Autumn 2009 launch date for digital television switchover

1 Aug 2008

Following the end of digital terrestrial television (DTT) trials by the Irish Government today, Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan said national rollout will begin in a little over a year – August 2009.

What this means is that the traditional analogue television will be slowly phased out over the course of the next four years as we approach the switch-off deadline of 2012 and will be completely replaced with digital broadcasting.

The terrestrial channels will be picked up automatically by those with cable or satellite television services but those of us who just tune in to the four channels will have to bin our rabbit-ears and buy a set-top box to receive the channels.

So while RTÉ is providing this new DTT service free to air, as the current analogue service is, many will be paying for new technology to make it work. However, it is estimated the set-top box should not cost more than €100.

It is thought that certain demographics, including the elderly, may receive the set-top box for free and four new free-to-air channels will be part of this: RTÉ 3, RTÉ 1+, Dáil TV and a film channel, as well as a digital teletext service.

Cathal Goan, RTÉ’s director general, said the reason for the switchover to the new technology is it “allows space for more content and for high-definition channels.

“We want to ensure our viewers get the best value for money in the switch to digital television – more channels, more services and better quality pictures.”

This new service will also allow for paid TV, of which one of the players is Communicorp, owner of radio stations Newstalk, Spin FM, Dublin’s 98 FM and Today FM.

“We have a tight timeframe,” said Minister Ryan, “but I am confident that with all players working together and with public buy-in digital television in Ireland will offer new and exciting content and technology to the Irish viewer.”

By Marie Boran

Pictured: RTÉ mast (Photo owned by Simon Hepworth CC)