thebigtower


lichfield

 


THE LICHFIELD STATION was formally the main transmitter installation for the Midlands ITV 405-line VHF service and more recently the main analogue Channel 5 service for much of the same area.

The facility is sited near the villages of Hints and Hopwas and the town of Tamworth, a few miles south-east of the Cathedral City of Lichfield. It is also located approximately three miles north-east of the main UHF transmitter at Sutton Coldfield.

It has had a varied transmission history which included a prolonged period between the end of the 405-line service in 1985 and the start of Channel 5 in 1997, during which no broadcast services were carried at all.  Subsequent to the resumption of broadcast duties in 1997, Lichfield has also gained both FM and DAB services whilst also briefly entering the realm of Digital Television by supporting the Freeview HD service for the Birmingham area.  

Following the completion of Digital Switchover at Sutton Coldfield on 21 September 2011, Lichfield ceased the transmission of both Channel 5 and Freeview HD.  

TRANSMISSION STRUCTURE

Lichfield broadcasts from a 305.2 metre (1001-ft) stayed lattice triangular-cross-section mast.  It is secured in position by fifteen stay lines that descend from five attachment points on the structure to a total of nine ground anchor blocks.

The mast is one of seven structures of near-identical height that were originally constructed by the Independent Television Authority (ITA) for the provision of ITV coverage on 405-line VHF Band III.  The other structures were built at Arfon, Black Hill, Caldbeck, Durris, Mendlesham and Strabane.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TELEVISION HISTORY

INITIAL SERVICE

The Lichfield station was built by the Independent Television Authority (ITA) as their second transmitter installation, extending the ITV service on the original 405-line VHF Band III system to the Midlands.  Continuing the practice established in London with the first ITA transmitter, the site of the Lichfield station was intentionally close to the existing BBC Band I television transmitter at Sutton Coldfield, in the same way the London ITA station at Croydon was sited near Crystal Palace.

To provide the initial service from Lichfield, a 450-ft (135 metre) self-supporting lattice tower was constructed to support the transmitting aerial.  Pending installation of permanent high-power transmitters, the aerial was fed by single vision and sound transmitters, rated at 5 and 1.25 kilowatts respectively, producing a maximum Effective Radiated Power (e.r.p) of 60 kilowatts.

Based on this, Lichfield commenced regular programme service with the launch of the Midlands ITV service on 17 February 1956, transmitting on VHF Channel 8.

Soon after service launch, a parallel set of vision and sound transmitters of power equal to the original set was added enabling the e.r.p to be doubled to 120 kilowatts.

Towards the end of 1956, the high-power vision and sound transmitters finally came into service.  These were rated at 20 and 5 kilowatts respectively and upon amplification by the aerial delivered a maximum e.r.p of 200 kilowatts, resulting in significantly improved reception across the majority of the service area including Derbyshire, Cheshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

The next two ITA stations at Winter Hill and Emley Moor were also opened in 1956 and extended ITV coverage to Northern England.

THE NEW MAST

From 18 July 1961, coverage from the Lichfield station was further improved with the opening of the new 1000-ft (305.2 metre) mast, replacing the original 450-ft tower.  

As well as providing the benefit of increased height, the new structure came complete with an improved aerial system capable of delivering a maximum e.r.p of 400 kilowatts.

These highest-powered transmissions were directed towards the south-west to boost reception across mainly fringe areas shielded by hills.  Across the entire northern arc, the e.r.p was maintained at 200 kilowatts as sufficient coverage improvement in these directions was obtained as a result of the higher aerial.  Towards the east however, the higher aerial meant that power had to be reduced to 100 kilowatts to prevent interference overseas, the net result being no significant change to the service in this direction.

Following the opening of the new mast, the original 450-ft tower was dismantled and soon re-erected at Fremont Point (Jersey) to provide the Channel Islands ITV service from September 1962.

RELAY STATIONS

Whilst the new Lichfield mast did predominantly achieve the desired improvement in coverage, reception remained weak in parts of the far south and west of the region.  This deficiency was eventually remedied in two stages.

The first stage saw the opening of the Membury relay near Swindon on 30 April 1965, which improved coverage to those parts of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire that were poorest served by Lichfield.  Membury was an unattended station, operating on Channel 12 at a maximum output of 30 kilowatts (vision e.r.p), with transmissions carried on a 500-ft stayed-mast.  Unusually for a station built at this time with such a tall structure, it was not scheduled as a future main UHF transmitter.  It's potentially short life span as a television station therefore represented a hefty investment for the ITA.

