1 December 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network
RTÉ and TV3 Clash Over Saorview Channels
24 Feb 2011 :
RTE's Kevin Dawson
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Pat Carey T.D. has announced additions in the line-up of channels to be included in the new national ‘free to air’ Saorview DTT platform. The new RTÉ channels added by the Minister include RTÉjr, RTÉ Two HD Select and RTÉ News Now.

Announcing the additions on Wednesday, February 23rd, Minister Carey explained that “As a result of a thorough examination of the RTÉ proposals, which included a public consultation process on the public value of the proposals and a sectorial impact assessment, I have approved, subject to certain conditions laid down in my decision, the new RTÉ services.”

The Minister approved five new RTÉ channels including RTÉ Two High Definition (HD) Select, RTÉ Aertel Digital, RTÉjr, RTÉ Plus (Phase 1) and RTÉ News Now. Saorview will be launched in May 2011 by RTÉ and will include nine channels, namely RTÉ One, RTÉ Two HD, TV3, TG4, RTÉ News Now, 3e, RTÉjr, RTÉ One + 1 and RTÉ Digital Aertel.

TV3 officials have voiced their shock at the Minister’s decision, Head of TV3 press, Maureen Catterson released a statement outlining how TV3 plans to call upon the new incoming government to ” immediately rescind this reckless decision which will destroy jobs, growth and investment in the media sector while costing taxpayers huge sums of money.” The release explains the reason behind the independent broadcaster’s dismay, noting that: ”These newly approved channels will extend RTÉ’s dominance in media when it is already the most dominant State broadcaster in Europe. RTÉ will further increase its share of the advertising market alongside its total dominance of the licence fee.”

The document discusses RTÉ’s status further, stating that RTÉ has been operating a deficit for the last three years, ”despite receiving hundreds of millions of licence fee money, and preventing any commercial operator from any involvement in the DTT platform.” It also claims that the Minister’s approval of the new RTÉ channels will be at the direct cost of jobs and investment across all Irish media.

Kevin Dawson, Head of Corporate Communications in RTÉ responded last night to TV3’s statement, calling it ”unfair” and saying: ”It gives no credit to the formal consultative process of evaluation which has led to today's Government decision.” The response from Mr Dawson states that all of the DTT investment thus far has been carried out at a cost of €50 million by RTÉ from its own resources. This will reach €70 million in 2011, according to RTÉ. ” While broadcasters in most European territories have received additional public funds to build national DTT infrastructure, RTÉ in Ireland has been required to build the infrastructure without aid,” Mr Dawson notes.

”This has been complied with by RTÉ as public policy and the infrastructure, to the benefit of RTÉ and TV3 and other Irish broadcasters, is close to being in place. There is, therefore contrary to the TV3 claims, no additional cost to the exchequer from the development of DTT.”

The document sent out by RTÉ further explores some of TV3’s other claims, noting that ”The claim regarding dominance of the licence fee ignores TV3's receipt to date of c.€8m in licence-payer's funds for programming within its commercial schedule,” and that, ”TV3's allowed commercial minutage has also been increased, uniquely within the Irish market.”

TG4 was unavailable to comment on any of the above proceedings. RTÉ are to launch a public information campaign in mid March to explain how the analogue switchover is to be orchestrated. The Minister’s recent decision and other documentation containing other broadcasting submissions received are available on the Department’s website, www.dcenr.gov.ie/Broadcasting

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