“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…