Digital Switchover and TG4/RTÉ coverage improvements

In a just under two month’s time, analogue television broadcasting will have gone for good in the UK and Ireland. During September the English Tyne Tees region will switchover to digital, leaving a coordinated transition in Ireland during October.

In short:

  • Analogue transmission of BBC Two will cease on 10 October and the frequency will be used to broadcast the BBC’s Freeview multiplex (bundle) of channels. Freeview set top boxes/TVs will need to be retuned.
  • Analogue transmissions of BBC One, UTV, Channel 4 and Five will cease broadcasting – as well as analogue transmissions of RTÉ One, RTÉ Two, TV3, TG4 etc – on 24 October, leaving digital Freeview and Saorview the only way to receive TV through rooftop aerials. Freeview equipment will require a retune again.
  • If your aerial is pointed at one of the three main transmitters, expect to get 40 TV channels plus radio. If you rely on a relay transmitter, you’ll receive 16 standard definition channels (BBC One, BBC Two, UTV, Channel 4, Five, BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC Parliament, BBC News, CBBC, CBeebies, itv2, UTV+1, E4 and More4) plus four HD (BBC One HD, BBC HD, UTV HD and 4 HD) plus radio. The Digital UK website can predict your coverage.
  • Homes relying solely on satellite or cable don’t need to do anything, except check that any older neighbours or family are covered.

There’s lots more detail in a recent post on Alan in Belfast.

However, Slugger readers in the north may be interested to realise that the possibilities for receiving RTÉ and TG4 will expand.

If you’re near the border, a ‘modern’ MPEG4-capable Freeview set top box (and definitely all Freeview HD boxes) will be able to receive the Saorview channels from southern transmitters. (RTÉ One, RTÉ Two HD, TV3, TG4, 3e, RTÉ News Now, RTÉjr and RTÉ One +1.) The channel numbers will be high, and subtitles/red button services may not work. Alternatively a Saorview-branded set top box will pick up both the Saorview and the Freeview transmissions, putting the UK channels up high and subtitles/red button services may not be fully functional.

Further away from the border you’ll be able to receive TG4, RTÉ One and RTÉ Two via the ‘mini-mux’ being broadcast from the Freeview transmitters on Black Mountain, Carnmoney Hill and Brougher Mountain. Note that TV3 isn’t included. You’ll need a Freeview HD-capable set top box or TV set to receive them. Due to rights restrictions, some sporting programmes and films may be unavailable. But it should dramatically extend the availability (and quality) of transmission of the three channels.

If you missed the household leaflet drop, then Digital UK’s website has copies in English, Irish, Ulster Scots (well worth a read tae get yer heed arund tae the deegital cheenge-ower) as well as a shorter booklet translated into Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Simplified Chinese and Slovak. The Digital UK website and 08456 50 50 50 helpline can help provide instructions for retuning instruction-less Freeview boxes as well as coverage information.

The Switchover Help Scheme offers discounted boxes to anyone who is aged over 75; or registered blind/partially sighted; or living in a care home for six months or more; or eligible for DLA, Attendance/Constant Attendance Allowance or Mobility supplement. In some cases it’ll be free. Call free on 0800 40 85 900. If the installer finds that Freeview signal will not be good, an alternative such as Freesat will be offered.

Here endeth the public information announcement!

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  • How can you be aged over £75?

  • Zig70

    I’m hoping I can keep my aerial pointed in the same direction and get both saorview and freeview so that I keep getting TV3. Need to buy a few HD freeview boxes. Bit miffed my two newest TV’s won’t pick up saorview or even non hd RTE off Divis or Carnmoney,as they only have bog standard freeview decoders.

  • Zig70 – worth checking whether the existing tuners will work. A lot of recent non-HD tuners do support the MPEG4 standard (even though it’s not used for standard def in the UK).

  • BluesJazz

    Will we (here in NI) still be able to receive RTE/TV3 Champions League coverage, previously available on analogue? We were able to see matches that, on the UK mainland ,were only on Sky.

  • The Rolling Stones frequently got it very, very right: as with You Can’t Always Get What You Want. [That vid, obviously, from before they stopped trying.] The same is true of digital. If you’re any distance from the transmitter, and don’t have a super-duper aerial, just wait until it pixilatingly rains.

    I seem to recall, once upon a time, when cable TV was new here in London, Cable London filed its channels with RTÉ, TF1 and other enlightenments. Sadly gone. Not Definitely to forget from that era was Kelvin MacKenzie attempt at Live TV (which had an operating budget of £2,000 an hour, maximum, and managed to lose £7 million a year.

    Today digital may offer me eighty channels, but many seem to be those pointless “shopping” channels — what I find is that, as “choice” expands, I watch less and less.

  • lamhdearg2

    bbc4, pbs, and bbc3 for family guy, the rest is (mainly) *****.

    pbs not on freeview.

  • Hopping The Border

    Blues Jazz –

    No unfortunately – it’s the end of non sky coverage as TV3 is not being offered on freeview (apart from border areas) and in any case digital signals are usually blocked when the CL games/PL highlights show is on.

  • Zig70

    My missus likes the fashion progs on tv3 and then there is the footie. Saorview have a coverage web page which includes the north, so I should still get to see the footie when they switch rte off in the north.

  • BluesJazz

    CL Football is given to RTE2 and TV3 on consecutive nights. (Tues and Wed). When it goes to digital, as HTB says, the signal will be blocked if the match is on Sky.
    However all Sky Sports matches are accessible free on the internet.

    Watched todays premiership games without paying Murdoch a penny. Happy viewing.

  • Mister_Joe


    That was an excellent “Public Service Announcement”. Kudos.

  • lamhdearg2

    I dont think Mick will thank you for that blue.

  • BluesJazz


    The site is legal

    I could post new piratebay website addresses where you can download (probably illegally) every new film and tv series, but wouldn’t.

    The fact that you can see all Sky stuff for free is hardly news. Any new TV will allow you to do so and if not just plug the pc usb cable into the side. Just don’t understand why people pay for what’s freely available.
    Just downloaded and watched ‘The Battle of Algiers’ Classic movie, and interesting locally as to how the Foreign Legion Paratoopers cleared a city, L/Derry style and the aftermath.