Locals angry at costs of digital TV roll-out

The problem of patchy television reception across West Cork was debated at a public meeting last night.

The roll-out of RTÉ’s Saorview digital television service this autumn will leave thousands of residents in broadcast blackspots.

Residents face charges of up to €350 to install satellite dishes to receive RTÉ in their homes via Saorsat. An additional cost of €250 per room applies. But viewers will not receive TV3 or TG4 — channels that have never been available to residents of blackspot areas.

Timoleague, Rosscarbery, Reenascreena, Leap, Union Hall and Ballydehob are among the worst affected regions.

Locals believe the cost of installation is unfair while a large number of satellite dishes will be an eyesore, according to Pat O’Callaghan, Leap Community Council spokesman.

“Many of our residents are elderly, the additional cost of installing the satellite is prohibitive and unfair. The satellite dishes required to receive the signal measure 1m in height. People don’t want these big fandangles attached to their homes, they will be an eyesore and may even breach planning regulations,” he said.

Residents have the option to avail of Sky packages that deliver RTE and TV3 broadcasts at a cost of €30 per month. The cost incurred to potential viewers is discriminatory, according to local TD Jim Daly (FG).

A review of the situation by RTÉ is under way and will be completed in July.

“I don’t see why people should have to pay for a British company to provide signals for our national stations,” he said.

A former teacher in Leap, Mr Daly recalled asking students to write an essay on the advent of TV3.

The request was met with confusion. “It was a case of TV3 how are you? RTÉ had only just arrived in the village,” he said.

A mast erected at Myross to serve the locality attracted objections from as far away as Dublin and Mayo. Its decommissioning is a waste of public resources, Mr O’Callaghan claimed.

“This is just another example of an EU directive that is totally out of touch with rural communities.”

Terrestrial signals from Saorview need a line of sight and cannot transmit through mountainous areas and valleys. Regions affected make up 2% of the population and include parts of West Cork, Kerry and Connemara. Up to 15,000 homes nationwide have signed up to Saorview.

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