Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

RTÉ Television

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Statutory corporation

1 June 1960


RTÉ Television

Donnybrook, Dublin, Ireland

Area served
Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland Worldwide(via internet)

Key people
Glen Killane (managing director of Television)

RTÉ Television is a department of Ireland's national broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ). The first channel to broadcast was Telefís Éireann which began broadcasting on 31 December 1961. Since the 1960s, RTÉ Television has rapidly changed to include further television channels and provide television services with the latest digital technologies.



  • RTÉ One HD (launched in 1961 as Telefís Éireann then RTÉ from 1966, on 16 December 2013 launched HD service)
  • RTÉ2 HD (launched in 1978, known from 1988 to 2004 as Network 2, HD in October 2011)
  • RTÉ News Now (launched 12 June 2008)
  • RTÉjr (launched on 27 May 2011)
  • RTÉ One +1 (launched 27 May 2011)
  • Proposed Channels

  • RTÉ2 +1
  • RTÉ Ireland
  • RTÉ Arts & Culture (IPTV only)
  • RTÉ Comedy (IPTV only)
  • RTÉ Sport (IPTV only)
  • RTÉ Lifestyle (IPTV only)
  • RTÉ Young Adults (IPTV only)
  • RTÉ Education (IPTV only)
  • RTÉ Business (IPTV only)
  • Suggested forthcoming channels

  • Republic of Ireland
  • With the launch of digital terrestrial television in the Republic of Ireland, Saorview will give RTÉ the opportunity to offer viewers greater choice. In the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland RTÉ aspire to provide viewers with additional channels which will include a high-definition channel RTÉ Two HD, RTÉ Plus, a combined offering of RTÉ's children's services which includes RTÉjr and TRTÉ and RTÉ Aertel Digital which will include an enhanced digital teletext service. Existing services include RTÉ One, RTÉ Two and RTÉ News Now.

  • Northern Ireland
  • It has been announced that both RTÉ and Irish language public broadcaster TG4 will launch a digital multiplex on Freeview in Northern Ireland. The multiplex has gained approval from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and Ofcom where both authorities concluding that it would not interfere with competition regulations within the territory. The multiplex will be based in the Republic of Ireland and will be available to over 90% of homes in Northern Ireland from digital switchover day on 24 October 2012, and will be operated by Multiplex Broadcasting Services N.I. Limited a joint venture between RTÉ and TG4.

  • Worldwide
  • RTÉ International has been put forward for the last number of years. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Recourses would like to see the roll out of this service in the near future however RTÉ's main area of International Broadcast has been to provide their services via their website and RTÉ player.

  • Initial Plans
  • It was initially proposed that RTÉ Three would be part of the forthcoming services as details of this channels were provided to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) with RTÉ NL's application for the commercial DTT Muxes with UPC Ireland under the name EasyTV.


    In terms of radio, Ireland was one of the first countries in Europe to embrace this medium of communication, but was a relative late comer to television. Unlike its European counterparts the Government of Ireland did not utilise the medium of television until 1961. Countries such as the United Kingdom (1922), France (1935) and Italy (1954) embraced television before Ireland. Prior to the launch of the Republic of Ireland's national broadcaster RTÉ, television services were available though limited from Northern Ireland through BBC Northern Ireland and UTV. However, the Irish government considered television to be a luxury, and refused to allow Radio Éireann to set up a television service for several years.

    In the late 1950s, a Television Committee was formed; their goal was to set up an Irish television service with as little financial commitment from Dublin as possible. It initially recommended setting up a service along the lines of ITV, plus five mountain tops as transmission sites, which were also equipped for FM radio transmission. However, since Éamon de Valera was somewhat wary of television, nothing more of consequence was done until Seán Lemass succeeded him as Taoiseach in 1959. A year later, Radio Éireann was converted from an arm of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs into a semi-state body and given responsibility for television. Eamonn Andrews was appointed as the new chairman.

    Telefís Éireann began broadcasting at 19:00 on New Year's Eve, 1961. (It was originally supposed to go on the air on Christmas of that year, but Andrews gave the 'Radio Éireann' staff time off for Christmas.) The opening address by President de Valera described the benefits and disadvantages of the new medium; he went on to say that 'Like atomic energy, it can be used for incalculable good, but it can also do irreparable harm.' There were other messages from Cardinal d'Alton and Lemass; following this, a live concert was broadcast from the Gresham Hotel in Dublin. The show, which was a countdown to the New Year, was hosted by Andrews, with appearances by Patrick O'Hagan, the Artane Boys' Band and Michael O'Hehir.

    Television opened up a completely new world to the Irish people. Topics which were hitherto not discussed in Ireland, such as abortion, contraception and various other controversial topics, were now being openly discussed in television studios; The Late Late Show, which began in July 1962 and continues to run on RTÉ One. Its original host, Gay Byrne, pioneered many of these discussions, and has been credited with being a major influence in the changing social structure of Ireland.

