DTV coming to Ireland – public platform plans announced

August 11th, 2008 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

As another follow-up – this time to my post on commercial DTV in Ireland – the plans for the publicly-operated multiplex have been announced. With transmissions expected from Autumn 2009 (and the analogue signals to be switched off by 2012), the roll-out will be phased in over time – 80% of the population will be covered at launch, with the final 20% taking close to 3 years to be covered.

Interesting to see the services to be available: the 4 current free-to-air services (RTÉ1 and 2, TV3, and TG4), Dáil TV, a new Irish film channel, RTÉ3 (a new service playing archival RTÉ material), and RTÉ1+1, which will play RTÉ1 on a one hour time delay.

Some comments:

  • TV3 is a commercial operator, owned by a private equity firm (and previously by CanWest), so it is interesting to see it placed on a multiplex as the only commercial offering. However, this may reflect an expectation that the other multiplexes will not be free-to-air. Incidentally, TV3 is in the process of acquiring Channel 6, the only non-subscription domestic cable channel in Ireland, another sign of increased consolidation of media ownership.
  • The RTÉ1+1 offering is a cheap way to offer a ‘new’ channel without any extra expenditure. I wonder about the implications for issues like insurance. In the past, I know that news services in Ireland have generally insisted that those carrying their services do so live – in order to ensure that any error or potentially libelous comments not be repeated after they should have been corrected or removed. Will RTÉ similarly edit problematic comments from live programming when it’s being rebroadcast later? The service is, after all, equivalent to a 1 hour tape delay, which would presumably heighten the responsibility of anyone who knowingly rebroadcast libelous or inaccurate information.
  • Oireachtas video feeds are already available online (with separate feeds for committees, the Dáil, and Seanad). I wonder, though, if there will be sufficient material to fill the Dáil TV channel – particularly during recess. Any chance that this service will expand in similar fashion to CSPAN here in the US, where interviews with authors, coverage of significant conferences, etc., pad out the schedule…
  • Good to see a dedicated channel highlighting Irish film – but, again, will there really be enough content to fill this? One wonders what other content might pad out this station. Also – where will funding for this come from? Will the channel compete for license fee funding with RTÉ and other broadcasters, or will funding come direct from government central funds, as suggested by the Irish Times article? If so, will it be at risk of cut-backs (as are most areas of discretionary public spending at present)?
  • Those choosing digital platforms in Ireland are obviously particularly fond of multiplex solutions. Digital radio is still in flux, but DAB seems to continue as a preferred option, despite its myriad shortcomings. Multiplexes may be more suitable for television, which already involves significant capital outlays. Certainly a useful area for comparative policy studies, looking at both TV and radio, and solutions across various jurisdictions.
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