Wednesday 13 December 2017

32,000 homes must fork out €240 or face a TV blackout

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

More than 32,000 homes face the prospect of having to install an expensive satellite system to receive television channels that they currently get for free.

Around 90,000 people living in network 'blackspots' will be left without a television signal when the analogue signal is switched off in October.

Most people will still be able to receive free RTE broadcasts via the new Saorview system, which will work via an aerial.

But tens of thousands of people will be unable to receive this signal because the new transmission network won't reach their homes.

Instead, they will have to shell out to install a pricey satellite system called Saorsat -- for a once-off payment of about €240.

Saorview will cover 98pc of the population -- which is similar to the numbers who receive analogue broadcasts. For Saorview, a set-top box will cost €60 to €100 but the more expensive Saorsat will be available for the other 2pc.

The worst affected blackspot areas are in Donegal, parts of Galway, Kerry, Cork, Waterford and Wicklow.

"It's basically down to topography, as areas that are mountainous won't always have a signal everywhere," said Saorview digital reception manager Brian Geraghty .

However, it was impossible to give a detailed breakdown of where the blackspots lie. In some cases, half a townland will be covered and another won't.

New transmitters are being rolled out all the time to extend coverage. Labour MEP Phil Prendergast criticised the higher costs for families forced to get a satellite system if they didn't want to face a blank screen after October 24.

"Saorsat is a huge expense for families at the current point in time, with Saorview's own estimation for this equipment being well in excess of €200," she said.

Rush

It is expected that installing the system will cost extra -- although it would be less for people who already had a satellite dish installed.

TV3 will also not be available on Saorsat for technical reasons, although it will be available in all Saorview homes receiving their signal via an aerial.

Around 100,000 people have now purchased the set-top boxes to receive free Saorview digital broadcasts.

This is split 50-50 between those who are using it exclusively, and those who just have it for a second TV in their home. Others can avail of digital television via subscription services such as Sky or UPC.

However, that still leaves 250,000 people who still need to switch from analogue -- including huge numbers of older, rural farmers, whom Saorview is trying to reach via community groups like Macra and the GAA.

Mary Curtis, head of digital switchover, said that while they were encouraging people to switch early, the experience in the UK was that the big rush would be three weeks before the analogue signal was switched off.

However, warning messages have recently been flashed on to analogue TV screens alerting viewers that "if you can see this message" you need to make the digital switch.

New Saorview-approved set-top boxes that also allow you to record programmes easily -- like the Sky or UPC boxes -- are also being tested to entice more customers.

Irish Independent

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