In tune with Channel 4 

4 July 2022


Cover of Television & Radio 1986

From Television and Radio 1986, published by the Independent Broadcasting Authority

Channel 4 has been a success story — not least in the rapid build-up of its coverage at a considerably faster rate than for any other UK or European television channel.

For five years the IBA has concentrated a considerable part of its resources, including almost £50 m. [£200m now allowing for inflation – Ed], on this work. The target is that, as soon after 1987 as possible, complete parity will be achieved with ITV.

But it is a major project involving the installation of many hundreds of transmitters. November 1984 saw the completion of all 51 ‘main’ transmitters. 1985 has seen Channel 4 switched on at another 100 of the existing local ‘relay’ transmitters, plus the building of about 50 more joint IBA-BBC four-channel relays. At the end of 1985, the fourth channel service (Channel 4 or S4C) is going out from over 500 of the 700 or so IBA television transmitting sites. Up to 100 of the remaining 200 existing local relays will come on air during 1986, as may up to another 50 entirely new relays — which will, of course, carry Channel 4, along with ITV, from day one of their transmissions.

Some viewers, understandably, feel that their own area has been slow to receive the attention to Channel 4 provision that it deserves. It is unfortunate but, whatever sequence of transmitter building the IBA had chosen, some people would have to wait longer than others for this new service. The IBA would have much preferred to have commissioned all the transmitters at the same time, but such an ideal is, of course, totally impossible in practice.

If you are still waiting, or possibly have not realised that Channel 4 is available in your area, watch for local announcements or ask your local dealer. But remember that when a new transmitter opens it is necessary to tune a spare channel button on your set to the correct frequency channel. This is usually quite easy to do yourself, though you may need to look-up the instruction leaflet for your set or ask a knowledgeable friend. There are several different techniques that have been or are used on different brands of TV sets including push-buttons, touch-buttons etc. If you remain in doubt about how to tune the set you may need to consult your local dealer or rental company.


A transmitter

One of the IBA’s main UHF transmitting stations.


Four men study the transmitter hall

The rate of technological change demands up-to-the minute training for future engineers.


In most cases, if you are using a satisfactory and preferably outdoor aerial for the other programme channels, this should prove equally satisfactory for Channel 4/S4C — as long as it is the correct type (there are five possible types of aerial). You should get just as good a picture on Channel 4 as on the other three channels though in just a few cases, good reception may prove a little difficult and sometimes adjustment of the aerial may be required. It may be, of course, that your aerial has deteriorated over the years — even high-quality aerials and feeder cables do not last for ever. In such cases all programmes would be improved by a replacement aerial. Remember that both the IBA and BBC always recommend a good outdoor aerial, properly installed. Good pictures deserve — and need — a good aerial.


A woman studies a map using a puck attached to a computer

Computer-aided transmission coverage planning is an established feature of IBA’s engineering of Independent Television and Radio.


A concrete box is lifted above a building by a crane

Some local UHF relay transmitters are installed on top of high-rise buildings or other existing structures.



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