Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan has signed an agreement with the British government to ensure the continuing widespread availability of TG4 in Northern Ireland following the switchover from analogue to digital TV services, which is planned there for 2012.

The agreement commits the two governments to facilitating RTÉ services in Northern Ireland and BBC services in the Republic of Ireland on a free-to-air basis.

The minister said the agreement provided for an all-island approach to the development of digital television services in Ireland.

He said: ‘At a time when there's a lot of attention on North-South negotiations, it's important for people to be able to access culture, sports, news and know what's happening North and South.’

'Having the BBC available in the South gives us a clear link with what politicians in the North are doing.

‘Having TG4 and RTÉ available in the North is equally important so we have a common understanding on the island of what we have as a common culture.’

Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward said it underlined the British government's commitment to the development of the Irish language in Northern Ireland.