Crystal Palace to be up in lights to mark London's digital switch

Published Mar 26 2012, 13:15 BST  |  By

Sir David Attenborough and Chris Evans are to attend a ceremony next month at which the Crystal Palace broadcast tower will be illuminated by a "spectacular lightshow" to make the end of the digital switchover in London.

Arqiva, the firm which operates the UK's TV transmission infrastructure, plans to use 200,000 watts of energy efficient lighting, equivalent to 7.5 billion candles, to illuminate the 219-metre tall signal tower in south London on April 18, the day when analogue TV ends in the capital.

Arqiva Crystal Palace


The light show, requiring the same wattage as used to illuminate the Eiffel Tower in Paris, will culminate with a beam of light shooting up the tower and radiating out over London to represent the power of TV signals.

Arqiva, which has engineered the UK's digital switchover project over the past three years, is installing more than six tonnes of lighting equipment at the Crystal Palace tower in readiness for the light show at 9.15pm on April 18.

Alongside the lighting display, Arqiva is also hosting a special VIP event at the foot of the tower to mark the end of analogue TV signals in London.

Hosted by Chris Evans, the event will feature a talk from Sir David Attenborough on how he has witnessed the evolution of broadcasting over his 60-year career.

"Thanks to public service broadcasting, for the past 75 years we could all take part in the most memorable moments in the UK's history. Think about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953 or England winning the World Cup in 1966," said natural history broadcaster Attenborough.

"Now with the switch to digital TV, we're celebrating the start of a new, very exciting time in UK broadcasting when viewers will have more channels to choose from and a better viewing experience than ever before. This is as wonderful as anything I've experienced in my 60 years of working in the TV industry."

BBC Radio 2 breakfast DJ Chris Evans said that 2012 is an "incredible year" for Britain, including the London Olympics and Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

"This year also sees the completion of the largest broadcast engineering project ever seen in the UK. The switchover to digital TV is a momentous step for the broadcast industry," he said.

"It's part of enabling a Digital Britain and gives everyone a greater choice of TV programmes than they've ever had before. The Crystal Palace transmitter is an iconic landmark.

"Lighting it up is a fitting tribute to the success of public service broadcasting over the last 75 years and a celebration I'm proud to be part of."

For more than 50 years, television broadcasts in London have come from the tower at Crystal Place, starting with the first episode of Blue Peter in 1958.

The tower now serves more than 12 million people in Greater London and the surrounding counties, in a coverage area of over 40 miles.

Crystal Palace is the flagship transmitter in the estate of 1,150 masts across the UK, and it has often been used to test many of leading-edge new TV technologies.

Londoners were the first to get colour TV test transmissions in November 1956, before the regulator colour service started on BBC Two in 1967. More recently, Crystal Palace hosted a Europe-first launch of high definition broadcasts over digital terrestrial infrastructure in December 2009.

Arqiva will complete the UK digital switchover project in October this year in Northern Ireland. After an area switches to digital, households are unable to receive TV channels without a digital receiver, such as Freeview, cable or satellite services.

Arqiva said that it is working with Digital UK on a public information campaign to help consumers more easily make the switch to digital.

John Cresswell, the chief executive of Arqiva, said: "DSO is a huge team achievement, working with our Freeview partners, alongside Digital UK and Ofcom.

"At completion in October it will have involved more than 1,200 man years of effort and the construction of five new TV masts, one the height of 70 double decker buses.

"In only five years, we have transformed this vital public service into a modern platform that is delivering the best of British TV into over 20 million homes across the UK and meeting the evolving TV viewing needs of the UK population."

More information on the London switchover night celebrations can be found at the Facebook page.

The digital switchover gets under way in London at midnight on April 4, when many Freeview users will need to retune their equipment.

> First ever broadband TV service launches on Freeview
> Digital switchover passes key milestone