THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHANNEL 5 NETWORK
The first channel to appear on UHF in the UK was, of course, BBC2 in 1964 but when UHF television was first planned for the UK it was determined that it would ultimately be possible to provide good coverage of 4 networks to more than 99% of the UK population. The planning took into account the need to provide clean, interference free reception in all but the most extreme weather conditions. The UHF channels to be used for broadcast tv coverage were 21-34 (Band IV) and 39-68 (Band V). BBC2 began in 1964 and was thus the first channel in the UK to broadcast in clour (from 1966). BBC1 and ITV were broadcast on UHF in colour from 1969. The fourth network remained unused until 1982 when Channel 4 and S4C began broadcasting.
In the mid-1990s the government decided that four analogue terrestrial channels simply wasn't enough and that a fifth one would be introduced. At first only one additional channel - 37 - was made available and the first phase of Channel 5 transmitters brought the channel to a potential 70% of the UK population.
The enterprise was not without its problems, however. One major difficulty was that the RF output of many video recorders and games consoles were traditionally set to channel 36. The introduction of Channel 5 on the adjacent channels would therefore interfere with these devices and the government made it the responsibility of the new station to remedy this.
During the period of test transmissions before launch Channel 5 retuners visited homes in the affected areas (including London and the SE, the Midlands, Yorkshire and Central Scotland) to offer their services.
There were other issues too...
After a second channel - 35 - was made available Phase II of their transmitter development program saw 10 additional transmitters brought into service, and with power increases at some sites (notably Croydon which was increased from 250kW to 1000kW ERP) Channel 5's coverage was increased from 70% to 80% of the population. However, coverage remained fragile and more prone to interference than the other four analogue terrestrial services.
Channel 5 has been available from launch on satellite and cable systems across the UK and is also available as part of the digital terrestrial 'Freeview' service.
The Channel 5 analogue network was closed down as part of the Digital Switchover programme, with the final transmitter going off air on 24 October 2012.
Channel 5 Test transmissions | Channel 5 transmitter information
Andrew Wiseman's Channel 5 page