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02/02/2010

Irish Broadcasting 'To Be Protected'

Irish language broadcasting in Northern Ireland received a boost this week as the Irish and UK governments agreed details of a framework for continuing co-operation on broadcasting issues on the island of Ireland.

The Memorandum of Understanding - which is aimed at ensuring a smooth transition to digital switchover and the switch-off of analogue services in Northern Ireland and Ireland - was signed by the UK's Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Ben Bradshaw and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan.

It commits the two governments to facilitating the widespread availability of RTÉ services in Northern Ireland and BBC services in Ireland on a free-to-air basis.

It will also ensure the continuing widespread availability of the Irish language channel TG4 in Northern Ireland following the digital switchover.

Shaun Woodward, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said: "The Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement recognised the importance of the unique cultural and linguistic diversities that exist on the island of Ireland.

"The Government remains committed to the full implementation of the Agreements, and will support the Executive, in any way it can, in the development and implementation of its Irish Language strategy.
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"Broadcasting has a key role to play in the continuing development of minority languages," he continued, noting that he was "delighted to see the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding".

Ben Bradshaw, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "This is an important step towards ensuring that switchover goes smoothly on both sides of the border, and that BBC services will continue to be available in Ireland and Irish services continue to be available in Northern Ireland."

Communications Minister Eamon Ryan agreed: "This agreement is the culmination of a very successful period of co-operation on broadcasting issues and its benefits will be manifold.

"The Agreement will also help the delivery of broader economic and social benefits which are to be gained by all our citizens from the release of digital dividend spectrum following the closure of the analogue TV services."

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin commented: "The Irish Government is acutely aware of the huge cultural importance of RTÉ and TG4 for so many people in all parts of Northern Ireland.

"We are very pleased that today’s agreement will help facilitate their enjoyment of Irish television services long into the future.

"The Irish Government is committed to assisting the development of the Irish language in Northern Ireland and the implementation of outstanding commitments made in the St Andrews Agreement, including an Irish Language Act.

"We look forward to early agreement on an Irish language strategy," he concluded.

(BMcC/GK)

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