Bilsdale was constructed in 1971 by the BBC to bring 625-line colour television on UHF to Teesside and the surrounding areas for the first time. Having added UHF TV to the existing VHF TV stations at Pontop Pike and Emley Moor, it was quickly established that a new station would be required to cover County Durham and north North Yorkshire where existing coverage was poor, and thus the new station was built.
In July 2007, it was confirmed by Ofcom that the television frequency assignment after digital switchover would be such that a wideband or group K aerial would be required for reception of all six multiplexes. However, the three public service multiplexes would still fall within the station's original analogue frequency range assignment of aerial group A. The digital switchover started at Bilsdale on 12 September 2012 and was one of the last transmitters in England to complete this operation on 26 September 2012, the others being Pontop Pike and Chatton in the same region.