625 - Andrew Wiseman's Television Room
Channel 5

Version 4.3a
Main Content Last Revised Sa 27-Mar-99

  Channel 5 is Britain's last analogue, terrestrial network and has been on air since Easter 1997. It's available to nearly 80% of the population. And it was the first terrestrial station also available on satellite. For the rest of the facts on 5, read on... The Spice Girls promote Channel 5 (8K)
The Spice Girls - When They Were 5
Vidcap by Darren Meldrum


Click on this icon top below to return here. Items marked Rev. 4.3 have been updated since the previous edition.


The History of Channel 5

The Broadcasting Act of 1990 required the ITC (Independent Television Commission) to establish a fifth terrestrial channel in the UK. The ITC were required to award the Channel 5 licence on the basis of a competitive tender.


14th April 1992
The ITC issues the invitation to apply for the C5 licence. The new channel would be broadcasting on two unused UHF frequencies Ch35 and Ch37. Only one application was received for the licence and the ITC decided not to grant it.

14th July 1994
The Secretary of State for National Heritage, outlined the Government's decision that UHF Channel 35 would no longer be available for C5.

1st November 1994
After a period of consultation, the ITC had re-advertised the licence with the second invitation being issued on this date.

2nd May 1995
The ITC receives four applications for the Channel 5 licence, including two identical bids of 22 002 000 from C5 Broadcasting Ltd and Virgin UK Ltd.

27th October 1995
The ITC awards the C5 licence to Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd for a 10-year period.

16th September 1996
The DTI announces that UHF Frequency Ch35 will once again be free for C5 to use, increasing maximum coverage of the new channel to 80% of the population.

16th November 1996
The ITC advertises the licence for additional services on C5 (e.g. teletext).

1st January 1997
This is the date by which the C5 service had to start, according to C5's licence.

29th February 1997
Closing date for applications for the C5 additional services licence (i.e. the licence for the main teletext service).

30th March 1997
Channel 5 launched on Easter Sunday at 18:00. The delay was to allow re-tuning of the extra viewers on UHF Ch35. (See below.) Overnight ratings show that during prime time on the opening night Channel 5 was watched by more viewers than Channel 4, surpassing its target of 5% audience share. (See ratings below.)

23rd April 1997
Channel 5 began broadcasting its programmes on Astra and became the first terrestrial station to broadcast on satellite.

18th June 1997
The ITC awarded the licence to run the main teletext service on Channel 5 to Sky Five Text who outbid Teletext UK, the only other applicant.

29th September 1997
The Bilsdale transmitter began broadcasting a full Channel 5 service, thus completing Phase II of the transmitter network, which added approximately 3 million more households to the number able to receive Channel 5 at its launch on 30th March.

15th October 1997
The main teletext service finally began on Channel 5.

See Main Teletext Service below.


I thought it was supposed to start on 1st Jan 97 ?

Thanks to Ray Woodward for the following information:

One of the ITC requirements for Britain's fifth channel was that broadcasting must begin before the end of 1996. C5 Broadcasting set their start date to be 1st January 1997, just on the limit of this requirement.

On September 16th, the DTI made UHF channel 35 available for use by C5, allowing an extra 4 million viewers to watch the new channel. Channel 5 Broadcasting said the launch date would therefore be delayed for 4-6 weeks:

"Because we want to keep public confusion to a minimum and ensure the retuning operation is done in the most cost effective and efficient way, we are aiming to re-tune both channel 37 and channel 35 homes before we go on air. This will inevitably mean postponing our launch date. A new date will be set when we have had discussions with the Independent Television Commission."

The ITC subsequently agreed the new launch date of 30th March 1997.


Who are Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited?

See also: Getting in touch with C5 - below.

Thanks to Rod Begbie and John Bain for the following info.

C5 Broadcasting Ltd is owned by Channel 5 Shareholders (6K)

SelecTV are also now owned by Pearson. SelecTV make Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart and numerous other sitcoms. Oddly enough the company was part of the UKTV consortium whose Channel 5 application stumbled at the quality threshold.

Greg Dyke, formerly of TV-am and LWT, is in charge of Pearson TV. He acted as C5 spokesman when the licence was awarded. It was he who conjured up the "Burglar's Charter" soundbite back at LWT when Thames were bidding for the C5 licence first time around. (He said, jokingly, that criminals posing as re-tuners could persuade householders to hand them their videos for re-tuning "in the van", and thus clear a whole street of videos in ten minutes.)

