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Irish TV will cost most viewers extra

This week's digital switchover means that everyone in Northern Ireland will now have access to the Republic's main television channels for the first time.

The service will, however, come at a cost to most people.

Prior to the analogue switch-off, a large number of viewers here could receive the likes of RTE and TV3 free, thanks to the overspill signal from south of the border.

Now that Northern Ireland has gone fully digital, viewers can still receive those channels — but only if they invest in a high definition (HD) Freeview box or Freeview HD television, which costs more than the standard equipment.

An HD set-top box will cost around £40 and most modern TV sets are ‘HD ready’ so there should be no further expense. If you don’t already have one, you can pick up a Freeview HD television for under £200 if you shop around.

“If you have a Freeview HD box or Freeview HD TV you will get the Irish channels one way or another,” said Brian Geraghty, RTE's digital reception manager.

Bringing the Republic’s television channels into every home in Northern Ireland came as the result of an agreement between the Irish and UK governments.

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Meanwhile, a scheme to assist the elderly with the switchover to digital television has run out of HD set-top boxes after being inundated with requests.

“The Switchover Help Scheme is sorry many customers in Northern Ireland are waiting for installations,” a spokeswoman said. “New supplies of the Freeview HD box arrive in the next two weeks and people with existing orders will get them shortly.”

SDLP culture spokeswoman Karen McKevitt said: “These miscalculations mean some people have to wait weeks, even months, to have Freeview boxes installed.”


If you live in one of the areas able to receive RTE1, RTE2 and TG4 for the first time, you don’t need another aerial as these are broadcast on Freeview. These channels are also carried on satellite (Sky) and cable (Virgin).

TV3 is not available on Freeview but via overspill (Saorview) from the Republic.

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