“Having the BBC available in the South gives us a clear link with what politicians in the North are doing.”

So opined the then Irish Minister for Communications, Eamon Ryan, in February 2010 when the Irish and UK governments signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) “for continuing co-operation on broadcasting issues on the island of Ireland.” Specifically, on what will happen after the digital switchover in 2012 –  now scheduled for Oct 24 in Ireland as well as in Northern Ireland.

Reports at the time that the agreement committed “the two governments to facilitating RTÉ services in Northern Ireland and BBC services in the Republic of Ireland on a free-to-air basis”, also noted on Slugger, were apparently blamed on “an error spotted between the press release and MOU“.  The subsequently edited press release, in the National Archives, now states

The Memorandum commits the two Governments to facilitating the widespread availability of RTE services in Northern Ireland on a free-to-air basis, and BBC services in Ireland on a paid for basis.

But the MOU does note [pdf file]

The analogue systems that will be switched off have been the primary means of receiving free-to-air public service broadcasting since the 1950s in Northern Ireland and the 1960s in Ireland.  However, it has been a factor of analogue free-to-air public service broadcasting since the 1950s that there has been, given the nature of analogue transmission, significant reception of signals from both jurisdictions throughout the island.  A large proportion of viewers in Northern Ireland watch free-to-air analogue transmissions of Irish public service channels and a large proportion of viewers in Ireland watch free-to-air analogue transmissions of UK public service channels.  Both Governments are mindful of the fact these viewers will no longer obtain such analogue spillover signals after the digital switchover has taken place. [added emphasis]

And on co-operation the MOU has this to say

In light of this, the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Government of Ireland will co-operate to help ensure:

a) A smooth transition to digital terrestrial television and the switch-off of analogue services on the island of Ireland.

b) The widespread availability on the DTT platform of TG4 in Northern Ireland.

c) That arrangements are made to facilitate the widespread availability of BBC services in Ireland and of RTE services in Northern Ireland. [added emphasis]

By the time Alan noted the next press release, in October 2011, the availability, or otherwise, of BBC services in Ireland was not even mentioned.

And that trend continues with today’s BBC report on confirmation from the UK Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, and Irish Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, that “the digital future for TG4, RTE One and RTE Two in Northern Ireland is now strengthened and secure”.  The UK Government press release is here.  But I can’t find an Irish Government one to match.  Not even a departmental one.

And there doesn’t appear to be a corresponding RTÉ report this time…

As for having “a clear link with what politicians in the North are doing”?  I wouldn’t worry, they’re not up to much.  Not in public anyway…

  • Simples (tsk).

    Put RTÉ 1 and 2 on UK digital. [Yeah: I know it’s on Sky, etc.]

    Fair exchange.

  • Pete Baker


    “Fair exchange.”

    You seem somewhat confused as to what’s going on…

  • Neville Bagnall

    Of course there remains the significant spillover of FreeSat coverage, long may it last.

    Nevertheless, the future is TV over IP, and the reign of the proxy servers.

  • Pete Baker

    Ah, I think I see what you’re getting at.

    You mean that for BBC services to be available to Irish viewers on Saorview, all UK viewers should be able to view RTÉ on Freeview?

    Which is fine. But beyond the original terms of the Memorandum of Understanding.

    But, heh! Why not also extend the GFA to cover the rest of the UK too? That’s the driver here.

    You could have a permanent Lab/Con/LD/SNP/UKIP/DUP/UUP/SDLP/SF/PC/Green government! Have I left anyone out?

  • Lionel Hutz

    What is the point? Sorry, Pete but I’m confused by this article?

  • Pete Baker


    “Nevertheless, the future is TV over IP, and the reign of the proxy servers.”

    The future of widespread superfast broadband provision remains some way off for many in rural areas.

    Trust me on this…

  • Pete Baker


    Well, there are probably a number of points.

    One is that the then Irish Minister, Eamon Ryan, appears to have understood the MOU in the terms of the original reports [see RTÉ link], and the governmental press release, rather than the subsequently edited version.

  • Lionel Hutz

    On whether the bbc will be free to air in the republic. I’m having flashbacks to when as a child living in Dublin we only got rte 1 and “network 2”. A friend had BBC on sky. 2 channels though, you would go mad now.

  • Pete Baker


    You asked for clarification. I tried to give you some.

    Please don’t go off on a tangent.

  • Lionel Hutz


    Thanks for the clarification

  • Drumlins Rock

    remember RTE advertisers and hence RTE itself will gain from a larger audience, whereas the BBC cannot sell liscenses in the Republic.

  • Pete Baker


    That, again, is fine. “Liscenses” notwithstanding. But it doesn’t address the terms of the original Memorandum of Understanding.

  • feismother

    We’ve had all the Irish television stages and the digital radio channels on our Freeview and BT Vision for ages. Is that just in the Derry area?

  • Neville Bagnall


    “The future of widespread superfast broadband provision remains some way off for many in rural areas.”

    You don’t have to tell me. Living 20km from Sligo or Ballina, while I’ve been there I’ve gone from 9.6k dialup through satellite, fixed wireless, adsl and mobile internet.

    DTT and satellite broadcasting won’t disappear overnight, and the public service broadcasters will probably hold on the longest, but everything is pointing to a convergence, particularly for the upcoming generation.

    Its going to be patchy and possibly a rough transition for some of the established players, but the transition is being driven by youngsters in the areas with broadband & advertising and subscription dollars/euros.

  • Pete Baker


    I agree. But it’s largely beside the point of the original post.

  • Mick Fealty


    They don’t take adverts from Northern Ireland, and UTV don’t take from the south. RTE’s service in Northern Ireland is free and delivery subsidised entirely by the Republic.

  • Zig70

    I’ve noticed Utv adverts are a lot more southern looking. I’m just miffed tv3 doesn’t think we are an important enough market

  • galloglaigh

    For those confused. Eamonn Gilmore bent over and pulled his pants down. Plain and simple!

  • Donal Davoren

    Did anyone see Declan Kearneys embarrassing performance on tonight’s Hearts and Minds?

    Mike Nesbitt, himself politically 2nd division, asked Kearney a few times to convince him about the benefits of a United Ireland.

    Kearney could only prattle on about peace and reconciliation, moving on and the other SF hand-me-down sound bites about the peace process.

    Nesbitt was clearly loving it that despite repeating the question Kearney kept choking out the same bull as above.

    When the National Chairperson of SF can’t put up an argument for a United Ireland it shows just how naked they are without the peace process to cover up with.

  • OneNI

    To be fair it was supposed to be a discussion about reconciliation and I could see the relevance of Nesbitt’s question