David Elstein on C4's Right 2 Reply, April 1997 David Elstein, formerly Head of Programming at BSkyB and before that Head of Programming for Thames Television, became the Chief Executive Officer of Channel 5 Broadcasting on September 16th, 1996. Viewers of C4's Right To Reply will know Elstein from his frequent appearances to defend Sky Sports. He has tried five times before to win an ITC contract, failing on each occasion. As CEO of C5B, Elstein is reputed to earn 300 000 a year and is on a 2-year contract.

Dawn Airey is Controller of Programming. She was Controller of Arts and Entertainment at Channel 4, and before that, Controller of Day-time and Children's Programming for the ITV network. It was reported in The Sunday Times (30th March 1997) that at Channel 4 Dawn was known as "Scary Airey", with one "colleague" claiming her to be "the most vulgar person" he had ever met. She once suggested that The South Bank Show should either be shown at 01:00 or "work harder in the schedules" - i.e. become more populist. David Elstein credits Dawn Airey with creating 90% of the programme scheduled before he arrived at the channel.

So we've got the person who put Anne & Nick together, the person who was in charge of Richard & Judy, and the company responsible for Neighbours.

The words "Quality Programming" were last seen running for the hills...




According to the ITC, Channel 5 was planned to enlarge the choice of a majority of UK viewers and to introduce new competition to the advertising market. This means that C5 is in direct competition with the two main channels BBC1 and ITV.




Soap Opera

There are two major soaps on offer from Channel 5.

Channel 5 would neither confirm nor deny rumours that it attempted to poach the Channel 4 soap, Brookside, before launch.

Channel 5 are also repeating Melrose Place and they now have the rights to show Dallas.


UK Gold 2 ?



C5's News is provided by ITN. It introduced the country to Kirsty Young in a bright, colourful set, perched on a desk. 5 News is aimed squarely at a younger audience and, for better to worse, has set a trend that the other networks seem to want to follow.

The main programme, which was at 8.30pm before moving to 7pm in 1998 and finally settling at 6pm in March 1999, is complemented by updates every hour or so.





When C5 began, Jack Docherty, the Scottish comedian from C4's Absolutely and mr don & mr george, hosted the first five-nights-a-week chat show on British network TV at around 23:00 each weeknight. After taking a long holiday, Jack returned with only four-nights-a-week chat, which went down to three and is now at two. Jack has signalled his intention to give up his show shortly.


Quiz Shows / Game Shows


Opening Night Programmes / Ratings

Here is the opening night schedule for Channel 5, along with the audience (in millions of viewers) measured by BARB. Channel 5 Opening Night Ratings (4K)

18:00This Is 5!
A taste of things to come on Britain's newest, freshest channel.
18:30Family Affairs
Channel 5's own soap opera all about the Hart family.
19:00Two Little Boys
A film about what it was like growing up in John Major and Tony Blair's shoes.
Spoof comedy in the style of the Airplane! and Police Squad films set in a hospital with the lovely Susannah Doyle and a zillion other British comedy actors.
21:00Beyond Fear
A dramatisation of the abduction of estate agent Stephanie Slater (played by Gina McKee) by child murderer Michael Sams (played by ex-Doctor Who, Sylvester McCoy).
22:30The Jack Docherty Show
Britain's first network 5-nights-a-week chat show made by the Scottish team that bought you Absolutely.
23:10The Comedy Store Special
Stand Up comedy from the newcomers and interviews with established comedians.
Former Page 3 Girl Gail McKenna hosts a sports preview show.
00:10Live and Dangerous
Sport throughout the night.
05:30This Is 5!
Another chance to see the Spice Girls launch Channel 5.


Programme Schedule

Channel 5's programmes schedule is "stripped" and "stranded", a technique borrowed from television in the USA. This means that you get the same show (stripped) or the same kind of show (stranded) at the same time every weekday.

David Elstein, C5's Chief Executive, predicted that C5 would reach 40 million people at launch and 45 million after twelve months, attaining a 5% viewing share of total viewing by Christmas 1997.

