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The Saorview FAQ: What it does, How to get it & How much it costs

Saorview's Tommy and P.J
Saorview's Tommy and P.J. Credit:RTÉNL
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Saorview, RTÉ’s free-to-air digital TV service launched in Ireland at the end of May. And over the past number of months readers have been asking us about it, so here are the most common Saorview questions and their answers.

Saorview's Tommy and P.J
Saorview's Tommy and P.J. Credit:RTÉNL

When did Saorview launch.
Saorview officially started broadcasting on May 26 2011, although tests have been going on for some time in certain areas.

What is Saorview?
Saorview isn’t itself a channel but the name of RTÉ’s system of broadcasting digital TV for reception through a standard household TV aerial.

When is the analogue TV signal being turned off?
Irish and UK authorities announced that the analogue signals for both RTÉ and BBC will be turned off on October 24 2012 on the island of Ireland.  After this viewers will only be able to receive digital TV, Saorview or Freeview, in the British Isles.

How do I get Saorview?
To receive Saorview you need a standard TV aerial (which your home probably already has).  You will also need either

  • A digital TV with a Saorview compatible internal digital decoder, or,
  • A digital decoder box (similar to a Sky box)

What channels does Saorview broadcast?
Saorview broadcasts eight digital TV stations; RTÉ One, RTÉ Two HD, TV3, TG4, RTÉ News Now, 3e, RTÉjr and RTÉ One + 1; ten digital radio stations, RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ 2fm, RTÉ lyric fm, RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, RTÉ 2 XM, RTÉ Choice, RTÉ Junior / Chill, RTÉ Gold, RTÉ Pulse, RTÉ Radio 1 Extra, .  It also broadcasts a digital version of Aertel teletext and an on-screen programme guide.

Will I be able to receive English/British channels on Saorview?
No, Saorview only broadcasts Irish stations. Viewers in the border region and along the South-Eastern coast may be able to pick up Freeview directly.

These is some confusion as to whether RTÉ and BBC DTT will be available across the island.  The British and Irish governments have signed an agreement allowing for mutual broadcasting of RTÉ and BBC channels across the Island of Ireland.  According to the agreement, which is due to come into force in 2012, BBC 1 and BBC 2 Northern Ireland will be broadcast in the South and RTÉ 1, RTÉ 2 and TG4 in the North.

However, there are suggestions that BBC will be part of a paid DTT service in the Republic.

According to the Saorsat website,

“A joint UK and Irish Government project is currently examining the possibility of allowing the existing RTÉ and TG4 television services to be carried on part of the UK’s FREEVIEW (Digital Terrestrial Television) platform after analogue switch-off. The objective is to see if it will be possible to complement SAORVIEW overspill into Northern Ireland with some Northern Ireland-based transmitters and thereby expand the availability of these services to more than 90% of the population in Northern Ireland on a Free-To-Air basis.”

The Freeview websites says that RTÉ will be available on their service in Northern Ireland

Digital terrestrial television launched in the Republic of Ireland on 29 October 2010 under the name ‘Saorview’. Northern Irish homes near the border may be able to receive Irish digital services from the Irish transmitters. Visit www.saorview.ie for more information.

The UK and Ireland Governments have confirmed that TG4, RTÉ 1 and RTÉ 2 will be made available on digital terrestrial television to much of Northern Ireland. See here for more information. Digital UK will provide advice on the coverage of these services, and guidance on what equipment to buy, as plans are developed.

What new channels does Saorview broadcast?

Apart from the regular analogue stations Saorview broadcasts RTÉ 2 HD (this replaces RTÉ 2), RTÉ News Now, 3e (TV3’s sister station), RTÉjr and RTÉ One + 1.

I have more than one TV at home; will I be able to receive Saorview on all of these?
You will if you have a digital decoder for each TV or all your TVs are Saorview ready.

How much do digital decoders cost?
Digital decoders can cost between €80 and €100.

I cannot afford to buy a new digital TV or digital decoder box, will I stop receiving TV?
The government is looking into subsidising digital decoders for people who cannot afford a digital decoder, are on the dole or receiving social welfare payments.  The analogue signal will be shut down in 2012 you will still receive Irish TV until then.

What type of digital decoder should I buy?
You should buy a digital decoder which has been is compatible with Saorview: look out for the Saorview compatible sticker on the box.  If you are not sure that a digital decoder will work with Saorview ask in store.

I am thinking of upgrading my TV, what should I look out for when buying a new digital TV?
First, make sure the new TV is HD ready, and then check to see if it is compatible with Saorview – to do this look out for the Saorview sticker on the box.

My TV/digital decoder is compatible with Freeview; will I be able to watch Saorview channels?
It depends on how old your Freeview TV or digital decoder is.  As Saorview is using a different digital system than (MPEG4 via DVB-T) Freeview you may not be able to receive Saorview channels.  According to some reports Saorview compatible boxes will be able to pick up Saorview SD and HD signals, Freeview SD signals but not Freeview HD transmissions with will use DVB-T2.

Sony announced this year that all its new TVs will be Saorview compatible

I have a digital TV/digital decoder but I cannot receive Saorview, what’s wrong?
There could be a number of problems.  In order of difficulty these are;

  1. You may need to retune your television to receive the channels,
  2. You may have an incompatible Freeview TV or set-top  decoder; in which case you will need to buy a Saorview decoder,
  3. You may need a new aerial,
  4. You may be in the 2% of the country that cannot receive a Saorview signal: If this is so RTÉ you will need to purchase a Saorsat, which will be rolling soon

What is Saorsat?
Saorsat is a free-to-air digital satellite system which RTÉ is rolling out to before the 2012 analogue switch off.  It will allow remote or low coverage areas to receive the full set of digital Saorview channels.  There will not be a monthly subscriptions but you will need to invest in a free-to-air satellite (for about €70 to €150).

Will sports/football/GAA be broadcast in HD?
Yes RTÉ 2 will be broadcast in HD on Saorview so any recent sports events, such as the upcoming 2012 Olympics, will be broadcast in HD.  Older or smaller sporting events will be recorded in SD and upscaled to HD on broadcast.

Where can I get more information?
If you have another question about Saorview then ask us on Twitter @thesociable or leave us a comment below.  You can get more information on the Saorview website and on Saorview’s Twitter.

3 Comments

  1. I just bought a Toshiba TV which was advertised as having built-in Freeview and Saorview. Do I hook it up to the same connection I used on my old (non-digital) TV?  So far, I’m not able to get any channels.

  2. I just bought a Toshiba TV which was advertised as having built-in Freeview and Saorview. Do I hook it up to the same connection I used on my old (non-digital) TV?  So far, I’m not able to get any channels.

  3. I just bought a Toshiba TV which was advertised as having built-in Freeview and Saorview. Do I hook it up to the same connection I used on my old (non-digital) TV?  So far, I’m not able to get any channels.

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Piers Dillon Scott
Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).