The Harlow Star newspaper reports today that Barry Plumridge is challenging Harlow Council over their ban on TV aerials on council and ex-council properties.
He told the paper "We're all paying for Freeview through our television licences, that's how it's funded, but we're told that if we want to watch it we have to pay again. It makes Freeview a total misnomer. Why should the rest of Britain be entitled to it but not us? I contacted the council to point this out and they basically said 'tough, the covenant stays'."
Mr Plumridge says he plans to erect an aerial early in the new year and will wait to see how the council reacts. "Hopefully, by taking a chance I can open the floodgates because there are a lot of people who are not very well off who are losing out financially because of this," he added.
A council spokesman told the newspaper: "The agreement between Harlow Council and NTL came into force in the 1990s when the Government introduced franchising of television broadcasting. As this agreement is due to be renewed in the next few years, we will look at the Freeview issue then."
As we have already reported, the Ofcom Consumer Panel, which informs the TV and communications regulator, have flagged up the fact that some people seem to be restricted from mounting an aerial on their roof.
A common problem
One of the most common problems reported to UK Free TV is that Freeview reception is often impossible with a loft mounted aerial. This is a particular problem with the two multiplexes that broadcast in what is known as 64QAMmode.
Digital television is able to offer a greater range of channels to watch by digitally combining (the mathematical term is multiplexing) many channels onto a single transmission frequency.
The transmissions use a system called COFDM, and this can use either 16 or 64 subdivisions (which is called a constellation). Using the lower figure provides a lower bitrate and fewer channels. However multiplex 2 ITV1, 2, 3, 4, CITV, Channel 4, More4, E4 and Film4+1 and multiplex A five, five US, five Life and BBC Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 use the higher bitrate mode.
A side-effect of this high-rate mode is that is almost impossible to receive using a loft-mounted aerial.
However, after switchover ALL multiplexes will switch to this mode. The broadcasters will increase the power of the transmissions to compensate, but this will only apply to rooftop aerials.
Rooftop aerial bans
Long before people were horrified by Sky's satellite dishes appearing all over the country, the rise of television in the 1950s horrified some people. There were campaigns to stop 'the skyline being ruined by television aerials'. This has led to three situations where TV aerials were banned:
1.In conservation areas and national parks.
2.In some council controlled areas where cable TV companies agreed to provide free cable TV of the main four analogue television channels. This was an arrangement made under the Cable and Broadcasting Act 1984.
3. Where there is a covenant as part of the lease which forbids an aerial to be installed on the roof.
Some landlords and tenants may be unaware of the particular issues they face with respect to switchover. There is currently little information available about the level and understanding and expectations regarding switchover amongst landlords.
As new laws trump old ones, it would appear that the 2003 Communications Act would override any other restrictions put in before the act came into force, and would render any restrictions afterwards illegal.
Do you live in a New Town with a fixed analogue cable arrangement, or in a Conservation Area or National Park? Do you hate the site of TV aerials? Let us know!
I live in great Dunmow on the Woodlands Park Development. external TV aerials are not allowed under a restrictive covenant. I believe that under a law introduced by Margret Thatcher in 86 British law provides the right for everybody to be able to receive TV signals and when required via an external aerial . Please would you confirm if this is true and what rights I have.
Jonathan: As it says in the article at the top of the page
Section 134 of the Communications Act 2003 sets out the principle "that no person should unreasonably be denied access to an electronic communications network or to electronic communications services."