Programme Controller, Dawn Airey, pointed out that 60% of the schedule would be new programming with 7 hours per day being live transmissions.


What's the C5 budget? Is it all being done on the cheap?

Here are the estimated annual budgets of Britain's commercial network channels:

Channel 4280m 
Channel 5110m 





Reception of Channel 5

Will I be able to receive C5 where I live ?

C5 Coverage Map (10K)
Channel 5 Coverage
from transmitters at launch.
(Pink and purple areas)
  • The initial coverage of the total population from launch was about 60-65%.

  • With the addition of 9 transmitters broadcasting on UHF Ch35, Channel 5's coverage was then been extended to nearly 80% of the population.

  • David Elstein estimated that if you combine all viewers (terrestrial, cable and satellite), C5 should eventually reach "85% or more". He also said that C5 test transmissions showed "as many as 88% of all people in the UK could receive, with the right aerial, our terrestrial signal."
  • The ITC specified that full coverage must be achieved as quickly as possible and no later than year 5 of the 10-year licence.


Is C5 available on cable?

Channel 5 is being carried by ALL of the UK cable operators. Cable provides an extra 500 000 homes to the potential Channel 5 audience.


Is C5 available on satellite?

Channel 5 began test transmissions on Astra on Monday 21st April 1997 with the full programme service starting at 13:00 on Wednesday. It's a free channel available to all with a VideoCrypt 1 decoder, so viewers don't require a viewing card.

However, some earlier receivers aren't capable of picking up the Channel 5 pictures (generally those purchased prior to January 1994). In this case you'll need a "channel extender" or "ADX" (available from Sky for 9.99 including P&P). This will also give you access to other channels on lower frequencies including Sky Scottish, The Computer Channel and CNBC.

Channel 5 is on transponder 63, which means you need to tune in to 10.92075 GHz and to set the polarity to Horizontal. (If you have a channel extender, tune into 11.42075 GHz with the extender switched on.)

For help with tuning in to Channel 5 on satellite, call the Sky Tuning Centre on 0990 10 20 30.

SES (Astra) says that 2.9 million households in the UK will now be able to receive Channel 5 via satellite.


Is C5 available on digital satellite?

Yes. Channel 5 is available on SkyDigital, which launched on 1st October 1998.


Is C5 available on Digital Terrestrial Television ?

Yes, the existing Channel 5 service is available on multiplex A. (A multiplex corresponds to a number of channels on the same UHF frequency. For further information on Digital TV see the link at the bottom of this page.) Channel 5 will not be launching any new channels on DTT, but instead intends to sell off its spare capacity to others. DTT's coverage will be wider than the existing Channel 5 network, since it's designed to eventually replace the existing analogue services. However, you may need one or more additional aerials to receive DTT transmissions as well a digital decoder.

See also Widescreen below.


Why isn't C5's coverage as wide as the other networks?

Some viewers who can get good reception of BBC1, BBC2, ITV and C4 may be mystified as to why they get a lousy C5 picture or none at all. The reason is a simple one, the 625-line UHF television system used in the UK was designed to carry exactly four channels. The channel numbers were assigned back in the 1960s (even though C4 didn't begin until 1982.) But the network was designed with a gap in the frequencies to allow for non-broadcast services and it was the Government who decided that they could squeeze in a fifth service in this gap by moving the other services out. This was in 1990, and it was well known at the time that using this scheme would mean some of the population would miss out. As it turned out Channel 5 ended up using a mixture of the frequencies in the gap as well as other frequencies. Because some of C5's transmitters are broadcasting in a different band from the other stations, many viewers require a different aerial. In addition, many C5 transmitters are operating on much lower power than those of the other networks, to avoid interference. Again this means many viewers need to upgrade their receiving equipment.

To increase the coverage, C5 Broadcasting also made sure its channel is available free to both cable viewers and viewers who have Astra satellite decoders.

The Government's answer to the problem of a TV network that only supports 4 channels with 99% coverage is to switch to digital TV where many channels can be compressed and broadcast on the same frequency. Digital terrestrial TV is due to start in late 1998.


Will I need an extra aerial to receive C5 ?