The second stage was completed on 30 July 1968 with the opening of the relay at Ridge Hill near Hereford.  This station, which was scheduled as a future main UHF transmitter, improved coverage to areas of Herefordshire, Cheltenham and Gloucester that were shielded from from the east by the Malvern Hills.  Like Membury, a 500ft mast was employed whilst transmissions were on Channel 6 at a maximum output of 10kW (vision e.r.p).

The opening of Ridge Hill completed the ITV 405-line transmitter network in the Midlands.

START OF 625 / END OF 405

Under the agreement to co-site BBC and ITV UHF transmitters for the purpose of UHF-colour, it was decided to use the BBC site at Sutton Coldfield.

The ITV 625-line service commenced transmission from Sutton Coldfield on 15 November 1969 (along with BBC1), leaving Lichfield to continue providing only the original 405-line service.

Lichfield continued broadcasting ITV on 405-lines until the final closure of the service nationwide in January 1985.  The relays at Membury and Ridge Hill had already ceased 405-line transmission by 1984.

At the time of the 405-line closure, Lichfield was carrying a number of FM radio services but these were gradually transferred to Sutton Coldfield.  By the time Lichfield was under the ownership of NTL (along with all other ex-ITA/IBA sites), there were no broadcast services left in operation and for some years the station functioned only as a Service Centre and maintenance base.

CHANNEL 5

With all broadcast operations having been gradually run down since 1985, the advent of the fifth terrestrial service re-established Lichfield as a broadcast transmitter.

The use of Lichfield to transmit Channel 5 was a consequence of the decision by NTL Broadcast (IBA successor and holder of the Channel 5 transmission contract) to use their own sites wherever possible.  This decision was based on a number of factors, some technical, but it was also to avoid the very expensive option of co-siting at a UHF main station where NTL were the tenant, as would be the case if Sutton Coldfield was used.

Lichfield therefore joined other former ITA 405-line-only stations such as Croydon in acquiring UHF capability for the first time in order to provide the new service.

Additionally, it would be one of the four high-power Channel 5 transmitters available from the start of the service, this capability being made possible by the government release of UHF Channel 37 from non-broadcasting services for use by Channel 5.  In the case of Lichfield, the transmitter and aerial would combine to deliver an Effective Radiated Power of 1000 kilowatts, matching the capability of Sutton Coldfield and the eventual power of the Channel 5 service from Croydon.

Lichfield commenced transmission of Channel 5 from the launch of the service from 31 March 1997 along with the three other high-power stations at Black Hill, Croydon and Emley Moor.  Amongst other stations providing the service were the former ITA 405-line sites at Black Mountain, Burnhope and Mounteagle


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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RADIO SERVICES

FM RADIO (HISTORICAL)

The first regular transmissions on FM Band II from Lichfield commenced on 19 February 1974, with the start of the fourth Independent Local Radio (ILR) service - Birmingham's BRMB Radio on 94.8FM.  Lichfield was the third IBA transmitter (following Croydon and Black Hill) to carry an ILR service.     

 

FM RADIO (CURRENT)

Since 6 June 1998, Lichfield has provided the transmission for Tamworth-based ILR station Touch Radio (formally Centre FM), that serves South-East Staffordshire and parts of Derbyshire.

 

DAB RADIO

Since May 2000, Lichfield has also provided the transmission for the CE Birmingham group of services on DAB Block 11C.



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STATION INFORMATION


Location:

Hints Quarry, nr Hopwas, Tamworth, B78 3DH

Grid Reference:

SK164043

Landlord:

Arqiva (Legacy ITA/IBA/NTL Broadcast)

Ground Height:

152.4m

BBC Region:

N/A

Mast Height:

305.1m

ITV1 Region:

N/A

Aerial Height (*):

452m

 

UHF Tx Number:

N/A

(*) Channel 5 aerial height above sea level (a.o.d)   

 

 


  CURRENT TRANSMISSIONS

Digital Radio 

 

 

 

Analogue Radio (FM)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Service/Block/e.r.p

 

 

 Service:

(MHz)

(e.r.p)

Birmingham / 11C / 0.5kW

Touch Radio:

101.6

0.062k

 

 

 

 

PRE-DIGITAL SWITCHOVER UHF TRANSMISSIONS

(Shutdown 21 September 2011 - all services now from Sutton Coldfield)

 

 

 

 

 

Analogue Television 

 

 

 

Digital Television

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Service

  Ch/Polar/e.r.p

 

 

 

 

Service

 Ch/Polar/e.r.p

Ch5

: 37 / H / 1000kW

 

 

 Freeview HD (Interim)

: 34 / H / 4.0kW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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