Dáil Éireann - Volume 675 - 17 February, 2009

Written Answers. - Broadcasting Services.

Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to rectify the omission which has resulted in the Irish in England being the only national grouping without the benefit of access to a country of origin television channel, despite numerous promises to restore a previous facility which was discontinued some years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5899/09]

  Deputy Eamon Ryan: Up to 2001 a private subscription channel, Tara Television provided a means for the Irish community in parts of Britain to access some of RTE’s programming. This was not an RTÉ service but a private company in which RTÉ contributed its programming as a means of investment in this commercial venture. Unfortunately Tara Television did not manage to attract sufficient subscribers and ceased to broadcast in 2001.

Subsequently the Report on the Task Force on Emigration recommended the public service remits of RTÉ and TG4 be amended to allow for the provision and public funding of broadcasting services to Irish communities in England.

Section 3(1)(b) of the Broadcasting Act 2007 requires RTÉ to establish and maintain a television broadcasting service and a sound broadcasting service, which services shall be made available, insofar as the RTÉ Authority considers reasonably practicable, to Irish communities outside of the island of Ireland.

Section 14 of the 2007 Act amends section 28(8) of the 2001 Act to allow RTÉ to use public funds drawn from television licence fee income for the purposes of providing the new television service. Section 14 also amends subsection (10) of section 28 to require the RTÉ Authority to report to the Minister on its use of public funding for such a purpose.

[252] RTÉ fulfils its obligation under section 3 of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Act 2007 in a variety of ways and using a variety of broadcast platforms.

In relation to television RTÉ has focussed on internet access to certain programming and is considering an i-player service in the future.

RTÉ has also been planning to launch a television service on the UK Freesat platform. This international television service is expected to show Irish TV programming for which they own the copyright. RTÉ has indicated that it has contracted with Freesat for space on the platform. However, they have advised me that as a result of the rapidly worsening economic conditions and falling advertising revenue, they will need to postpone the launch of this service.