7 December 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
UTV & BBC NI Team Up for Joint Co-Production for First Time Ever
10 Oct 2012 : By Eva Hall
Eamonn Holmes will present the duel broadcast
In what has been a week of firsts, with RTÉ and BBC seeking proposals under a new joint funding initiative, UTV and BBC Northern Ireland have announced they will jointly produce a one-off special for the first time to mark the digital switchover.

A first for Northern Irish television, the two broadcasters will co-produce an hour-long live entertainment programme from Belfast on October 23, which will celebrate the contribution Northern Ireland TV broadcasters have played in entertaining and informing the audience with memorable people and events.

Titled ‘The Magic Box’, the one-off special will air on BBC One NI and UTV simultaneously, with ‘This Morning’ presenter and Belfast-native Eamonn Holmes presenting.

Northern Ireland will make the big switch from analogue to digital at the same time as the rest of Ireland on October 24. Some viewers in Donegal whose TV satellite is powered through the Moville transmission in North Donegal face an earlier switch today (October 10).

The majority of the UK has already made the big switch, with both governments in Ireland and Northern Ireland agreeing to mark the occasion at the same time due to the overspill which already occurs in the two regions. The day will also mark the first time Northern Irish viewers will receive RTÉ and TG4 free of charge.

Speaking of ‘The Magic Box’ project, Peter Johnston, director of BBC NI, said: “Television remains an important part of everyday life. It reflects our triumphs and tragedies and brings us together for big community events. Some of what television can do now would have seemed impossible to its earliest pioneers.

“The small screen is still magical at its best and full of creative possibilities. Our joint programme with UTV is a celebration of our shared television and the beginning of a fully digital age. It’s a moment when we’ll be marking and making a little bit of television history.”

Johnston is also the man who first announced the joint funding initiative between RTÉ, BBC NI and BBC Scotland, which is currently underway as all three broadcasters seek proposals for an original idea to air in all three regions.

UTV’s managing director Michael Wilson said of the October 23 live show: “It’s the end of the analogue TV era across the UK this month, so along with our colleagues in BBC NI we wanted to mark the occasion with something a little special for our viewers.

“This is the first time ever we have jointly produced and transmitted a programme and it will be a real celebration of the best of TV from the past 60 years in Northern Ireland. The digital future offers even greater opportunities for content makers to promote our local culture and creativity.”

‘The Magic Box’ will air on BBC One NI and UTV on Tuesday October 23 at 10.35pm. Ireland and Northern Ireland will make the big switch on Wednesday October 24.

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