Written Answers. - UHF Signal.

Máirín Quill

Question:

136 Miss Quill asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the UHF signal being used to broadcast Teilifís na Gaeilge is causing major disruption to the reception of other channels in many parts of the country; the action, if any, he proposes to take to remedy this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24851/96]

I am not aware that the introduction of Teilifís na Gaeilge (TnaG) has caused disruption to the reception of RTE 1 or Network 2, or to the television programme services provided by licensed cable and MMDS operators. The Deputy, may, therefore, by referring either to difficulties with the direct reception of television services coming from the UK or even to the re-transmission of those services by unlicensed UHF deflector operators.

The Deputy will appreciate that my primary role in the area of interference prevention is to ensure the clear reception of the Irish national services. In so far as it did not conflict with this role, we have made every effort not to impinge on the direct reception of television services from the UK when assigning frequencies to national services. I must make it clear that off-air reception of UK services in Ireland is something that is purely fortuitous. The UK authorities do not plan for the reception of their services here; these signals are simply overspills which can be picked up. Up to recently, because only two of the four Irish services were in operation we have not had to draw on our entitlement to these frequencies, and we were able to plan things so that off-air reception of both sets of national services was possible.

I am aware that since the advent of TnaG, difficulties have been encountered in the direct reception of services from the UK in some areas. This is not surprising and is a result of the fact that, by and large, all the Irish and UK services are operating in the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band. The use of that band was never planned for the reception, in any one place, of all those services for the simple reason that there is not enough space available in it.
As new services, such as TnaG and the proposed TV3, are added, and the coverage and reception quality of the existing RTE services are improved, the UHF television band will become so congested that some interference to foreign stations will be unavoidable. The situation is being reached where the spectrum available to Ireland will increasingly have to be used for the development of the Irish national services.
Because unlicensed UHF deflector systems are similarly dependent on off-air reception of television signals from the UK, the priority given to our own national services will impact on these systems as well.