No end in sight for Channel 4 as problems persist

All4 Logo
(Image credit: Channel 4)

Poor Channel 4. The broadcaster has had a truly difficult week – along with its viewers – after a fire at a West London broadcast center kicked off a medley of technical issues across its various channels and programmes.

The likes of Channel 4, E4 and More4 have had issues either displaying in people's homes at all – with error messages in place of weekly Hollyoaks episodes – or doing so with full accessibility features such as subtitles. The past weekend also saw a repeat episode of Married At First Sight broadcast in place of the new, intended episode, drawing ire from viewers.

The Channel 4 Twitter account posts occasional updates, with the latest coming on October 1.

But there appears to be no clear end in sight, without an estimated timeline for the fix being given to viewers. Those with accessibility needs in particular are venting their frustration on social media, at having been unable to watch their favorite programming for well over a week.

What's the problem with Channel 4?

The problem appears to have been a fire that broke out at broadcast centre in West London – with both Channel 4 and More4 having gone off air entirely for a period of time, and E4 viewers faced with a purple "Off-Air" screen for the channel. Subtitles are largely missing from all of these channels, with audio quality also being affected.

A blog post by Channel 4 states that "On Saturday 25 September 2021, Channel 4’s channels and on-demand services were significantly affected when the fire suppression system was triggered at Red Bee Media, the company that broadcasts our services. The building was evacuated and no one was injured, but as a result, we were temporarily off-air.

"Even though all our channels are now broadcasting again, the problems caused by the incident means we are still experiencing issues with programmes and adverts as well as with audio and video quality. Since the incident we have also continued to have problems with our All 4 service and are not able to offer any programmes with audio description, subtitles or sign language."

The post makes it clear that Channel 4 is "doing everything we can" and hoping to resolve the issues "as quickly as possible." However, when contacted, the broadcaster declined to give any firmer estimates for a fix, suggesting that these issues may take longer than a handful of days to properly address.

Channel that frustration

Many viewers have been taking to social media to vent their frustration, with new episodes of favorite shows being unable to view either through live broadcast or on demand through the All 4 platform.

The latest messaging from Channel 4 cites problems showing "accessible versions of our shows", too, with users citing "no subtitles" on certain shows.

Comments on the Channel 4 Twitter account include a medley of other issues that the broadcaster is no doubt scrambling to address, from subscribers to an ad-free tier still being served advertisements, or voiceover and audio tracks feeling off-kilter.

What can I do?

For at-home viewers, there's little you can do to troubleshoot your issues – so just keep in mind that fiddling with an aerial, or shouting down the phone at customer service, likely won't do much for now. 

The myriad of issues suggests that a technical fix will be complex, and damaged broadcasting hardware – if a brief fire did manage to do some damage – will take longer than a couple of days to address.

However, the issues seem to be inconsistent across viewers, so some may fare better than others. We'd recommend checking back each day to see how your favorite channels are doing, or keeping an eye on the Channel 4 Twitter account, to see what the latest pronouncements are.

If you need a TV fix on the meantime, check out the best TV streaming services to consider spending your time on.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.