UTV Ireland set up in the Dublin docklands in 2014, marking a bold foray into the Republic’s television market by its Belfast parent. However, despite its award-winning news output, the move came unstuck when the cost of launching escalated and the station failed to build local scheduling around its exclusive rights to Coronation Street.
TV3 said yesterday it had started consultations with staff but that of the 61 permanent staff at UTV Ireland “it has 40 open vacancies, many of which it is hoped will be filled by current UTV Ireland staff”. The broadcaster said it will continue to have three channels — TV3, 3e, as well as a rebranded UTV Ireland.
TV3 will likely start closing the UTV Ireland docklands facilities when it has completed the industrial relations process with staff, early in the new year. The news comes as TV3 completes the regulatory approvals for the acquisition. There has been a dramatic change in the ownership of the commercial television broadcasters across Ireland, involving both TV3 and UTV, in the last two years.
TV3 was itself bought by global communications giant Liberty Global, controlled by John Malone, the Irish-American billionaire owner of cable company Virgin Media, formerly called UPC. Liberty Global is listed on the stock market and is worth over €26bn. It unveiled the acquisition of UTV Ireland from its new owner ITV earlier this year.
ITV had acquired and held onto the Belfast-based television assets of UTV, while UTV’s former radio stations in the UK and Ireland were sold this summer to News Corp. TV3’s three channels mean it now has three soaps, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and its own Red Rock drama on its screens.
The completion of the UTV Ireland purchase will also strengthen competition for RTÉ, which under its new director general Dee Forbes, is seeking to cut costs at its Donnybrook base.
The UTV Ireland acquisition “strengthens independent television broadcasting in Ireland by bringing together great channels and great content under the one roof,” TV3 managing director Pat Kiely, said.
“The combined TV3 Group business is now better equipped to compete against significant local and international broadcasters.
“We can now also play an increasingly bigger role in the development of Irish originated production and broadcasting,” he said.