An estimated 3.4 million viewers will need an "upgrade" to their existing equipment to receive Channel 5. This may mean a new aerial and boosting and filtering devices. In the worst case, you could have to spend up to 150 to receive acceptable pictures. Your local TV dealer / aerial contractor should be able to advise you.

For the frequency and polarisation of the C5 transmitters see the question below.



Can I get a booster for the C5 signal ?

Steve Adams wrote to me about his experience with Channel 5 boosters.

The first booster, made by Teleste, was free from C5. The problem was that it was optimised for UHF Ch37, with only a minor gain at Ch35, the frequency used in Steve's area.

Anyway, the picture did improve slightly, but it was a careful balance to avoid overload on the other nearby channels.

Then Steve noticed that CPC (http://www.cpc.co.uk) are now selling "tuneable" Channel 5 boosters, which cover UHF35-37 at 12db gain. They cost about 23 and the CPC stock code is AP00373.

Steve comments:

The fine tuning knob is actually a very coarse tuning knob! It tunes from UHF 30 to UHF 55 in 3/4 of a turn

Anyway, better results all round, although of course its not a replacement for the correct aerial (I've had one of them fitted already!), but does make up for the lower (1/4) power of C5 compared to the big 4.

An interesting "feature" of both boosters was the way that the picture went from grainy with no ghosting, to clear with slight ghosting! Maybe I just couldn't see the ghosting thru the fuzz before.

My set-up is rather complex here. I have Hannington and CP [Crystal Palace] aerials. The CP is amplified on the mast, and combined on the mast with Hannington. I had to get a special combiner that would let UHF 35 through on the Hannington side.

There is a large VHF aerial up there too, but it feeds separately into the loft. The combined CP and Hannington signal pass through a PSU and into a C5 UHF 37 blocker, then on to the C5 booster (optimized for UHF35).

The signal from the C5 booster is then diplexed with the VHF signal and pumped into a variable gain distribution amplifier, from where it feeds 5 diplexed UHF/FM sockets around the house.

I had to diplex the VHF at that point because the C5 booster can't handle FM (which may be a problem for some people that have their UHF/VHF diplexed on the mast).

Oh well, at least I can watch the Indycar now!


Re-tuning (Or Why can't I get a good picture from my video anymore ?)

When the licence for C5 was first advertised, the proposal was that the station would broadcast on UHF Channels 35 and 37. Both channels were currently being used for a variety of non-broadcasting purposes, but these users would be moved to other frequencies. Video recorders and some home computers would need to be re-tuned in areas in which the new fifth channel was receivable. After the decision of the ITC not to award the licence to the single bidder in 1992, the Government decided that Channel 35 would no longer be available for C5 (see timetable above). With only one frequency, the ITC expressed concern that the guaranteed coverage would be reduced to only 50% of the population. However, by clearing further transmitter sites on different frequencies, the ITC had upped the figure to 66% by the time the new bids were submitted. The figure then went up to 70%. The Government has since decided to make Ch35 available once again, sending the maximum coverage to about 80-85% of the population.

Since not all of the sites use channels around 36, re-tuning in some areas will not be required at all.

Section 30 of The Broadcasting Act 1990 relates to equipment retuning, as a result of interference from C5, which must be done at the expense of the licensee. So C5 Broadcasting Ltd had to arrange for engineers to visit viewers in order to re-tune their equipment, for free.


When will C5 re-tune my equipment ?

You should already have been re-tuned by now, even if you live in an area covered by a Ch35 transmitter (i.e. one of the Phase II transmitters).

C5 will cease retuning three months after your local transmitter enters programme service. (That's June 1997 for Phase I transmitters). After this date, you will have to do it yourself or pay for someone else to do it.

If you experience interference problems when you watch a video or a satellite/cable channel, you should call Channel 5 to arrange re-tuning on: 0541 555551.


Isn't there a risk of burglars pretending to be from C5 ?

C5 realised there would be concern that criminals might pretend to have come from the C5 re-tuning brigade to gain access to your home and steal your cash. For this reason, each householder will get a security number in the post. The C5 engineers will be able to quote this number when they turn up on your doorstep.


How will C5 re-tune my equipment?

The C5 engineer will come to your home armed with a small screwdriver. The screwdriver will change the output frequency of your video so that it is clear of the C5 broadcast frequency. Before the transmitters were turned on, the re-tuners had used a black box which generated a test pattern to simulate a C5 transmission.


