London’s iconic Crystal Palace TV transmitter will be turned into a 200 Kilowatt Christmas tree to mark the capital’s switch from analogue to digital TV.
At 9.15pm tonight, transmitter operator Arqiva will switch on six tonnes of lighting equipment to alert Londoners to celebrate the UK’s biggest single digital TV switchover event.
Digital switchover started on April 4, when analogue BBC Two is switched off and half of the Freeview multiplexes relaunch at higher power.
At midnight last night, the analogue signals for BBC One, ITV1, Channel Four and Channel Five were switched off and the rest of Freeview turned up to full power.
The 219-metre tall structure will shoot out a beam of light at the climax of the light show, which should be visible across the whole of Greater London.
John Cresswell, CEO of Arqiva, said: “Digital Switchover 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.”
Crystal Palace has been delivering TV across London for more than 50 years, including the first episode of Blue Peter, the first colour TV tests, and Europe’s first free-to-air terrestrial high definition TV programmes.
It reaches more than 40 miles and cover 12 million people – most of whom have already switched to digital. If you haven’t chosen a digital TV provider, try our guide to Digital Switchover.
We’ve also got a range of guides to different digital TV providers, replacing your TV aerial, retuning your Freeview box and Freeview vs Freesat. The UK Digital Switchover programme will reach its end in Northern Ireland in October.
London Switchover Night will see a range of public events and a VIP party at Crystal Palace, hosted by Chris Evans and including TV legend Sir David Attenborough, who celebrates 60 years in the broadcasting industry. You can also follow London Switchover Night on Twitter.
Sir David Attenborough, broadcaster and naturalist, said “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.
“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.”