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Crystal Palace transmitting station

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Crystal Palace transmitting station

Arqiva Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace transmitting station is located in Greater London
Crystal Palace transmitting station
Height of tower 219 metres (719 ft)[1]
Built 1956
BBC region BBC London
ITV region ITV London
Local TV service London Live

The Crystal Palace transmitting station is a broadcasting and telecommunications site in the borough of Bromley, England (grid reference TQ339712).[2]

Its tower is the fifth-tallest structure in London. It is best known as the main television transmitter for the London area, and is owned and operated by Arqiva.

History and development

At Night

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.[3][4] (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.[5][6]) Its new 219-metre (719 ft)[1] tower was the tallest structure in London until the construction of One Canada Square at Canary Wharf in 1991.

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, 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).[7] 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. A 16mm film was produced of the construction by BICC at the time which was available on loan from the BICC Film Library.[8][9]

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 in 1985, and all television broadcasts from Crystal Palace were on UHF. On 18 July 1986, with the First Night of the Proms on BBC2, the transmitter became the first in the world to transmit stereophonic sound using the NICAM digital sound system. 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 is too large to ensure comparable coverage. The station therefore has a range of about 30 miles (50 km) for DTT, compared with about 60 miles (90 km) for analogue.

It is also used for FM radio transmission of local radio stations BBC London 94.9, XFM, Capital Xtra and Absolute Radio, and a low-powered relay of the four BBC national FM services and Classic FM. It also has medium wave transmitters on 558 kHz (Spectrum Radio), 720 kHz (BBC Radio 4) and 1035 kHz (Kismat Radio). Since the tower is grounded, a wire aerial spun 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.

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.

Digital switchover

The Government's plans for Television South (better known as TVS). Bluebell Hill now transmits ITV Meridian and BBC South East.

On 18 April 2012 a public lighting display was performed from the tower to mark the last day of analogue TV broadcasts from the transmitter.[10][11]

Channels listed by frequency

Analogue radio (AM medium wave)

Frequency kW Service
558 kHz 1 Spectrum
720 kHz 0.75 BBC Radio 4
1035 kHz 2.5 Kismat Radio

These frequencies were used by Lots Road until Tuesday 25 September 2007.

Analogue radio (FM VHF)

Frequency kW Service
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 London 94.9
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 XFM
105.8 MHz 3.73 Absolute Radio

† Relay of Wrotham.

Digital radio (DAB)

Frequency Block kW Operator
222.064 MHz 11D 6.5 Digital One
223.936 MHz 12A 2.1 Switch London
225.648 MHz 12B 10 BBC National DAB

Analogue television

BBC Two analogue was shut down on UHF 33 on 4 April 2012 and ITV1 was moved from UHF 23 into its frequency temporarily. The other analogue services shut down on 18 April 2012.

Frequency UHF kW Service
487.25 MHz 23 1000 ITV1
511.25 MHz 26 1000 BBC One
543.25 MHz 30 1000 Channel 4
567.25 MHz 33 1000 BBC Two

See also


  1. ^ a b "NGW planning application". Bromley Council planning portal. 23 April 2008. Retrieved 13 September 2008. 
  2. ^ BBC Milestones. Retrieved 13 October 2008
  3. ^ "War's Worst Raid".  
  4. ^ Pescod, David FLS (10 February 2005). "Correspondence" (PDF). The Linnean (London:  
  5. ^ Glen, Richard E (5 April 2003). "Baird's independent television". Transdiffusion Broadcasting System. Retrieved 29 May 2008. 
  6. ^ Herbert, Ray (July 1998). "Crystal Palace Television Studios". Soundscapes (Groningen, The Netherlands: University of Groningen) 1 (4).  
  7. ^ Wharton, W.; Platts, G. C. (February 1959). "The Crystal Palace band I television transmitting aerial". BBC Engineering Division Monograph (British Broadcasting Corporation): 5. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "The BBC's Crystal Palace Television Tower". Construction Bulletin (British Insulated Callender's Construction Company Ltd) (11). December 1957. 
  9. ^ Engineering: p246. 21 February 1958. 
  10. ^ Revoir, Paul (19 April 2013). "Crystal Palace transmitter lights up the night sky as it broadcasts analogue signal for the last time after 56 years.". Daily Mail. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "Switch Over Night". Arqiva website. Arqiva. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 


  • R. W. Burns, British Television: The Formative Years, IET (1986), ISBN 0-86341-079-0
  • R. H. Evans, The Crystal Palace FM filler experiment, British Broadcasting Corporation, Division of Engineering, Research and Development Department (1996), ASIN B0018RJ1ZY

External links

  • The Transmission Gallery: Crystal Palace Transmitter photographs and information
  • Pictures and info on Crystal Palace, including co-receivable transmitters
  • Crystal Palace Transmitter at Structurae
  • Ofcom local transmitter advice
  • Crystal Palace Transmitter at

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