• March 6, 2010

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was agreed last month between the Irish and British governments which aims to implement commitments entered into via the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) to extend TV broadcasting across the 32 counties on an integrated basis in the future!

The all Ireland broadcasting agreement in the GFA was supposed to ensure the availability of both RTE and TG4 in the North of Ireland but to date progress on this has been limited.

Satellite subscribers to Sky TV can access RTE and other services in the North but no terrestrial service is available from the Divis transmitter only a (low powered) limited analogue signal for TG4 (which cannot even be received in all parts of Belfast).

The new MOU is supposed to ensure that (eventually) both RTE and TG4 are provided in the 6 Counties and some BBC services are available to viewers south of the border.

No time-frame is set but it looks highly likely that RTE/TG4 overall coverage in N. Ireland will not be provided until after digital switchover in 2012/13.

Politicians from both the UK and Ireland were effusive about the MOU.

The Irish government Communications Minister Ryan said:

“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. 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’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin TD, also welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding and said:

“I am delighted that the two Governments have today laid the foundations for continued and increased availability of Irish television services in Northern Ireland following the transition to digital terrestrial television. 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. 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.”

Meanwhile Shaun Woodward, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said:

“The Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement recognised the importance of the unique cultural and linguistic diversities that exist on the island of Ireland. The Government remains committed to the full implementation of the Agreements, and will support the Executive, in any way it can, in the development and implementation of its Irish Language strategy. Broadcasting has a key role to play in the continuing development of minority languages. I am therefore delighted to see the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding, which underlines the Government’s continuing commitment to the development of the Irish language in Northern Ireland, by ensuring the continued widespread availability of TG4 across Northern Ireland following the digital switchover.”

However, there is more than a whiff of disingenuousness particularly in the last comment as Digital terrestrial services (pre- digital switchover in 2013) already have a high percentage population reach across N. Ireland and yet TG4 has not been included (to date) in the line-up of channels available.

If you compare this with both Cymru where S4C was available on Terrestrial digital from the commencement of roll-out it demonstrates the discriminatory approach.

The long term objective of the MOU is welcomed, particularly by the Celtic League, which has repeatedly called for the availability of TV services in the Celtic languages across the Celtic countries. However, we would have hoped that some of the `dross’ currently broadcast from digital terrestrial transmitters in the North of Ireland could have been deleted to make a slot(s) available for TG4 (and RTE1) in the short term.

Related article on Celtic Language TV broadcasting on Celtic News (with additional information links) here:


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