Can I re-tune my video myself?

Yes. The army of re-tuners had the advantage of the black box (mentioned above) which could re-tune your equipment without requiring the local transmitter to be broadcasting. Now that all of the C5 transmitters are in service, doing it yourself shouldn't be a problem.


I use SCART, will I still have to re-tune?

A video connected to a TV using SCART leads will still need re-tuning, unless the video has a special switch blocking the signal from the aerial lead.


Help! My equipment cannot be re-tuned

Some home computers, for example, cannot be re-tuned - will they be unusable?

The first thing to establish is, will the C5 transmissions interfere with your other equipment even when the aerial lead is not connected. This depends on the strength of the C5 signal, but it is a real possibility.

If it is not possible for C5 Broadcasting to re-tune your equipment so that their broadcasts won't interfere, then they will fit a filter, free of charge. This will prevent any interference, but it will also prevent you from viewing C5!


How much does re-tuning actually cost C5 ?

Thanks to John Bain for the following info:

According to Pearson, retuning the new channel 35 homes, plus a further 2 million homes previously unaffected by video interference, will bring the total cost of re-tuning to an estimated 150m. Channel 5 expects revenue from the channel 35 homes to recover the associated retuning costs in two years.


What are the transmitter details for C5 ?


Phase I

Channel 5 began broadcasting programmes on the 33 transmitters in Phase I of its roll out on Easter Sunday, 30th March 1997, at 18:00 (BST).


Phase II

The remaining 10 Channel 5 transmitters (in Phase II) are now in service and details are shown below. Re-tuning should be necessary in all areas except that covered by Oliver's Mount.

Transmitter Ch/
Started Coverage Notes
Bilsdale 35 H Mo 29-Sep-97
Bilsdale adds about 540 000 new homes to C5's coverage, the majority of which already have the correct aerial. Viewers simply need to tune into channel 35.
Darvel (Kilmarnock area) 35 H Sa 2-Aug-97
Covers about 128 000 homes, most of which will be able to receive the service on their existing Group A aerials.
(Stoke on Trent)
35 V Sa 9-Aug-97
Covers about 110 000 homes, most of which should be able to receive Channel 5 using their existing Group A aerials.
Hannington 35 H Fr 15-Aug-97 This transmitter will add approximately 400 000 homes to the coverage of Channel 5 in the Berkshire/North Hampshire area.
Kilvey Hill 35 V Tu 15-Jul-97 This transmitter will add approximately 163 000 homes to the coverage of Channel 5 in the Swansea area.
Oliver's Mount 66 V We 18-Jun-97  
Ridge Hill 35 H Fr 15-Aug-97 This transmitter will add approximately 200 000 homes to the coverage of Channel 5 in the Hereford/Worcester area.
Sudbury 35 H Tu 23-Sep-97
This transmitter will add over 133 000 homes to the coverage, most of which will be able to receive the service on their existing group B aerial.
Waltham 35 H Th 21-Aug-97 This transmitter, serving Leicester, Nottingham, Peterborough and Boston, adds over 700 000 homes to the coverage of Channel 5. Viewers close to the transmitter (near Melton Mowbray) should receive a good signal on their existing Group C/D aerials, others may need a Group E or W for good reception of all five services.
The Wrekin
35 H Th 7-Aug-97
Adds 270 000 homes to C5's coverage, most of which will be able to receive the service on their existing Group A aerials. Gross coverage from this site is almost 800 000 homes although many are already served by other Channel 5 sites.


Croydon / Viewers in London

At 12:00 on Friday, March 27th, 1998, Channel 5's 44th transmitter went into service. The Croydon Old Town transmitter covers about 78 000 in Croydon and is located at the same site as a relay carrying the other four channels. However the transmitter is the opposite polarity from the others and so most homes will need to adjust their aerial if it is internal, or fit an additional aerial. Transmissions are on channel 59 with horizontal polarisation.

In the summer of 1998 work to increase the coverage of the main Croydon transmitter was also completed. At 05:00 on 24th June 1998 coverage to the south was extended to an area approximately enclosed by the M25. The design is calculated to cut off coverage at the North Downs to avoid interference with French stations using channel 37. The power to the north, which was 250kW has been progressively increased and at 08:02 on Monday, July 13th, 1998, the signal was increased by a final 3dB to bring the ERP to 1000kW, thus completing the upgrade work.


