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19/05/2008

Ireland Goes Digital As Broadcasting Bill Revealed

Ireland's planned new digital free-to-air film channel - the Irish Film Channel - has got final clearance to hit the airwaves,
The state-funded station - which will show Irish and World cinema around the clock - is to be up and running by the end of 2009.
Irish Communications Minister Eamon Ryan outlined on Thursday how the channel will add a new dimension to public service channels.
"This new Film Channel has been made possible by the advent of digital technology, which means that it is now possible to broadcast up to 10 times the number of digital channels over the same amount of spectrum currently required to carry a single analogue channel.
"This opens up many exciting new possibilities such as the Irish Film channel and Dail TV which will provide a much more comprehensive service to Irish viewers," Minister Ryan said.
The Irish Film channel, which is expected to be available to digital viewers by the end of next year, will air seven-days-a week and will broadcast three films a day, of Irish and international origin.
"It will provide viewers with access to a wide range of both home produced and international cinema, whilst at the same time providing a new avenue for our filmmakers to deliver their work to a wider audience.
"I am confident that by working in conjunction with the Irish Film Board, the service will be a valuable and important asset for the Irish audience," said the Minister.
Meanwhile, the Irish Broadcasting Bill itself - also just unveiled - will significantly change the broadcasting landscape in Ireland.
A detailed and comprehensive legislative proposal, the Bill seeks to deal with virtually all aspects of regulation and provision of broadcasting in Ireland.
The Bill also amends legislation regarding public service broadcasters and the allocation of public funding.
It modernises and revises the legislation relating to RTÉ and TG4 and sets up the framework for not just the newly launched Irish Film Channel, but for an Oireachtas channel as well.
The Bill represents a consolidation of almost 50 years of Irish broadcasting legislation and repeals key Acts that date from 1960.
Commenting on the new legislation earlier, Minister Ryan said: "This is a modernising Bill designed to meet the needs of Irish broadcasting as we enter a new era of media and regulation. In essence, the Bill aims to level the playing field of the broadcasting market in Ireland and place greater emphasis on the needs of viewers and listeners."
He said that the Bill was approved by Government following a wide-ranging and informed debate, much of which was carried out through the e-Consultation process and that it is the first such legislation to undergo such widespread consultation and rigorous scrutiny prior to its introduction.
"Such scrutiny and consultation will hopefully facilitate the more timely passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas," the Minister said.
The Bill provides for the establishment of a single content regulator, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, which will assume the roles currently held by the BCI and the BCC, as well as a range of new functions.
These new functions primarily relate to the oversight of public service broadcasters.
(BMcC)
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