FOR more than 50 years the Bilsdale TV mast on the North York Moors has been a familiar fixture on the skyline. After dark, its red aircraft warning lights can be seen throughout our area reaching into the night sky.

It’s something we have perhaps taken for granted – until August 10 when a fire at the transmitting station at its base spread to the mast and by stopping the transmission of terrestrial TV signals reminded us what a vital part it plays in our lives.

Since then, the majority of people have still been able to access their favourite TV and radio channels and programmes via video on demand services like BBC iPlayer and ITV hub.

Also, a significant number have had their signal restored with most of the primary terrestrial channels available.

But it is also very clear that for too many people, a lot of them elderly, that has not been the case – either because they live in the areas which the temporary transmission fixes have not reached or they have not felt comfortable using, or just don’t have access to, the technology which would enable them to tune in again.

It has left a lot of people understandably angry – and mystified – why it is taking so long to fix.

I’ve had a lot of correspondence about the loss of service and last weekend while out and about around North Yorkshire it was the number one issue raised with me.

For many people, particularly the elderly, the isolated and the vulnerable, TV is a lifeline – the friend that’s always there – and to be without it for this long has affected them deeply. It is not just being cut off from a primary source of information about what it is going on in the world, it is the loss of companionship.

I’ve been working hard on the matter since the fire and have been in regular and close contact with the mast operator Arqiva making sure they are doing everything to get the service restored as soon as possible.

It has become clear that what might seem to be a simple engineering solution – put up a new mast either as a temporary solution or the permanent replacement – has turned out to be anything but.

The fragile state of the damaged mast, the fact that it is in the middle of a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the need for the mast operator to secure an agreement with the landowner prior to work starting on the replacement mast have complicated and lengthened the process.

I am working to speed this up and have written to the North York Moors National Park Authority urging it to do what it can to streamline the planning and permit process.

I have also contacted the BBC about a partial refund of the licence fee for loss of service so far and am working with fellow North Yorkshire MPs and ministerial colleagues at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

I will keep affected constituents informed of progress. In the meantime, there is a dedicated freephone number 0800 121 4828, which will take callers through the latest news and viewing options available to them. This is a recorded update aimed at making sure that viewers who don’t have access to the internet can easily check if there are any updates for their area.

Help to retune a TV to ensure it can receive what services may be available can be found at