THE chief executive of Bilsdale mast site operators has confirmed that checks have been made on around 30 masts under their ownership to ensure the event wouldn’t happen again.

In exclusive talks with Arqiva and The Northern Echo the CEO mentioned that the mast at Pontop Pike had a lot of “modern” broadcasting equipment.

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Paul Donovan, chief executive of Arqiva, said: “You have to be extremely careful when you look at the age of a mast because the mast is a simple piece of physical infrastructure, so an awful lot of the broadcast equipment that sits on the mast ais extremely modern.

“We have around 30 types of really big masts in the UK that services about 1,000 relays across the country.

“All of those sites have been subjected to very thorough checks and if you like verification, that there is no risk that they might be subject to a similar type of event that we’ve seen at Bilsdale.

“I have to say, we are still not sure of the actual cause of the fire at Bilsdale and when we do we will be happy to share that with you and your readers.”

The chief executive of the infrastructure company also revealed that the construction of a call centre to deal with customers was being constructed.

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A call centre is currently being built by site operators to prepare for an increased number of calls after the temporary mast is switched in in just over a weeks time.

The chief executive explained that, currently, the number of employees dealing with calls was in the single digits, however this would be increased.

Mr Donovan added: “We aim to target people who are vulnerable and elderly first, so if a younger person is contacting the call centre, we might ask ‘are you 65 and over, or are you clinically vulnerable’, we want to target them first.

“One of the things that’s really challenging, we are not used to having relationships with people living in houses, we’ve had to build that infrastructure ourselves, we are committed to sorting the situation in these not-spots as fast as we possibly can.

Paul Donovan, CEO of Arqiva, said he had also met around 15 to 20 charities to help site operators work to pick out people across the region who are clinically vulnerable or vulnerable.

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Mr Donovan said: “We will be coming forward to those people with offers such as providing them with dishes and even given them a ‘roku’ streaming stick in the back of their telly so they can use the internet to get their services.

“Through to engineer re-tuning and what have you, so we’ll be prioritising those groups first.

“We also want to go above the 95 per cent coverage, so we have our engineers out surveying what we thing could be nine additional temporary sites across the region.

“With the intention of bringing the coverage up to about 97.5 per cent of population versus the 99.5 per cent we would normally cover.

The chief executive continued to explain that Arqiva would then be focusing on social intervention.

He added: “This hasn’t ever been done before anywhere, so we are learning along the way.

“The councils and others are going to help to use their own communication channels to drive nominations and referrals into our system.”

Read more: Bilsdale transmitter: Site operators to move into NORTH EAST offices to deal with ongoing crisis

After social intervention, Mr Donovan explained that the number of vulnerable people who will have no coverage at all would be reduced to just under 10,000 .

Speaking on fuzzy signals the CEO confirmed that once the temporary mast was in place this would be rectified.

He said: “I accept that there are people out there with bad reception, that’s because we moved to install temporary transmitters wherever possible.

Mr Donovan explained that the temporary mast operates at a higher power, this would improve signal for many.


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