On 7 January 2014, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) published the findings of a review undertaken regarding the future prospects for the licensing of commercial Digital Terrestrial Television further to Section 131(4) of the Broadcasting Act. An analysis of current market conditions was undertaken by Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates, on behalf of the BAI, together with the consideration of potential business models for commercial DTT including a free service, a pay service and a service operated as part of a triple play bundle.There was also a consultation process with broadcasters and other interested parties.
After careful consideration of the issues involved, the BAI has decided not to proceed with a licensing process for commercial DTT at this time and has communicated this decision to the Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte.
The BAI agreed with the report findings, which suggested that the market conditions for launching commercial DTT services have not improved and remain very challenging since the last unsuccessful licensing process was undertaken in 2008 when all of the original applicants withdrew from commercial discussions over the course of 2009/2010. In the meantime, however, consolidation of the TV market occurred at the time of digital switch over on 24 October 2012, when the old TV network was replaced by a free-to-air DTT service ‘Saorview’, operated by the public service broadcaster RTÉ.
The Authority has informed the Minister for Communications that it does not believe any statutory purpose would be achieved by embarking on a course of action in respect of commercial DTT, the most likely outcome of which would be negative. Whatever assistance regulatory intervention might offer, it would be unlikely that any intervention would sufficiently improve the revenue and costs associated with any of the business models examined to generate commercial interest in the DTT licences.