Crystal Palace transmitting station
|Tower height||219 metres (719 ft)|
|BBC region||BBC London|
|ITV region||ITV London|
|Local TV service||London Live|
The Crystal Palace transmitting station, officially known as Arqiva Crystal Palace, is a broadcasting and telecommunications site in the Crystal Palace area of the London Borough of Bromley, England (grid reference ). It is located on the site of the former television station and transmitter operated by John Logie Baird from 1933.
The station is the eighth-tallest structure in London, and is best known as the main television transmitter for the London area. As such, it is the most important transmitter in the UK in terms of population covered. The transmitter is owned and operated by Arqiva.
History and development
The station was constructed in the mid-1950s among the ruins of the Crystal Palace. The Aquarium on whose site it stands was destroyed in 1941 during the demolition of the Palace's north water tower. (John Logie Baird's earlier transmitter and TV studios were a separate development at the other end of the Palace and perished with it in 1936.) Its new 219-metre (719 ft) tower was the tallest structure in London until the topping-out of One Canada Square at Canary Wharf in 1990.
The first transmission from Crystal Palace took place on 28 March 1956, when it succeeded the transmitter at Alexandra Palace where the BBC had started the world's first scheduled television service in November 1936. In November 1956 the first colour test transmissions began from Crystal Palace, relaying live pictures from the studios at Alexandra Palace after BBC TV had closed down for the night. In May 1958 the first experimental Band V 625-line transmissions started from Crystal Palace.
This tower was designed and built for BBC by British Insulated Callender's Construction Co. Ltd., with steelwork fabrication by Painter Brothers Ltd. of Hereford. The tower was required to transmit television programmes with good reception in 1957, and has a total height of 708 feet (216 m). The base of the tower is 120 feet (37 m) to a side, and it rises in twelve diminishing panels to a 14.5 feet (4.4 m) square platform at a height of 429 feet (131 m). The tower was constructed using two masts as derricks, one 230 feet (70 m) and the other 125 feet (38 m) high, in conjunction with a winch. At the time, a 16mm film of the construction by BICC was produced; this was available on loan from the BICC Film Library.
The transmitter was the first in the UK to broadcast (experimentally) on 625 lines (UHF) in 1962–1964, which it did on Channel 44, using a modified version of the monochrome SMPTE test card (not to be confused with the SMPTE colour bars).
When built it transmitted BBC Television on the VHF 405-line system; the Croydon transmitter two miles away had been built some months earlier to broadcast ITV. When UHF transmissions started in 1964, first the new BBC2 and later both ITV and BBC1 were transmitted from Crystal Palace. 405-line VHF television was discontinued at the start of 1985, and from then all television broadcasts from Crystal Palace were on UHF.
Crystal Palace did not transmit analogue Channel 5: this (alone) came from Croydon. Croydon had reserve transmitters for ITV and Channel 4, used in the event of a fault or maintenance at Crystal Palace. The BBC decided that a complete reserve was also a good idea and all four services became available from Croydon if required.
The station carried the London regions of BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1 and Channel 4 in analogue, each with an effective radiated power of 1 MW, before the digital switchover took place during April 2012, as well as all six digital terrestrial television multiplexes. These had an ERP of 20 kW before switchover and 200 kW after, with considerable beam tilt to the south and east. With digital switchover completed all services come from Crystal Palace again, but because of the site's importance Croydon will be able to duplicate the PSB multiplexes in case of emergency. Although DTT requires far less power to achieve the same coverage as analogue TV, this 17 dB difference[dubious ] is too large to ensure comparable coverage. The station therefore has a range of about 30 miles (48 km) for DTT, compared with about 60 miles (97 km) for analogue.
It is also used for FM radio transmission of local radio stations BBC Radio London, Radio X, Capital Xtra and Absolute Radio, and a low-powered relay of the four BBC national FM services - Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 and Radio 4, and Classic FM. It also has medium wave transmitters on 558 kHz (Panjab Radio), 720 kHz (BBC Radio 4) and 1035 kHz (Kismat Radio). Since the tower is grounded, a wire aerial span close to it is used for the MW services.
Since 1995 the tower has been one of five London transmitters for the BBC DAB multiplex. This was joined in 1999 by the Digital One DAB service, and a further local DAB multiplex has since started transmitting, on behalf of the Klarna shopping channel.
In May 2006 it began broadcasting the first terrestrial HDTV signals in the UK to a trial group of 450 London homes to test HD broadcasts by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, to assess the viability and potential problems of future nationwide HD broadcasting. On 2 December 2009 the site entered service as one of the first DVB-T2 transmitters in the world, carrying a variant of the BBC's Multiplex B broadcasting high-definition TV services.
The Government's plans for digital switchover were based on the use of almost all current analogue TV transmitter sites. Crystal Palace remained a key part of the network after analogue was switched off in the London area in April 2012. In July 2007 it was confirmed by Ofcom that Crystal Palace would remain an A group transmitter after DSO (digital switchover). This was partially reversed with the 700 MHz Clearance that resulted in the use of Channels 55 and 56 for digital television both outside the A Group.
