Signal black spot may leave north London unable to pick up new London TV channel

Hampstead, Highgate and Alexandra Park - the birthplace of television - could lose out on the chance to tune into a new London TV channel because of a signalling black spot in transmissions.

As the plug was pulled on analogue sets this week, consultation closed on culture secretary Jeremy Hunt’s plans to create a new London TV channel.

But while many homes within the M25 could be switching over to the capital’s first devoted television channel next year, residents living around a cluster of north London hills could be left in the dark.

John Thompson, 46, chairman of Alexandra Palace television group, said: “It is really unfortunate that in such a historic area, in the year we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the first television broadcast, a new service is being considered which won’t be picked up by a lot of residents in the area.”

The electrical engineer urged the government to consider broadcasting the new channel from Alexandra Palace, where the first high definition TV programme was broadcast in 1936, instead of Crystal Palace in south London.

He added: “This is an opportunity for television broadcasting to be brought back home.”

Bids to run the new network are being taken over coming months and the new station could be launched on channel 8 on Freeview next year.

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But initial maps show the signal peters out around north London, where the cluster of hills create a barrier making it harder to pick up channels.

Geoffrey Davies, head of journalism and mass communication at the University of Westminster, said a signal black spot in north London could undermine its prospects.

Mr Davies, who lives in Stanhope Gardens, Highgate, said: “I think a black spot as big as that can make quite an impact because these people have got a lot of disposable income, so while they may be time poor, they are important to broadcasters.”

Ken Livingstone, Labour mayoral candidate and former LBC radio host, whose Cricklewood home could fall within the black spot, said: “They cannot possibly have a London television channel that doesn’t reach large parts of London. It is unacceptable.”

Some would-be bidders for the licence have urged the government to transmit the channel through satellite and cable as well as Freeview, to broaden access. But Ofcom spokesman said this would be up to licence holders to negotiate.

A department for media, culture and sport spokesman said the government had to pick a cheap signal spectrum to make a local television station commercially viable.

He would not comment on the specifics of signal coverage in London, but said the department did not view the issue as a “permanent problem” because the channel would eventually be broadcast on the internet.

A spokesman for media regulator Ofcom, which has run the consultation, said: “These maps are pretty early examples of where the channel could be picked up. They are conservative and could change.”