THOUSANDS of TV viewers have been left without several channels because of work on Oxfordshire’s transmitter that could last another six weeks.

Viewers say they are angry they were not warned about the loss of pictures, caused by the work to prepare the transmitter for the digital switchover next year.

Engineers started the work on Monday, February 1, with a reserve anatenna currently being used to transmit the television and radio signals.

Yesterday Digital UK apologised to viewers for the problems with the Oxford antenna, which is based at Beckley and covers 409,000 homes.

A spokesman said: “Since February 1, transmissions from the Oxford transmitter have been from a reserve antenna, which may be affecting reception for some viewers.

“This is in preparation for digital switchover work and signals are currently liable to reduced power and short interruptions, for which we apologise. Services are scheduled to be restored to the main Oxford antenna by early April.”

Jeff Nesbitt, from Chilton, said he and his wife Jayne had been unable to watch their favourite programmes as the screen has gone blank on ITV, Channel 4 and Five.

He said: “My wife is a big fan of the soaps on ITV, like Emmerdale, and she has not seen them for weeks.

“Digital UK could have let people know through the Oxford Mail what was going on. They seem to have let people find out themselves.”

The Digital UK spokesman said it had not warned viewers because it had not known definitely when the work was being carried out.

He added: “It is difficult to predict the impact work would have on viewers.”

Luke McNeill, 37, of Headington, Oxford, said he and his wife Catherine had also been experiencing problems.

He said: “We almost lost BBC last night too, which would have been all of the main channels gone.”

An electrical store said people had bought new aerials thinking the problems were with their own set-top boxes and digital receivers.

During the past two years, the UK has been switching over to digital TV, which means the old analogue signal will be switched off.

It is claimed digital TV uses less broadcast space which means, after switchover, there will be more room for new services such as wireless broadband, local TV and High Definition Television.

By 2012 all households must have digital access – such as a set-top Freeview box – which the Government claims will benefit viewers by offering more free and paid-for channels, before the analogue transmitters are turned off. The Oxford switchover is scheduled to begin in 2011.

The BBC Licence fee office said it did not refund money to people experiencing reception problems.

Viewers in Sutton Coldfield reported similar problems, while engineering works will also be carried out on the Netherton Braes transmitter in Scotland and Marlborough, in Wiltshire.

l The affected channels are: ITV1, Channel 4, FIVE, ITV2, ITV 3, Channel 4+1, More4, E4, ITV2+1, Teletext, Teletext Holidays, Teletext on 4, QVC, Virgin 1, Bid TV, FIVER, FIVE USA, Quest, TOPUP Stream 2, TOPUP Stream 3, CITV, CNN International and Teletext Casino, as well as radio stations Heart and Smash Hits! Radio.