Some good news for TV viewers in Northern Ireland with the announcement that some Saorview channels are to be added to their terrestrial service called Freeview. RTE1, RTE2 & TG4 are the Saorview channels that will be added to their service. Freeview is the UK digital terrestrial TV service and is not to be confused with Saorview, which is the Republic of Ireland’s digital terrestrial TV service. Read more below.
RTE and TG4 channel numbers for Northern Ireland announced
Irish channels RTE1, RTE2 and TG4 will be added to the Freeview EPG on channels 51 to 53, according to an announcement made on Thursday.
The UK’s digital terrestrial platform manager DMOL today confirmed that RTE1, 2 and TG4 have obtained channel numbers on the UK’s Freeview EPG for viewers in Northern Ireland receiving the channels via Northern Irish transmitters following completion of the digital switchover on 24th October.
The Freeview EPG numbers do not apply to viewers receiving the RTE and TG4 service from Republic of Ireland-based Saorview transmitters.
The channel allocations follow a campaign by some viewers in Northern Ireland to secure Freeview channel 8 for TG4. However, DMOL decided that the soon to be licenced local TV service for Belfast should get the channel, in line with other future local TV channels over in England.
RTE channels and TG4 not available on all Freeview receivers
Channels 51 to 53 will only be available to viewers on the Freeview EPG if they have a Freeview HD compliant receiver. Although the channels will not be in high definition, the digital multiplex they will be transmitted on will use the DVB-T2 broadcast standard, previously only used for HD channels in the UK.
RTE1,2 and TG4 will be transmitted on the so-called “NIMux” digital multiplex, which will have transmitters on Black Mountain, Carnmoney Hill and Brougher Mountain.
Viewers with access to Saorview Irish Republic service
In addition, some viewers will receive RTE and TG4 from the Irish Republic’s Saorview service – the equivalant to Freeview in the UK. Around 60% of the Northern Irish population will be able to benefit from Saorview reception from 24th October. This will be possible as signals from south of the border are boosted northwards, so that more areas will be able to watch overspill reception from the Republic. However, services from Saorview will not be placed on channels 51-53 on Freeview receivers as they are classed as non-Freeview services. Non-Freeview (or channels not transmitted from a Northern Ireland-based transmitter) will be placed by most receivers in the 800s channel range. To receive Saorview on a Freeview receiver, the receiver must be able to decode MPEG4. All Freeview HD certified receivers have this capability.
Alternatively, viewers can hook up a Saorview box of their own from south of the border.
NIMux will compliment Saorview overspill coverage by providing RTE1, 2 and TG4 to the most populated areas outside of the overspill zone.
Will Saorview be available at my location?
Ofcom published a map earlier this summer, indicating where reception of Saorview would be likely and where reception of the NIMux would be possible. The map is available to download here
Coverage predictions for Saorview are available on the official Saorview website or by calling the Saorview helpline on 0844 8008 752 (if calling from within Northern Ireland).
RTE/TG4 sports coverage
Viewers able to receive the RTE service from Saorview transmitters will receive the full range of sports coverage carried on the RTE and TG4 channels.
Brian Geraghty from Saorview spoke to BBC Radio Ulster’s On Your Behalf on the 1st September, confirming that viewers receiving the Irish channels from Northern Ireland based transmitters via the “NIMux” would probably not get the full range of sports on RTE and TG4, due to “rights issues”. He stated that sports coverage would be subject to broadcasters “coming to an arrangement on rights issues and royalties”. As viewers receiving Saorview would be getting the “same signals” as viewers in the Republic of Ireland, there would be no variations for Northern Irish Saorview viewers.