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Broadcasting Services

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 28 June 2012

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Ceisteanna (143, 144, 145)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

147 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will delay the changeover to SAORSTAT from analogue (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31402/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

148 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason SAORSTAT has no engineers operating on the ground to assist persons to make the changeover and give technical advice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31403/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

149 Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if households are going to be left without television service and have no alternative but to buy Sky, if his Department will pay for the unnecessary burden and cost on these householders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31404/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 to 149, inclusive, together.

As I made clear on 21st June at the special digital switchover briefing session to which all Oireachtas members were invited, the date of analogue switch off will not be changed. On Wednesday, October 24th this year, 118 days from now, the analogue system will cease to operate. The Broadcasting Act 2009 requires RTÉ to provide digital coverage to the same extent as analogue coverage, which stands at 98%. SAORVIEW offers 98% population coverage so by itself fully meets RTÉ's legislative obligations for a replacement national digital TV network to replace the analogue TV network when it switches off on 24 October.

The development and provision of SAORSAT satellite platform is a purely commercial decision by RTÉ and not one in which I have a function. RTÉ has introduced SAORSAT to provide a free to air TV service to the 2% of the population who cannot receive SAORVIEW. With the launch of SAORSAT, Ireland has 100% coverage of RTÉ and TG4 for the first time in the history of the State and everyone can chose to migrate to a free to air Digital TV service either through SAORVIEW or SAORSAT. In these circumstances there is no compulsion to acquire a pay TV option in order to access the free-to-air channels.

Representatives from SAORVIEW attended the special digital switchover briefing session on June 21st for Oireachtas members. At this briefing session practical and technical information on SAORSAT and SAORVIEW was provided. According to SAORVIEW, equipment for both SAORVIEW and SAORSAT is readily available throughout Ireland. SAORVIEW highlight that over 400 retailers nationwide stock SAORVIEW approved equipment. SAORVIEW TV equipment costs from €50 whilst the SAORSAT set top box costs around €180. More and cheaper SAORSAT equipment is anticipated including a SAORSAT TV set.

While SAORVIEW provides the digital network, it is up to individual households to arrange for installation of the required equipment and SAORVIEW recommend households use the services of a local reputable installer. Information on SAORSAT, approved SAORSAT equipment, technical specification and information on professional installation is also available on the SAORVIEW website,www.saorview.ie and also on the RTÉ Networks Limited (RTÉNL) website, www.rtenl.ie. The SAORVIEW helpline is also available to assist people.

In relation to local information, I have been informed by SAORVIEW that they have organised a number of regional information events for the public and also for installers. In addition, my Department has put in place an extensive and comprehensive national information campaign to ensure that everyone is fully aware of the move to digital TV. I have also signed an agreement with national voluntary organisation, the Wheel, to operate a nationwide community outreach digital switchover programme (Outreach Programme). The aim of the Outreach Programme is to ensure vulnerable people receive one-to-one help in making the switch to digital and that everybody is made aware of the switchover so that no TV viewers are left without a TV service once the national analogue TV service switches off on October 24th 2012.

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