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RTE admits digital TV launch delay

IT's been widely whispered for months, but the director general of RTE has now publicly admitted that launching Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) in September is no longer a "reasonable" prospect.

When the consortium originally charged with rolling out the commercial arm of DTT walked away from the project in April, sources close to Communications Minister Eamon Ryan insisted the development would have no impact on RTE's plans to launch public service DTT in September. The position baffled many, who couldn't see how a new digital platform that had just the four public service stations could be a viable proposition for RTE, or for the consumer who'd have little enticement to switch.

At a briefing last week, RTE boss Cathal Goan confirmed it was his view that the new commercial player and RTE should "all jump together" into the new television frontier.

They won't be jumping in September. "[We aimed for September] in anticipation that whoever won [the commercial contract] was going to go live in September as well," he said. "Clearly that didn't happen.

"It wouldn't be reasonable to assume you could have both public service DTT and commercial DTT up and running in September."

At the same briefing, Mr Goan also confirmed that RTE's continued €300,000 annual investment in DAB digital radio was a "live question" being considered as part of cost cuts designed to combat a predicted €68m shortfall in the national broadcaster's 2009 revenue.

But he added that DAB's support would be viewed in light of the expense of establishing the platform, and the benefit to the public of the four extra radio stations that are available through DAB in the Greater Dublin area, the North East Coast and Cork and Limerick cities, as well as online and on NTL and Chorus Digital.