BAI looks to revive commercial digital TV service
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has hired consultants to examine the feasibility of reviving a process to find a commercial operator for digital terrestrial television (DTT).
London-based consultants Oliver & Ohlbaum have been retained by the BAI to report back by the end of this month. The authority confirmed the report would be discussed by its board at a meeting in September.
RTÉ spent €70 million to build the infrastructure to operate Saorview, the free-to-air DTT service. There is no commercial service, however, after the BAI abandoned the process to find an operator in 2010.
A consortium comprised of Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp and Boxer, a Swedish DTT operator, won the original contract in 2008, but pulled out a year later as the economy deteriorated.
The second-placed One Vision consortium, which included Eircom and TV3, took over the contract. However, it also pulled out in 2010, after it was unable to conclude an agreement with RTÉ over price for the use of its infrastructure.
According to instructions it has issued to consultants, BAI decided in March to look again at whether it could revive commercial DTT. It cited a market analysis of broadcasting transmission published by Comreg as one of the reasons.
In recent weeks, Comreg has proposed to designate RTÉ as having significant market power in terms of DTT transmission, which would allow it to issue instructions to the broadcaster in the event of a repeat of the impasse that saw the last process collapse.
The consultants have also been asked to examine the fees charged by RTÉ to a commercial DTT operator.
Eircom, which launches its own television service later this year, said it was still interested in DTT: “While the market has changed significantly, we would certainly be [still] interested in examining the opportunities that any new tender would present.”
David McRedmond, the chief executive of TV3, said re-entering the fray for DTT was “not on our radar at the moment”.
He said it would be difficult to revive the DTT process, but that TV3 would “look at it” if the BAI decided to issue a new tender.