New Relays for Norwich and Peterhead

The 45th and 46th Channel 5 transmitters were brought into service in October 1998.

Norwich, serving the town centre, went on air on Friday 23rd and Peterhead went on air on Monday 26th.

Together they cover about 23 000 homes. In both cases the channels are within the group of the existing receive aerials and Channel 5 is at the same power as the other four services.



The transmitter site in Madingley in Cambridge had previously only been used to provide local FM radio services. It is now the home of a television transmitter, relaying the C5 signal from Sandy Heath.

The service began at 15:00 on Friday 12th February 1999 and covers about 100 000 homes in an area approximately 18 miles east, 4 miles west, 9 miles north and 5 miles south of the mast.

In most cases reception should be possible on an existing Group A aerial, providing the 'pointing error' is not outside the acceptance angle of the aerial. Viewers should tune in to Channel 34. (The signal is horizontally polarized. Transmitter ERP is 5kW.)

Transmissions were originally planned to start in October 1998, but this was delayed by international frequency clearance problems.


Future Plans

Channel 5 engineers are still looking at a few possible sites to extend the analogue transmitter network, but obtaining clearance for new frequencies is becoming extremely difficult.



Miscellaneous Questions

Is Channel 5 any good ?

The usual method of measuring the success of a TV station is comparing the size of its audience. Channel 5's is still growing, but it is already claiming that its launch was more successful than Channel 4's. In its 25th week on air (September 1997), Channel 5's audience share was at 4.2%, just short of its 5% first-year target and ahead of Channel 4's share in its 25th week (1983).

But Channel 4 is a minority channel designed to supplement ITV channels, whereas Channel 5's remit is to compete for the mass audiences of BBC1 and ITV.

The audience share of 4.2% was achieved during the premiere of the film Speed when the channel outperformed all other channels for the first time ever. Speed was watched by an average audience of 2.7 million, but at its peak attracted 3.8 million, compared to ITV's 2.7 million viewers (for Nash Bridges, starring Don Johnson).

CEO David Elstein said, "We have been extraordinarily successful. We have confounded everyone's dire predictions, the doom merchants who said we wouldn't re-tune on time or meet our audience targets."

>> As reported by Waveguide.


Does Channel 5 work with VideoPlus+ ?

Yes. If you've tuned in your video so that Channel 5 is now on channel number 5, you will need to alter the settings on the video (or handset) for VideoPlus+, especially if your cable or satellite receiver was previously using channel number 5.

Further details on how to change the VideoPlus+ settings were printed in Radio Times when Channel 5 launched and are also available on-line at Mike Brown's web site - address below.


Oh No! The Logo Must Go! (Why does C5 have a permanent on-screen logo?)

Channel 5 are the only network to infest all of their programmes with what they call a "bug", that is they continuously broadcast an on-screen logo, like some of the satellite stations.

The Spice Girls launch Channel 5 (8K)

Spot the DOG!
Vidcap by Darren Meldrum


The Feb 14 C5 DOG

Love me, Love my DOG
Vidcap by Phil Reynolds

Why have they decided to do this? Bryan Appleyard interviewed David Elstein and Dawn Airey in an article in The Sunday Times (30th March 97)

[Channel 5's] candy stripes are intended to join the Nike tick, the Levi's tab and the three Adidas stripes as signifiers of belonging...

Brand identity is the new holy grail of marketing... Product recognition is the winning move in the new consumer system. Channel 5 is being sold like a car or a running shoe. Not surprisingly it will be the first of our terrestrial channels to wear its own label on the outside...

"Consumers are very brand-conscious these days," says Elstein, "and we are definitely describing ourselves as a very modern channel. It would be curious to launch an old-fashioned channel without an image in the era of Next, Levi's and Nike."

Of course, branding can work against you. Remember the Skoda jokes?

On 14th April 1997, Teletext reported that 70% of viewers calling in to its special C5 Logo poll voted for the logo's removal. "The station admits it has received complaints about the logo but has decided to keep it on screen."

