RTE is preparing to take on the big guns of the BBC and ITV in the annual battle for TV viewers over the Christmas holiday. Station boss Joe Mulholland declared: ``Whatever competition is out there, this organisation is ready to compete with anyone.''Launching RTE's Christmas schedule, he claimed that the national station would have more network movie premieres over the holiday than ``the BBC and ITV combined, with all their power and money.''
He revealed that RTE 1 will stay on the air for 24 hours for the first time ever on Christmas Day and St Stephen's Day.
Highlight of the Christmas night schedule will be Boyzone's show The Boyz Are Back, said Mr Mulholland who is managing director of television.
The Irish pop group will be featured in unfamiliar roles, including interviewing other stars, skiing, piloting a jet plane and motor-racing as well as performing.
The show, which will also includes guests such as Dustin the Turkey, Brian Kennedy and Leo Sayer, goes out on Christmas night on RTE 1 at 8.20pm. Before the show, there is a special one-hour edition of Fair City.
The big movie on Christmas night at 9.40pm is Speed, starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper. This is followed by Riverdance Live at Radio City which captures the hit show at the famous New York venue.
Over the Christmas fortnight, major movies on RTE will include Forrest Gump; The River Wild; The War of the Buttons; Die Hard 2; Wyatt Earp; Batman Returns; The Sun, The Moon and The Stars; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Jurassic Park; The Client and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.
Earlier on Christmas day on RTE 1, there will be festive fun with Ray Darcy and Dustin the Turkey and the gang at The Den. Other Christmas Day movies on the channel include the much-loved Disney fantasy, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Home Alone II - Lost in New York and the classic Marilyn Monroe movie Some Like It Hot.
On Network 2, Den TV will be in session from 7am on Christmas morning, followed later by another movie classic The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. A major documentary Marilyn Monroe: Say Goodbye to the President will also be screened.
A special comedy night on Network 2 will feature Porridge; Friends; Blackadder's Christmas Carol; One Foot in the Grave; Yes, Minister; Suddenly Susan; Are You Being Served and the movie Police Academy.
St Stephen's Day will see the final episode in the Upwardly Mobile series while the two big movies on RTE 1 are Jurassic Park at 7pm and Four Weddings and a Funeral at 10.05pm.
Night owls can keep going into the small hours with Trading Places, Coma and Earthquake. Earlier in the day the musical Oliver! will be screened.
Network 2 will have more early-morning cartoon fun for children along with Dave Fanning's music show 2TV and traditional St Stephen's Day racing from Leopardstown. There will be a second comedy special that night along with the movie Policy Academy II.
Christmas Eve on RTE 1 features the movies Dumb and Dumber, The Towering Inferno and Good King Wenceslas while The Colour of Money is the big movie over on Network 2. There will also be a series of music specials over the Christmas holiday on both channels as well as the usual religious services.