and center conductor shorted together at the wall outlet end (to check for a break) and the second without the short (to check insulation between braid and core), the shorted test gave a reading of 0.00 ohms, the second on the highest resistance setting of 2000k, gave no reading at all showing open circuit.
Missed Sunday for signal readings but did some today at 1400hrs. Picture on TV today was good.
PSB1 - strength 80, bit error 0
PSB2 - strength 80, bit error 0
PSB3 - strength 96, bit error 340
Com 4 - strength 80, bit error 0
Com 5 - strength 55, bit error 0
Com 6 - strength 40, bit error varied constantly, lowest 23 and highest 213
Com 7 - strength 96, bit error 340

The Philex 2-way booster has an adjustable gain control, a screwdriver slot. The Philex SLX model number appears to be 27822HSR.

Is there a good web site I can use to check for 'tropo' conditions on the day?

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Brian Richardson's 11 posts GB
Tuesday, 18 January 2022

1:45 AM

Brian Richardson:

The aerial may be a wideband then (black plugs in the boom - but black has known to be used in Grouped aerials!), but even so, the gain of all these aerials drop off on the lower channels only log periodics have a flattish response.

It does seem that all your coax is OK - good news, and the signals strengths seem pretty consistent and although there's a bit of variation in the errors, it's the same multiplexes.

Is the amp gain currently up full? If so, out of curiosity turn it down a little bit and see what is happening to the strength and errors on all the multiplexes. Likewise if it's not up full, turn it up a bit and see what happens - note all the figures.
One of the reasons I suggested coupling the aerial direct to your main TV coax to check the figures, is that too much signal can also produce problems. Gain figures can appear to go down and errors ultimately increase.
As your booster/spiltter has variable gain, the results from changing the setting are going to be interesting.

There's some info about 'tropo' in posts I made a few weeks ago that'll be worth repeating.
Despite the incorrect spelling, this link does work - simple technical explanation….jpg

Do remember they are all general propagation predictions and it doesn't mean that one WILL be affected, sometimes just bands II & III may be affected and not IV & V, sometimes the other way around, sometime all or none! The predicted areas don't necessarily need to be directly overhead, they can be immediately adjacent.

Tropospheric Ducting Forecast for VHF & UHF Radio & TV is one of the ones I refer to,
also Europe | Tropospheric Propagation Forecast

It's worth keeping an eye on Problems with Freeview reception? | Help receiving TV and radio as the BBC sometimes put a Works and Warnings note up (there's been one but it will usually disappear when conditions change).
I do look at Updates and alerts | Freeview for other things but they're often unreliable for this sort of thing (always after the event, so to speak, as with some other things they put there!).

But one of the main indicators as to whether you are suffering interference at a given time, is the error figures (assuming that they are zero or constant and very low when there's no tropo).
Current conditions may ease on Wednesday but could return again towards the weekend!

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Chris.SE's 3,039 posts GB
Thursday, 20 January 2022
Brian Richardson
1:14 PM

Chris.SE: Hi, tested amp settings on 18th Jan, first set of data was without amp connected, normal aerial, next with amp connected and set at minimum gain, and finally amp connected and set at higest gain. Here are the readings:

Without amp
PSB1 - strength 45, bit error varying 1 to 58
PSB2 - strength 55, bit error 0
PSB3 - strength 88, bit error 920
Com 4 - strength 40, bit error varying 16 to 65
Com 5 - strength 0, bit error 2000
Com 6 - strength 0, bit error 2000
Com 7 - strength 68, bit error 2000

Amp connected and set to lowest gain
PSB1 - strength 60, bit error 0
PSB2 - strength 70, bit error 0
PSB3 - strength 96, bit error 420
Com 4 - strength 50, bit error 0
Com 5 - strength 0, bit error 2000
Com 6 - strength 0, bit error 2000
Com 7 - strength 88, bit error varying 820 to 1000

Amp connected and set to highest gain
PSB1 - strength 80, bit error 0
PSB2 - strength 80, bit error 0
PSB3 - strength 96, bit error varying 280 to 380
Com 4 - strength 80, bit error 0
Com 5 - strength 45, bit error 0
Com 6 - strength 40, bit error 2000 (unwatchable, pixelation no sound)
Com 7 - strength 96, bit error 340

I am checking signal and bit error twice a day so will look out for changes this weekend and post results. At the moment the only multiplex with reception problems is Com 6 with bad pixelation and no sound. Latest readings I took on Com 6 this morning are: Signal strength - 40, bit error - 2000.

