RTE's MULTI-CHANNEL THREAT
With RTE 2 about to begin broadcasting next year, anxieties are developing that the new transmission network will seriously interfere with the reception of British television stations in some parts of the country. Andcoinciding with the imminence of RTE 2, a new system of re-transmission now makes it economically possible to beam the British stations to Cork, Galway and Limerick.
THE MOST SERIOUS threats of interrference occur in the South East: Wicklow; Wexford and parts of Waterford, innvolving some 150,000 viewers. In these cases BBC and HTV are received from the Presely transmission station in Wales, which broadcasts on the same frequency as the new RTE station at Cairn Hill, Co. Longford.
Though Cairn Hill and Presely are equidistant from the Wexford area, Cairn Hill will be transmitting at eight times the power of Presely, which would normally mean the complete blotting out of BBC and HTV in that region. However, in the last few years, RTE engineers have been researching a new transmission refinement known as "precision offset", which, it is claimed, will avoid any interference with the reception of BBC and HTV. The BBC is co-operating with RTE in the venture and is attaching special refinement equipment at the Presely station.
There remains considerable doubt nonetheless that this system will work adequately and RTE itself remains susspiciously equivocal about the assurances they give on this score. Spokesmen repeatedly stress after expressions of confidence about the new system, that neither RTE nor the Post Office has any obligation to protect the reception of British services within the Republic.
There could also be problems in the Dublin area, where reception of the British channels could be affected by the new Ultra High Frequency (UHF) being built on Three Rock Mountain. RTE engineers have developed interrference repression filters to meet this problem, but again doubts remain about their workability and reliability. It seems however that the- cable TV companies will be able to make the necessary addjustments to the communal aerials and filters are being developed for private aerials, possibly costing between £5 and £10.
Just as RTE 2 seems set to come on the air, new techniques have been deeveloped which give rise to hopes that it may be economically feasible to beam the British stations to the south and west of the country.
At the height of the BBC l/RTE 2 controversy, there arose the suggestion that it might be possible to provide cable TV for Cork, Galway and Limerick. The then Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, Conor Cruise 0 'Brien, was favourably disposed, but the cost of re-transmission by micro-wave links to cable systems in the three centres was prohibitive.
A system devised by an Italian commpany involving receivers and boosters has now emerged and this is vastly less expensive than the micro-wave system. It by-passes the communal aerials of the cable companies and beams straight to individual aerials, hence the savings. Payments for the system would be extracted by transmitting signals from the intermediary transmitters in codeeform and charging a fee for the installlation of the system and if it proves successful in Cork, then Limerick and Galway would be certain to follow suit.
There are international legal problems involving copyright at issue and there would have to be a change in the Irish Broadcasting Act, but these problems are soluble, once the technicalities have been ironed out.
It seems certain however that RTE's hopes of winning back public favour with the broadcasting of a second channnel are none too assured, for technology is about to provide the broad mass of Irish viewers with a real choice in the near future and if there is any interrference with existing reception of the British channels by RTE 2, then there may be a real outrage.