RTÉ updates Oireachtas committee on DTT

Thursday 15 July 2010 14.17
DTT - Analogue TV switch-off planned for December 2012
DTT - Analogue TV switch-off planned for December 2012

RTÉ's Chief Financial Officer has told an Oireachtas committee that RTÉ has spent €40m putting the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) infrastructure in place.

Conor Hayes was speaking at the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

RTÉ and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland appeared at the committee.

Watch the hearing

Mr Hayes told the committee that RTÉ wants to make two complementary digital systems - DTT and satellite - available to replace the analogue service.

Households without satellite or cable television services will have to upgrade to DTT. Set-top boxes will cost up to €100.

Mr Hayes said RTÉ is working against the clock to achieve analogue TV switch-off, which is planned for 31 December, 2012.

He said that by October of this year, RTÉ would have a national TV free-to-air multiplex operational, which would be capable of being received by approximately 94.5% of the population.

Mr Hayes said that it is planned that 97.2% of the population will be covered by the second quarter of 2011.

He said RTÉ would reach the statutory requirement to have coverage for 98% of the population by the fourth quarter of 2012.

Mr Hayes said the total spend on the project will be €70m for the two multiplex platforms. Originally, it had planned for six multiplex platforms.

The head of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, Bob Collins, told the committee that DTT has been a clear objective of public policy but that it has not proceeded with the pace that had been envisaged when it was first discussed over a decade ago.

Mr Collins said Ireland cannot be a 'digital-free zone', and that 'this State has to be part of the process of the transition from analogue to digital so that the potential of the technology can be realised in the interests of citizens and to viewers and listeners to television and radio services'.

Three groups - Boxer, OneVision, and EasyTV - applied to the broadcasting authority for the DTT commercial licence but subsequently withdrew their interest.

Mr Collins said there was 'no formal docking mechanism between the authority and RTÉ NL'.

RTÉ Networks Limited (RTÉ NL) is one of six integrated business divisions within RTÉ. Part of RTÉ NL's remit is the distribution of DTT.

Labour Party TD Liz McManus said the situation is very disappointing.

Ms McManus said she was 'very struck at the fact that, for example - we don't have the exact figures - but the reports are that Sky is taking about €500m out of this country, and that is something we have to take extremely seriously'.

Ms McManus said she had no 'clear sense that there is a project, that it is managed, and that when we want to call, who do we call'.

She added 'there needs to be some kind of forum, some kind of CEO, to ensure that what's going to affect a million people, possibly more, that it needs to be driven in a way that people have confidence in it'.

Fine Gael's Michael Darcy described the project as an information black hole.

However, Mr Hayes said there would be a formal structure within a few months. He said this was the case because the project is only in the pre-planning phase.

The hearing has adjourned.

For more on information on DTT click here