Irish and UK Governments sign digital TV switchover pact

1 Feb 2010

The Irish Government and the British Government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at ensuring a smooth transition to digital switchover and the switch-off of analogue services in Northern Ireland.

The MoU provides a framework for continuing co-operation on broadcasting issues on the island of Ireland.

It was signed by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan TD and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Ben Bradshaw.

The Memorandum commits the two Governments to facilitating the widespread availability of RTÉ services in Northern Ireland and BBC services in Ireland on a free-to-air basis. It will also ensure the continuing widespread availability of the Irish language channel TG4 in Northern Ireland following the digital switchover.

“This agreement is the culmination of a very successful period of co-operation on broadcasting issues between the Governments of Ireland and the UK and its benefits will be manifold,” Ryan said.

“It will help to ensure a smooth transition to digital television, the availability of TG4 throughout the island of Ireland and will facilitate RTE availability on an all-island basis. The agreement will also help the delivery of broader economic and social benefits which are to be gained by all our citizens from the release of digital dividend spectrum following the closure of the analogue TV services.”

Ireland-Northern Ireland Memorandum of Understanding on digital switchover

The Memorandum of Understanding provides a framework for the changes that are taking place in Ireland and Northern Ireland to the technologies used in the reception of television services.

Switchover in Northern Ireland is planned for 2012 with digital TV roll out being planned for Ireland on a similar timescale.

Both the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement recognised the important role television plays with regard to the diverse cultural and linguistic identities that exist on the island.

“The Irish Government is acutely aware of the huge cultural importance of RTÉ and TG4 for so many people in all parts of Northern Ireland,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin TD said.

“We are very pleased that today’s agreement will help facilitate their enjoyment of Irish television services long into the future. The Irish Government is committed to assisting the development of the Irish language in Northern Ireland and the implementation of outstanding commitments made in the St Andrews Agreement including an Irish Language Act. We look forward to early agreement on an Irish-language strategy.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years