The transmitter is only one of two (the other being the ITV Granada transmitter at Winter Hill) that alone provides ITV and BBC services for the whole of their region, although still supported by the usual network of relays. Between opening in 1974 and January 1982, the main transmitter at Bluebell Hill broadcast ITV London signals to much of north and central Kent. However, the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the then regulator of commercial television, reorganised the ITV franchises which saw Bluebell Hill transferred to a new south and south-east dual-region of ITV (Television South – TVS), which took effect from 1 January 1982. Today, Bluebell Hill now transmits ITV Meridian and BBC South East.
As one would expect for the largest transmitter in the country – by population coverage – Crystal Palace transmitter remained on A group, (which was its original analogue group) both during dual running (analogue & low power pre-DSO digital) and full power digital after DSO. However, in March 2018, during the transmitters 700 MHz clearance, the temporary MUXES 7 and 8 were moved out of group to CH55 and CH56. Thus, reception of the latter two MUXES now requires a wideband or K group aerial (see graph). MUXES 7 and 8 are, however, due to be switched off sometime before 2023.
Channels listed by frequency
Analogue radio (AM medium wave)
|558 kHz||1||Panjab Radio|
|720 kHz||0.75||BBC Radio 4|
|1035 kHz||2.5||Lyca Gold Radio|
These frequencies were used by Lots Road until Tuesday 25 September 2007.
Analogue radio (FM VHF)
|88.8 MHz||4†||BBC Radio 2|
|91.0 MHz||4†||BBC Radio 3|
|93.2 MHz||4†||BBC Radio 4|
|94.9 MHz||4||BBC Radio London|
|96.9 MHz||0.03||Capital Xtra|
|98.5 MHz||4†||BBC Radio 1|
|100.6 MHz||2 (V)†||Classic FM|
|104.9 MHz||2.9||Radio X|
|105.8 MHz||3.73||Greatest Hits Radio|
† Relay of Wrotham.
Digital radio (DAB)
|213.360 MHz||10C||3||MuxCo Surrey & South London|
|216.928 MHz||11A||5.7||Sound Digital|
|222.064 MHz||11D||6.5||Digital One|
|223.936 MHz||12A||3||Switch London|
|225.648 MHz||12B||10||BBC National DAB|
BBC Two analogue was shut down on UHF 33 on 4 April 2012, and ITV1 was temporarily moved from UHF 23 into its frequency. The other analogue services shut down on 18 April 2012.
|487.25 MHz||23||1000||ITV (Thames Television/LWT/Carlton Television)|
|511.25 MHz||26||1000||BBC One|
|543.25 MHz||30||1000||Channel 4|
|567.25 MHz||33||1000||BBC Two|
- List of radio stations in the United Kingdom
- List of tallest buildings and structures in Great Britain
- List of tallest towers in the world
- List of famous transmission sites
- Radio masts and towers
- Lattice tower
- "NGW planning application". Bromley London Borough Council. 23 April 2008. Archived from the original on 19 May 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2008.
- BBC Milestones. Retrieved 13 October 2008
- Ray Herbert, The Crystal Palace Television Studios: John Logie Baird and British Television, accessed online 6 January 2019 Link
- "War's Worst Raid". Time. 28 April 1941. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 29 May 2008.
- Pescod, David, FLS (10 February 2005). "Correspondence" (PDF). The Linnean. London: Linnean Society of London. 21 (2): 15. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 October 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
- Elen, Richard G (5 April 2003). "Baird's independent television". Transdiffusion Broadcasting System. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
- Herbert, Ray (July 1998). "Crystal Palace Television Studios". Soundscapes. Groningen, Netherlands: University of Groningen. 1 (4). ISSN 1567-7745. Retrieved 29 May 2008.
- Wharton, W.; Platts, G.C. (February 1959). "The Crystal Palace band I television transmitting aerial" (PDF). BBC Engineering Division Monograph. BBC: 5. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
- "The BBC's Crystal Palace Television Tower". Construction Bulletin. British Insulated Callender's Construction Company Ltd (11). December 1957.
- Engineering: 246. 21 February 1958. Missing or empty
- https://web.archive.org/web/20190506044324/http://www.radios-tv.co.uk/Pembers/Test-Cards/Test-Card-Technical.html#SMPTE[bare URL]
- "700MHz-Clearance". ATV. 12 July 2017. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
- "Switch Over Night". Arqiva - Digital Switch Over. Arqiva. Archived from the original on 3 March 2013.
- "Arqiva lights up the skies!". DSO Switch Over Night Blog. Arqiva. 19 April 2012. Archived from the original on 1 January 2013.
- "Light show planned for Crystal Palace". Your Local Guardian. 30 March 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
- Burns, R. W., British Television: The Formative Years, IET (1986), ISBN 0-86341-079-0
- Evans, R. H., The Crystal Palace FM filler experiment, British Broadcasting Corporation, Division of Engineering, Research and Development Department (1996), ASIN B0018RJ1ZY
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Crystal Palace Transmitter.|
- The Transmission Gallery: Crystal Palace Transmitter photographs and information
- Pictures and info on Crystal Palace, including co-receivable transmitters
- "Crystal Palace Transmitter". SkyscraperPage.
- Crystal Palace Transmitter at thebigtower.com
- Pictures (including inside the transmitter buildings) at The Triangle