A new transmitter in Divis in Belfast is currently allowing for free-to-air availability of TG4 in approximately 60% of Northern Irish homes. Furthermore, as part of the 2012 DTT switchover the Irish and UK governments will construct a low power TV multiplex in Northern Ireland will further increase the coverage of these channels to approximately 90% of homes in the north.
Construction has finished on the new transmitter in Divis in Belfast which, when combined with the analogue overspill signal from transmitters in Ireland, will allow for free-to-air availability of TG4 in approximately 60% of Northern Irish homes. The transmitter was constructed as part of the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998, where the UK Government undertook to introduce availability of the Irish language television station, TG4 in Northern Ireland.
In further news, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Irish and UK Governments in February 2010, committing them to work together on the technical arrangements for post-switchover provision of TG4. Following technical research work, the two Governments have now agreed that the most effective way to provide for the continuing provision of TG4 is by building a new, low power TV multiplex in Northern Ireland. In addition to carrying TG4, this multiplex, which will be part of the UK DTT system, will also carry RTÉ 1 and RTÉ 2. It is hoped that this will further increase the coverage of these channels in Northern Ireland, enabling approximately 90% of the population in Northern Ireland to receive their services on a free-to-air basis, either through overspill as before or via the new multiplex.
Other arrangements that need to be put in place include the establishment of a joint venture between RTÉ and TG4 to run the multiplex which will be licensed under the UK’s Wireless Telegraphy Act of 2006 by Ofcom at the request of the UK Government. This will be a not-for-profit company. In addition, the licensee will have to put out to competitive tender all the elements of the multiplex operation which are contestable and the multiplex will be operated on a not-for-profit and open book basis.
Digital UK, the organisation that is leading the digital switch-over in the UK, will be ensuring that viewers in Northern Ireland have all the necessary information to help them make the switch to digital and know what sort of equipment to buy if they want to receive these services.