Launch of dedicated television channel to cover Oireachtas proceedings

Broadcaster John Bowman recalls political resistance to the proposal in early RTÉ years

A dedicated television channel covering Dáil, Seanad and Oireachtas committees has been established nearly 50 years after a minister with responsibility for broadcasting ruled it out.

Oireachtas TV, which was launched in Dublin yesterday, is to be relayed to 1.1 million Irish homes and will broadcast proceedings, according to Dáil Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, in an “instant, accessible, factual, objective and impartial’’ manner.

"I have always believed television to be the best way for people to see for themselves what is happening in their parliament,'' Mr Barrett said.

At the launch, broadcaster and author of Window and Mirror, RTÉ television: 1961-2011 John Bowman traced the history of the moves to have the Oireachtas televised, and noted the strong resistance from some politicians in the early years of the national broadcaster, despite support for it from the print media.


"In 1966 the then minister with responsibility for broadcasting, Joseph Brennan, insisted there was not the slightest hope of having television coverage of either House of the Oireachtas,'' Mr Bowman said.

“As far as he knew this applied to every parliament in the world, and he assured the Seanad, where he was speaking, that the government was entirely opposed to it and no party favoured it.’’

He said the then minister remarked it would lead to TDs and Senators “talking to the television and not to the debate’’.

New service

The new service is free on UPC Channel 207 and Sky Channel 574 and, shortly, on the Eircom TV platform.

Channel production and presentation will cost some €200,000 annually, while distribution will cost €250,000, which is the discounted fee for access to the Sky platform.

UPC and Eircom are regulated in Ireland as cable providers and must carry coverage free of charge.

Mr Barrett said a pilot transmission of Oireachtas proceedings began broadcasting on UPC in November 2011, and surveys revealed that over 55 per cent of users regularly watched the channel. The level of viewing had increased year on year.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times