RTÉ details new DTT proposals

Ireland’s public broadcaster RTÉ has given details of its plans for DTT including high definition channels and a Freesat-style service to reach the 2% outside the reach of terrestrial coverage.

RTÉ says it expects to spend €70 million on providing a free-to-air digital service to 1.6 million homes around the country. DTT plans have been scaled back from the €150 million figure anticipated when a single RTÉ multiplex was to have sat alongside a five multiplex commercial service. Successive commercial operators that included Boxer, Eircom and Liberty Global backed away from running the commercial multiplexes.

The new two-multiplex system will cover 98% of the population with satellite being used as a gap fill to the remaining 2%. RTE is already available via Sky Digital to viewers in the Republic. In a hearing of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, RTE executive Conor Hayes said the €1.5 million annual cost of the satellite scheme would enable the whole country to receive national television services for the first time.

To date RTE has spent €40 million on the DTT project, building a 51 site network. The public broadcaster is currently negotiating a loan of between €30 and €35 million to make up the shortfall.

The first multiplex, broadcasting in MPEG-4/DVB-T, would carry RTÉ 1, RTÉ 2, TV3 and sister channel 3e, TG4, and RTÉ News. A seventh channel would timeslice RTÉ Children, Euronews and RTÉ+1. The second multiplex would include high definition versions of the principal broadcast channels, a parliamentary channel (Oireachtas) and a film channel, however the latter two still require funding.