Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Statement on Commercial DTT Multiplex Licensing Process

Thursday, August 5th, 2010 
Broadcasting Authority of Ireland logo

At its most recent meeting, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (“BAI”) gave further detailed consideration to the prospects for commercial DTT in Ireland. It reiterated its disappointment that, having discharged its responsibilities under the 2009 Act, the outcome was that none of the three applicants had been able to bring matters to a satisfactory conclusion. It also decided that it would not be practicable to re-activate a commercial DTT multiplex licensing process in the immediate future.

In making this decision, the Authority took a number of factors into account, including;

  • The prioritisation by the Government of the introduction of the Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) multiplex in the final quarter of 2010;
  • The prevailing economic circumstances which had impacted on the proposed introduction of commercial DTT following the award of the original commercial DTT licenses in 2008;
  • The outcome of a review and de-briefing exercise which it had undertaken with the consortia who took part in the first process. All three highlighted the economic circumstances and two made particular reference to the role of RTÉNL as the main contributing factors to the failure to achieve a successful outcome.

It is the considered view of the Authority that as part of the preparation for the successful launch of commercial DTT in the future, legislative change will be necessary to enable the Authority to have formal relationships with the applicants, as obtains at present, and with RTÉNL. This would enable it to engage formally with the provider of transmission services and to exercise or to invoke a statutory mediation process in the event of disagreement on the terms of the transmission arrangements between RTÉNL and any future successful applicant. The Authority will discuss this further with the Department.

The Authority now considers that it will not be feasible to introduce commercial DTT as originally intended until after Analogue Switch Off (ASO) at the earliest. The position will be reviewed towards the end of 2011 and the Authority may seek expressions of interest in the provision of commercial DTT at that point. A competition could potentially be held during 2012 with a view to commercial DTT being operational in 2013.

The Authority recognises the importance of a successful transition from Analogue to Digital transmission. It appreciates, also, the significance of the introduction of the PSB multiplex as the first step in this process. It welcomes the steps now being taken in this regard and will work closely with the Minister, the Department and other agencies to ensure that the interests of broadcasters and audiences are best served now and in the future.

The broadening of choice for viewers and the development of new sources of Irish originated content continue to be important priorities in the development of DTT in Ireland. The Authority will discuss with the Minister ways in which those objectives can most effectively be met within the context of the proposed PSB multiplex, pending the development of further commercial DTT possibilities.