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The Crystal Palace transmitting station is a broadcasting and telecommunications site in the Crystal Palace areamarker of the London Borough of Bromleymarker, Englandmarker ( ).

Its tower is the second-tallest structure in London. The station is best known as the main television transmitter for the London area. The tower is visible from the London Eye in Central London.

History and development

The National athletics stadium with the Transmitter in the background.
The station was constructed in the mid-1950s among the ruins of the Crystal Palacemarker. The Aquarium on which it is mostly built on was partially destroyed in 1941 during the demolition of the Palace's north water tower. (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.)

Its new tower was the tallest structure in London until the construction of One Canada Squaremarker at Canary Wharfmarker in 1991. Despite its size, it has been largely overlooked as a London landmark due to its location and simplicity. It has been nicknamed London's Eiffel Towermarker.

When first constructed it only transmitted BBC Television on the old VHF 405-line system. The Croydon transmittermarker was then built to broadcast ITV. When UHF transmissions started in 1964 first the new BBC2 and later both ITV and BBC1 were then transmitted from Crystal Palace. However, even now Crystal Palace does not transmit analogue Channel 5, this (alone) comes from Croydon about two miles away (although Croydon does have reserve transmitters for ITV and Channel 4, which are only used in the event of a fault or maintenance at Crystal Palace). A couple of years ago the BBC decided that a complete reserve was also a good idea and now all four services are available from Croydon if required. When UK Digital Switch Over is completed in the London area in 2012 all services will come from Crystal Palace again, but because of the site's importance Croydon will be able to be used to duplicate the PSB multiplexes in case of emergency. 405-line VHF television was discontinued in 1985, and now the only television broadcasts from Crystal Palace are on UHF.

The station carries the London regions of BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1 and Channel 4 in analogue, each with an effective radiated power of 1 MW, as well as all six digital terrestrial television multiplexes. These have an ERP of 20 kW, with considerable beam tilt to the south and east. 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.

The tower is also used for FM radio transmission of several local radio stations BBC London 94.9, XFM, Choice FM and Absolute Radio, as well as a low powered relay of the 4 BBC national FM services and Classic FM. It also has mediumwave 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 also been in use as 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 also since started transmitting.

In May 2006, Crystal Palace began broadcasting the first terrestrial HDTV signals in the UK. This was to enable a trial group of 450 London homes to test HD broadcasts by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, in order to assess the viability and potential problems of future nationwide HD broadcasting.

Future developments

The UK Government's plans for digital switchover are based on the use of almost all of the UK's current analogue TV transmitter sites. As such, Crystal Palace is expected to remain a key part of the network when the London area is switched over in 2012. In July 2007 it was confirmed by Ofcom that Crystal Palace would be remaining an A group transmitter after DSO (Digital Switchover).

Channels listed by frequency

Analogue radio (AM medium wave)

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

Analogue radio (FM VHF)

Digital radio (DAB)

Analogue television

Digital television

See also




  • R H. Evans, The Crystal Palace FM filler experiment, British Broadcasting Corporation, Division of Engineering, Research and Development Department (1996), ASIN B0018RJ1ZY
  • R. W. Burns, British Television: The Formative Years, IET (1986), ISBN 0863410790

External links

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