Thanks for info re tropo, will check out websites you provided for me.

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Brian Richardson's 11 posts GB
Friday, 21 January 2022

8:06 AM

Brian Richardson:

Thanks for those figures. Your predicted reception shows PSB3 as being the best which appears as though it's showing in those figures but the fact that it's showing as the same strength at minimum gain and maximum gain suggests that the set won't show a higher figure. Can't draw any conclusions as to whether it's too much signal at this point, or whether the strength is being affected by any tropo and with Planned Engineering going on, how that may be affecting the other figures, especially the COMs is impossible to say. When that engineering is complete we'll have a better idea. I'm still suspicious about the possibility of it being a Group C/D aerial.

Keep a note of any figures if there's any significant differences.
I don't suppose that there's any large trees (or other large buildings etc.) very close by on the aerial line of sight to the transmitter?
One other point, an apology as I said that COMs4-6 were half the transmitted power of the PSBs - that was according to figures here, whereas DUK/Freeview figures show them as the same power, not that I would expect that to make any significant difference as you are not that far from the transmitter.

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Chris.SE's 3,039 posts GB
Brian Richardson
5:19 PM

Chris.SE: Will continue to check figures and report back with figures when there is a change. Found a reference on line on a forum that suggested unplugging the aerial waiting a second then plugging it back was worth a try. Strange but yesterday on Com 5 (Sky News) I was getting some sound stammering at intervals so gave it a try and it appeared to work. Stammering stopped and it was ok for about 15mins when it happened again so unplugged and plugged back it and it worked again. Could have been coincidence but very odd to me, just thought i would mention it. Thanks again for your help Steve, at least I have now got a handle on the problem. Have had a week of quite good reception apart from Com 6.

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Brian Richardson's 11 posts GB
Saturday, 22 January 2022

1:28 AM

Brian Richardson:

Hmm. I would imagine that just unplugging the aerial for a few seconds and reinserting it, is simply causing the set AGC to change and taking several minutes to settle down again.
Try tweaking the booster/splitter gain down a fraction and see what it does to ALL the figures.

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Chris.SE's 3,039 posts GB
Brian Richardson
3:46 PM

Chris.SE: Ok will try tweaking the booster down a bit over the weekend and post readings. Today however surprise readings on Com6. After a week of no reception, my daily check at 1100 hrs today found that it is back. Readings on Com 6 for this week as follows:

Mon 17th 1000hrs - Strength 40, bit error 23 - 213 (unwatchable pixelation etc)
Tues 18th 1300hrs - Strength 40, bit error 2000 (no reception)
Wed 19th 1300hrs - Strength 40/45, bit error 2000 (no reception)
Thurs 20th 1200hrs - Strenth 40, bit error 2000 (no reception)
Frid 21st 1300hrs - Strength 31/37, bit error 2000 (no reception)
Sat 22nd 1000hrs - Strength 75/80, bit error 0 (good picture and sound)

Checked tropo and it does not appear to me to have changed dramatically over the last few days.

Full set of readings for today are as follows:
PSB1 - strength 85, bit error 0 (sig strength up a bit from 80)
PSB2 - strength 80, bit error 0 (unchanged)
PSB3 - strength 96, bit error varying 280 to 460 (unchanged)
Com 4 - strength 85, bit error 0 (sig strength up a bit from 75/80)
Com 5 - strength 75, bit error 0 (strength up from 40/55)
Com 6 - strength 75/80, bit error 0 (major change up from sig strength 40, bit error down from 2000 to 0)
Com 7 - strength 96, bit error 260/380 (strength and error about the same as previous readings)


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Brian Richardson's 11 posts GB

10:38 PM

Brian Richardson:

My interpretation of the tropo predictions at the time was that there might have been a slight cessation early afternoon maybe late morning) but returning during the evening. This does look as though this could be what you've seen BUT also those major improvements in the COM signal strengths suggest the Planned Engineering had something to do with it, and it's probably stopped for the weekend. Unfortunately it looks as though there'll be more next week, but that TBC.

Those latest figures are very good news, lets hope it's not a fluke of the weather.
Now, the other interesting thing is that it may indeed by a wideband aerial with those figures.
However, a significant observation is that the two muxes with the high errors are those with signal 96. So tweaking the gain down a touch may well improve things. It could be a bit of a trader-off between getting the errors down to something acceptable without losing too much signal elsewhere resulting in errors there.

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Chris.SE's 3,039 posts GB
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