David Elstein told me that the logo has already been toned down. On C4's Right to Reply I told him I didn't like it! In November 1998 for another edition of the programme, I visited C5 to specifically ask them again about the logo. To find out what they said, click here.

These logos are also known as DOGs (digital on-screen graphics). For St. Valentine's Day in 1999, the C5 DOG changed into a heart-shape for 24 hours (see above). It's nice to know Channel 5 love their viewers so much. If however, you are not a DOG-lover, why not then why not call the Channel 5 Duty Office and complain on 0845 7 05 05 05.


Is C5 a national service, like C4 ?

There are four Channel 5 feeds, these will normally be London, South central, North and Scotland. Each transmitter can be switched remotely by C5B to any one of the 4 feeds, so for example if an advert is to be shown only in Sheffield, then that transmitter can be switched to say feed 1 and the other transmitters to feeds 2-4. Programmes could be regionalised in this way as well, possibly with a bit of re-wiring!

However, in terms of programmes, C5 is a national service, (in the same way that C4 is). The four feeds allow four "macro" advertising regions (as described above), which is similar to the way GMTV operates.

To see which of the four regions you are in, check 5 Text p598. The analogue satellite service, although labelled "Astra", has the same adverts as Region 1.

Incidentally, the first commercial to be shown on the new station was for Chanel No.5 !


Where is C5 broadcast from?

Pearson Television Broadcasting (formerly Thames Engineering) are responsible for broadcasting Channel 5.

They broadcast from Stephen Street (off Tottenham Court Road in London) in a transmission suite that also includes Living (formerly UK Living), UK Gold, Discovery Italy/Africa, Disney, BBC World and any other channel they can get!

Channel 5's original proposal, as included in their licence application, was to use facilities at Elstree. For a number of reasons this was not possible and they are operating from a central London base only.


Teletext services on C5

The Commercial networks ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have two teletext services each. The licence to run the main services are awarded to the highest bidder by the ITC. The other services, the ancillary services, are run by the broadcasters and are used to provide programme-related information as well as subtitles and PDC.

On Channel 5, the distinction between the two services is deliberately blurred, because, according to the Channel, viewers have no interest in the fact that there are two services. Hence, both services are called 5 Text and share the same look, even though they are provided by different companies using different computer systems.

Ancillary Teletext Service

Most ITV regions have an ancillary service on pp600-699, with C4's equivalent, 4-Tel, on pp300-399. Channel 5's ancillary service runs on pp500-599.

A company called Intelfax run many of the ITV services as well as 4-Tel and now magazine 500 of 5 Text.

Some early test transmissions by C5 carried pages from L!VE TV's service, also run by Intelfax. These pages were broadcast by mistake - the equipment is manufactured by Intelfax Developments Ltd, and unknown to C5, there were a few pages stored which did not get erased before test transmissions started.

For the technically minded, Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited have 11 lines per field of the VBI. (The VBI or Vertical Blanking Interval is the black horizontal band with the twinkling dots that can be seen if you adjust the hold on your TV set.) Lines 6, 7, 19-22, 318, 319 and 332-335 are C5B's to use as they wish, within reason. Line 335 is the subtitling line but the other lines can be used for test, PDC, widescreen signalling, programme-related information, ghost cancelling etc. Each ITV company and C4 also have 11 lines (but not necessarily the same lines as C5).


Main Teletext Service

ITV and C4 have a main teletext service run by Teletext UK Limited. A wholly owned subsidiary of the same company bid to run Channel 5's service, but the contract was awarded to Sky Five Text who were the highest bidders. The history behind the contract is reproduced below.

On 19th November 1996, the ITC advertised a single licence to provide an additional service or services on all of the available spare capacity on the C5 signal, i.e. 12 lines per field of the VBI. (C4 and ITV's services, run by Teletext UK Limited, only occupy 7.5 lines.) Applicants were free to propose any mixture of teletext or similar services on an open access (either free-to-air or subscription) or closed user group basis.

This meant that C5 could have ended up without a main teletext service, since all of the capacity could have been used for private data broadcasting. Thankfully, that didn't happen.

The closing date for applications was 28th February 1997 and each application had to be accompanied by a fee of 20 000.

In March, the ITC announced it had received two applications.

