Much consternation in out house recently over changes to our TV reception. Soon after Christmas we had to have our chimney removed for structural reasons. Great relief all round as it stopped a roof leak. And then the man came round to re-connect Sky – the dish had been attached to the chimney – and he couldn’t get a signal from anywhere else on the house. Too many trees in the area, apparently. We could ask for them to be cut down, he suggested. Hmmm, we thought. Sky reception but no trees? Not a good exchange.
So we investigated the alternatives. Cable had to be Virgin, formerly NTL. To our surprise, they didn’t include RTÉ channels in any of their packages. How about Freeview? No, they were UK channels only. Could we still get an analogue signal for the Southern channels? Yes, but we’d have to pay £100 or so for a separate aerial, which would only be available until the end of 2012, on top of the charge of more than £100 to get the Freeview stuff done. Apparently the Republic’s Saorview digital service is due to start this summer, but it was impossible to get any precise information. In particular, it’s wasn’t clear whether we’d need a second set top box and/ or second digital aerial.
At one stage, Nick was told we were entitled to RTÉ under the Good Friday Agreement. Surely that can’t be right? I thought. Surely the GFA, along with peace, love and integrated education, doesn’t give me the right to watch Fair City and The Panel?
I looked it up, and of course that wasn’t quite correct. Section 6 is called ‘Rights, Safeguards and Equality of Opportunity’. It contains a section on ‘Economic, Social and Cultural Issues’, which amongst other items addresses access to the Irish language, including the commitment of the British and Irish governments to ‘explore urgently with the relevant British authorities, and in co-operation with the Irish broadcasting authorities, the scope for achieving more widespread availability of Teilifis na Gaeilige in Northern Ireland’. That’s TG4 now. So Ros na Rún (subtitled) is nailed at any rate - not that it did us any good.
A further alternative was to get rid of the set altogether. We could watch online, listen to the radio, go to the cinema and read the newspapers. Being a ‘we don’t watch much TV’ kind of couple, it was nice for a few weeks to find out this was actually true, and feel smug. But then withdrawal symptoms set in. So we’ve just been reconnected to the UK channels via a Freeview box and intend to get the Southern digital service as soon as we can, and watch online until then.
Northern Ireland certainly isn’t as British as Finchley, but right now I have the same TV choices as my outer London counterparts and I don’t like it one bit. It’s good to have Newsnight back, though.