RTÉ and TG4 to be freely available in North in 2012

Tue, Feb 2, 2010, 00:00

RTÉ TELEVISION channels and TG4 will be freely available throughout all of Northern Ireland from 2012, once the planned digital television changes come into force, Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan said yesterday.

Some BBC channels will equally be carried free on the system due to come into force in the Republic at the same time, under the deal signed yesterday in London between Mr Ryan and his British counterpart, Ben Bradshaw.

The deal will ensure that the Irish and British authorities co-operate on the transition from analogue to digital television services, including joint ownership of television masts along the border.

RTÉ and TG4 are available to approximately half of Northern Ireland’s population, although a commitment to make both more freely available was included in the St Andrews Agreement.

Negotiations with a number of companies to provide the €100 million digital system in the Republic – which have run into some difficulties – are still continuing, “but come what may, we are switching in 2012”, Mr Ryan said.

The continued availability of signals from the BBC, particularly those from BBC Northern Ireland, was important, the Minister added, so that people in the Republic “understand the context and issues” that affect people in Northern Ireland.

The Republic and Northern Ireland will operate different digital systems, Mr Ryan went on, but the set-top boxes needed to decode the signals – which will not incur a separate fee unlike the Sky TV model – will be identical.