Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Baxenden homes losing their TV signal due to wind turbines?

In the last few days my office has received numerous complaints from people in Baxenden who have suffered a loss or pixelisation of their digital TV signal which has left it unwatchable.

This could have been one of two things. Interference from 4G masts or the wind farm and I must confess I thought like some residents it was the former rather than the latter.

One constituent rang my office Monday morning after having seen this article, furious that the government knew about it in advance and didn’t inform people. I have also had an elderly gentleman in to the office morning on behalf of a number of other pensioners in the Baxenden area – he said one old lady had spent over £600 on a new TV and aerial and she still has poor transmission. All channels are affected.
"Recently, it has become apparent that the signal quality has deteriorated significantly and at times we receive no signal at all.
So far I have probably received around 20 collective complaints complaints from people in Baxenden – from Warmden Avenue, Royds Ave, Sandy Lane etc about loss of TV transmission.


Some of the evidence seemed to point directly at EnergieKontor wind farm on Oswaldtwistle moor correlating the interference with the rotation of the blades facing Baxenden. One particularly from an aerial fitter.

I have contacted the Council both about 4g planning permissions and any noted effects of the Oswaldtwistle wind turbines and I received this response
EnergieKontor (owners of Oswaldtwistle Moor Wind Turbines) are currently investigating this issue. There is a clause within the s.106 agreement that requires them to investigate complaints of this type and they have appointed a company to do this on their behalf. We will keep you informed of their progress / findings. We are not sure about the relationship with the 4G network, we haven't got 4G yet but that's not to say that they may not do testing of infrastructure etc. We are looking into this matter
It would appear that this is a mater between the local council and their agreement with EnergieKontor and at this stage it is unknown what the solution will be.

I have asked as a matter of urgency that the Council look into the issue on behalf of affected residents in Baxenden and to provide an update as soon as possible. Many of those affected are the poorest, mostly pensioners who cannot afford the luxury of satellite and who rely on the Freeview digital terrestrial broadcasts from Winter Hill transmitter.

One solution which is unreasonable would be to point the aerial at the Haslingden transmitter but it  broadcasts fewer channels, even if the cost was covered. Another aerial fitter who wrote to me made these observations;
"The only solution that he can suggest, is to have the aerial re-aligned to pick up a signal from a transmitter at Haslingden and then maybe at a later date, if the Winter Hill signal can be received again without interruption, have it re-aligned back to that transmitter again. The reason being that the Haslingden transmitter only transmits 22 digital channels whereas the Winter Hill transmitter had over 100 such channels.

I live in Baxenden and suspect that this problem will not be one experienced by all of the borough, but feel that those who are effected will have to incur costs and an inconvenience which is not of their making. Some of the effected are Senior Citizens who may not even be able to afford to have the problem fixed, thereby losing a valuable contact with the outside world."
Ofcom have produced an advisory leaflet which includes information on the impact of wind farms on domestic television reception and remedial measures for TV reception

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Baxenden and other parts of Hyndburn will also be affected by new 4G masts which are going up now. These require planning permission and the latest indication from Hyndburn Council is that none have gone as yet. Parts of Baxenden have always suffered poor TV reception.

The areas likely to be worst hit by the 4G rollout identified by OfCom include those served by the Crystal Palace transmitter in London and the Winter Hill transmitter near Darwen which most of Hyndburn receives it signal from.

This problem has only recently been discovered leading to the Government announcing on Monday that filters will be provided to homes in the affected areas that will block the 4G signal or £50 towards a professional refit, which will be paid for from the £180 million pool provided by mobile companies.
Mobile phone operators roll out the 4G network will fund £180 million.

However there will be a large number of additional households that have second sets and they will not receive filters. Freeview users will be worst affected by the interference, since failing to switch to satellite or cable providers will leave them without access to normal television services.

It is thought that around 950,000 homes will suffer interference ranging from image distortion to the total loss of some channels as super fast broadband is rolled out.

Interference from the 4G signal is likely to be so severe for families living close to the base stations that filters distributed to homes will not be able to block the signal. The government stated on Monday that such homes that lose their TV signal due to the 4G network are to receive up to £10,000 to be reconnected.

The government have handled this in a shambolic way. 4G permissions have been granted by the Department Culture Media and Sport without undertaking an assessment of the impact of a broader spectrum would have on digital TV reception. TV licence payers have been kept in the dark and there appears no detail of a what solution may be offered.
From Ofcom... 4G, providing mobile broadband speeds nearer to fixed line broadband, has arrived in the UK, with the deployment of rival services set to follow closely behind.

Following Ofcom’s approval to use part of its existing spectrum, EE (formerly Everything Everywhere) has launched its 4G services in 11 cities, with another 5 to follow by Christmas, and has said it will expand to cover 98% of the UK’s population by 2014. Apple’s iPhone 5, the Samsung Galaxy SIII and HTC’s One XL are three EE-compatible 4G handsets already on sale, as well as the Nokia Lumia 920.

Ofcom is also pressing ahead with the auction of new 4G-compatible spectrum (including former analogue TV airwaves) following the completion of digital television switchover in the UK late last month. The auction is on track to get underway at the end of the year, with new networks expected to launch in the first half of 2013.

4G services should make fixed line broadband speeds available to mobile users throughout the UK. Ofcom will require one network to provide indoor coverage to a minimum of 98% of the UK population – including a minimum of 95% indoor coverage in each of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – by the end of 2017.
I have written to the minister and I have tabled a written parliamentary question on these issue asking that the government will act swiftly to deal with the issue.