As Britain grants a first commercial digital terrestrial television licence, allowing the broadcast of dozens of new channels to viewers, what will the future hold for Ireland and RTÉ?

This new development in terrestrial TV puts growing pressure on Ireland to also adopt digital technology. 

Digital broadcasting allows the possibility of hundreds of new channels by compressing signals into digital form which take up only a fraction of the waveband space used by traditional television.

The new service also offers consistent picture and sound quality. 

Technical Director at RTÉ Peter Brannigan talks about the challenges that the new technology brings in terms of the explosion in competition for traditional television channels. However, Brannigan is optimistic about the opportunities that digital technology will bring to the television industry. 

In the future RTÉ can get involved in all these new technologies and opportunities.

The technology can offer as many as fifty new channels through the use of a set-top box, which will retail from between £50 and £200. 

The system under threat from the new technology is the Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS), which will have difficulty competing with the ease of access and distribution of digital transmissions.

"However the change to digital will not be sudden. The pace and development and its extent will be dictated ultimately by the consumer."

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 24 June 1997. The reporter is Colm Connolly.