Claims by the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission that the "news that cable operator ntl: will carry the Irish language channel at position on its Belfast system from Thursday 25 January.... means that TG4 is now available on all television platforms in Northern Ireland" fall some way short of the truth. It is true that TG4 the Irish language TV service is now available via analogue terrestrial from the transmitters located along the Border, on the special TG4 analogue transmitter for the Belfast area at Divis and on satellite to Sky subscribers in Northern Ireland.
However a major omission in its roll-out (an integral part of the Belfast agreement) is the failure to make the channel on the digital terrestrial (Freeview) service.
Last year the Celtic League challenged the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on this issue and he confirmed that the service would not be available via this platform until 2012. (See Celtic News number 2058 SIX YEAR WAIT FOR TG4 DIGITAL SERVICE November 2006).
Despite the Belfast agreement Irish is very much the poor relation in the roll-out of digital terrestrial services in the UK. A full service in Welsh from S4C is carried on the digital terrestrial service in that country, with full coverage planned for 2009. Similarly in Scotland TeleG, the Scottish Gaelic service, is already available (albeit with a restricted schedule) on digital terrestrial.
There is no good reason why those areas of Northern Ireland already covered by digital terrestrial services could not also carry TG4. The UK broadcast regulator does have the authority to ensure a frequency is made available if the Northern Ireland Office honours its commitments under the Belfast agreement and ask for it! As things stand TG4 will be one of the last channels added to the British digital terrestrial TV service sometime late in 2012.
J B Moffatt Director of Information Celtic League