The ITC were due to announce the award in May, but this was delayed due to their "particularly heavy agenda". But why wasn't there a main teletext service broadcasting when Channel 5 launched? The ITC told me:

...the priority for the ITC was to ensure that the Channel 5 programme service was established prior to introducing an additional service on the signal. The latest start date has been set in mid 1998 to allow the successful applicant to put into place any financing, staffing, facilities and studios which may be required prior to commencement of service. This is standard practice in the award and grant of all types of ITC licences.

On the 18th July 1997, the ITC finally awarded the 10-year licence, as expected, to Sky Five Text.

It wasn't until October 1997 that the full Teletext service started. The new service is aimed primarily at holiday-makers (although the usual fare of TV listings, news and sport is also included).

As mentioned above, the main teletext service and the ancillary service have the same look and the same name, despite being produced by two separate companies. As on ITV and C4, there is some repetition (e.g. TV listings) between both services.


Nicam Stereo, Teletext Subtitles, PDC, Widescreen

Channel 5's service includes technology used by the other terrestrial channels.

Nicam Stereo

C5 is broadcasting in Nicam digital stereo. Its transmitters are operated by NTL all of whose transmitters (including those for ITV and C4) broadcast in Nicam. (Unfortunately, the BBC's Nicam coverage is still not 100%.)


Teletext Subtitles

The London-based facilities and subtitling centre ITFC are providing C5's teletext subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.

The Channel is committed to subtitle 25% of it programmes for the first year of transmission, rising to 50% by year five.


PDC (Programme Delivery Control)

C5 has been broadcasting Programme Delivery Control (PDC) codes since day one. It began with an experimental service, which became a fully operational service within a month or so.

PDC-enabled videos are able to record late or re-scheduled programmes in their entirety by looking out for the broadcast PDC codes instead of relying on their built-in clock.

For a full explanation of PDC, click on the PDC Explained link at the bottom of this page.



Channel 5 has a very limited widescreen output. This is in contrast to the BBC and ITV who are broadcasting a widescreen version of their output on digital. Channel 5 will instead monitor the take up of 16:9 widescreen sets and may later compromise on 14:9 transmissions until a much larger proportion of viewers have the new sets in their homes.



I want to know more!

Getting in touch with C5

Comments and queries about Channel 5's programmes should be made to the Duty Office (details on the right).

Calls to 0845 numbers are usually charged at Local rates.

Other Numbers

C5 Main Switchboard:
020 7550 5555

Main Fax: 020 7550 5554
Ops/Engineering: 020 7550 5575

 08 45       
  05  05  05 

Channel 5 Duty Office
22 Long Acre


Fax: 020 7550 5678
E-mail: dutyoffice@channel5.co.uk
Web Site: www.channel5.co.uk
Text phone: 0845 7 41 27 87


Other sources of information




The ITC have provided much of the background details:

I'm extremely grateful to those who have taken the trouble to e-mail me, especially Stuart Clary, Darren Meldrum, Mike Brown, Ray Woodward, Rod Begbie, Nigel Curson, John Bain, Mike Henry, Ian Walker, Graham Barnard, Dr. Andrew C Aitchison, Steve Adams, Tim Steele; to Graham Lovelace, Editor, Teletext Ltd and Gerry Stallard at the Engineering dept of the ITC; to the people posting in the various television newsgroups on Usenet, especially Dave Liquorice and Mike Christieson; and to Chris Collingham, Controller of Engineering and Operations at C5B.

If there are any errors in the text, or you have any other comments, then please feel free to e-mail me.


Channel 5 FAQ

Britain's newest TV station began with a song from The Spice Girls on Easter Sunday 1997 at 18:00. You can find out all about Channel 5 in this definitive guide. All the questions and answers are contained in this FAQ which has been frequently updated since it was first compiled back in October 1996.


Before Channel 5 was launched, I found out I'd need a new aerial to get a watchable picture. I taped an item all about this for C4's Right 2 Reply. Were Channel 5 keeping viewers in the picture about what they had to do to receive its service? Read what they and the aerial industry had to say.


After Channel 5 began broadcasting I covered the aerial issue again for Right 2 Reply. I made a cheeky taped item about the launch of the new channel and took part in a studio discussion about who would and would not be getting it. Read the transcript of that discussion which includes Channel 5's CEO David Elstein talking about the availability of C5 on cable and satellite.

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