I thank the Minister for attending. When I raised this matter previously, he was not present to hear my contribution. I also thank the Cathaoirleach for finally allowing me to raise again the issue of television services. It was frustrating to be refused several times on the basis that the Department had stated the matter had nothing to do with the Minister, that it was one for RTE or another body. Tabling an Adjournment matter was the only way I could circumvent the system to chat with the Minister face to face. Therefore, I appreciate the fact that he is present. It is important that the Department recognises it has a responsibility to ensure there will be television reception at the end of the year on the Inishowen Peninsula, despite the Government's stated policy objective to achieve the closure of Ireland's analogue terrestrial television network by the fourth quarter of 2012.
Concerns are increasing in the north west on the part of those who know about the technological aspects of the transition. Some people do not receive RTE's channels, even though they pay the licence fee; a number receive the signal from the North, while others have a snowy picture on their television screen and have had to seek other solutions. Television coverage knows no borders and many of us have gained the benefits of two jurisdictions. I congratulate those involved on bringing the two sides together. While I am aware of the memorandum of mutual understanding between the two jurisdictions on the island on the transfer from an analogue to a digital service in order that RTE channels will be available to those who want them in the North, I am not convinced by what I have heard to date that there is the same concern for those living in County Donegal who cannot receive RTE's signal. Worse still, those who receive it do not know whether the service will be available after the switchover.
With regard to the work of the North-South Ministerial Council, has the Minister received assurances that the work taking place in the Northern stations will improve the position not only in the Six Counties but also in the nine counties of Ulster? The related issue is whether recent difficulties on the Inishowen Peninsula, in the outskirts of Letterkenny and Milford, in receiving the BBC, UTV and Channel 4 service will be helped or hindered in the switchover. Who is monitoring what is happening, as each side is blaming the other? I have raised specific questions with RTE about the platforms in Limavady. When I have tried to table the matter on the Adjournment in the House, I have been ruled out of order because it is not the Minister's responsibility. It seems no one is responsible for monitoring what is happening during the transition.
There will be a transfer of service. A number of people have spent a great deal of money on trying to find alternative solutions to ensure the preservation of all stations. We are ecumenical in the north, as we tend to watch RTE as well as UTV, and we want to maintain the capacity and facility to do this. We are seeing the demise of some stations, while we are not seeing the advent of the stations for which we are paying the licence fee in many parts of the county. It has been pointed out to me that the Moville television mast is to be closed while the radio mast will remain. The person who contacted me knows a little about technology. What will replace the television mast? If the digital platform was located in Limavady, which would mean upgrading the current analogue service, I would have fewer concerns, but the Minister's recent announcement that the platform would be located on Divis Mountain, Belfast, will do nothing for ensuring coverage in east Donegal. The Inishowen Peninsula in particular may be the loser in this scenario because there was an overspill into our area from the analogue station in Limavady. I assume it is being closed on the basis that analogue services are closing throughout Europe, including the North. If the masts in Moville and Limavady are turned off, from where will we receive a signal? We need this information. We are being promised SAORVIEW — a free service. Some licence fee payers have no or poor reception. People have bought televisions and equipment to overcome the current broadcasting challenges. They want to know how television channels will be delivered free to them. I am not convinced by what I have heard to date that there is a plan to cover every household that needs a signal.
Given that both digital and analogue television services are supposed to have been operating together since 31 October, this simulcast period must give technical experts, North and South, an idea of the experience of households. Are they making inquiries? Where stands the commitment to North-South co-ordination in the digital switchover public information campaign mentioned in October? Has it helped to minimise confusion in Border areas as the analogue switch-off date approaches? Where will the buck stop on the day the analogue service is turned off? This is an international, not just an Irish, event; therefore, it is vital at this time that the matter be taken in hand and people ask probing questions to elicit detailed answers.
Alas, as hard as I try to raise the matter in the House and maintain a focus on it, my few minutes here will yield nothing, unless there is a proper follow-up. While I again thank the Minister for attending, I ask him to demand these answers, as there is much uncertainty and it is unfair to allow it to continue. When I raised the issue previously in October, I was suffering from sunburn in Buncrana, while inside their homes people were looking at snowy television screens. We do not know whether the television — an important device in most households, rightly or wrongly — will simply be a box in the corner or a useful viewing platform in 2012. It will be a great loss in many houses. Others might argue it would be their greatest gain. I will leave the issue of the changeover from analogue to digital television in the capable hands of the Minister and ask for his help in the matter.