    RTÉ was the first broadcaster to have public System I 625-line transmissions in 1962, two years before the launch of BBC Two in that format. The broadcaster made its first official colour transmissions in 1969 – although a mistake in standards conversion may have transmitted the 1968 Wimbledon Men's Finals in colour. The first programme made in colour by RTÉ was the documentary special "John Hume's Derry", under the 7 Days banner. Since 1969 RTÉ could transmit programmes made in colour which were imported from UK & US which were shown on RTÉ Television. The next phase was outside-broadcasts in colour, and the first was Ireland's hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest 1971 & Railway Cup Finals 1971, the first of many such productions by RTÉ. The first studios at RTÉ's headquarters in Donnybrook went into colour in 1972. This was followed by the news studios in 1974. All of RTÉ's studios at Donnybrook, Dublin were equipped for colour broadcasts by 1976. The last studio in RTÉ to go into colour was Studio 1 the then-home of Ireland's flagship talkshow The Late Late Show.

    In 1977, a new government came to power, and as one of its many promises, the government quickly authorised a second channel to be run by RTÉ. RTÉ 2's remit was to provide alternative television. As a consequence, the original RTÉ 2 schedule had many live relays of British programmes; however, there was also some original RTÉ 2 programming. The new television channel went on the air on 2 November 1978, and the opening night featured a gala variety show from the Cork Opera House.

    In 1987, RTÉ 2 was renamed Network 2, with the revamp intended to revive flagging viewership ratings, with many preferring to watch BBC Northern Ireland or UTV, both accessible within much of the Republic. All sports coverage was transferred to the newly renamed channel, along with all children's programmes. The few Irish-language programmes provided by RTÉ were now broadcast on Network 2, although RTÉ One now also broadcasts Irish-language programmes.

    On 15 April 1989, Network 2's Sports Stadium aired live coverage of the English FA Cup semi-final tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough and the unfolding disaster as the pens in the terraces became overcrowded and fans began to spill onto the pitch. 96 people died as a result of their injuries in the tragedy.

    In 1992, RTÉ became a shareholder in Euronews. The 24-hour pan-European news channel operated by members of the European Broadcasting Union.

    Although Irish language programmes, such as news bulletins (Nuacht) and the long-running documentary series Léargas ('insight'), have been an integral part of the schedule, a new Irish-language TV service, Teilifís na Gaeilge (now TG4), began broadcasting in 1996.

    Ahead of the 50th anniversary of RTÉ Television, John Bowman wrote a history of RTÉ Television called Window and Mirror. RTÉ Television: 1961–2011, which was launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the National Museum in Dublin on 23 November 2011. TV50 was launched by RTÉ on 26 December 2011. In December 2011 RTÉ launched TV50, which will celebrate 50 years of Irish life on television throughout 2012, beginning on 1 January 2012.


    RTÉ's main studio complex is the Television Centre at Donnybrook in Dublin, the only other production studios being in Cork. RTÉ Cork, opened in 1995 and became a huge success, it is also a large contributor to network output on both radio and television. There are also a number of news studios around the country the largest of which is in Belfast.


    The following figures were issued by RTÉ as part of their Annual report 2012.

  • includes digital radio services
  • Scheduling

    RTÉ television provides 5 scheduling strands. RTÉ One is aimed at a mainstream audience and is the main broadcaster for News, Current Affairs and Original Drama. RTÉ2 provides the majority of entertainment, comedy, children's programming and sports. RTÉ One +1 airs from 7pm and is timeshift service to RTÉ One's main schedule, it timeshares with RTÉjr, which begins at 7am each morning with programming aimed at pre-school children. RTÉ News Now provides rotating news broadcasts of the main news programmes airing on RTÉ One.

    2012/2013 season

    On 8 August 2012 RTÉ Television confirmed its 2012/2013 autumn-winter schedule. The new season of programming will see the return of critically acclaimed Irish drama series' Love/Hate for a third season and Raw for its fifth season with the addition of the newly co-produced Irish drama The Fall starring Gillian Anderson. Regulars such as The Late Late Show, The Frontline and The Saturday Night Show will return from September. It will also be the first broadcaster in Europe to air the new seasons of critically acclaimed US series which include The Good Wife, Homeland, CSI Las Vegas, CSI New York and New Girl. The new RTÉ television season features 114 new and returning home-produced programmes including popular hits such as the Voice of Ireland, Operation Transformation and Celebrity Bainisteoir. RTÉ Television also confirmed new programming for its digital channels.

    2015/2016 season

    RTÉ Television will reveal their 2015/2016 Season in August 2015.

    Returning Series

  • the Voice of Ireland (RTÉ One)
  • The Late Late Show (RTÉ One)
  • Saturday Night Show with Ray D'Arcy (RTÉ One)
  • Gotham (RTÉ2)
  • New Girl (RTÉ2)
  • Availability outside the state

    Northern Ireland

  • RTÉ One and RTÉ Two are also available in most parts of Northern Ireland via terrestrial overspill from Saorview (Irish DTT) or on cable (coverage and inclusion on cable systems varies). Since 18 April 2005 the channels have also been available via satellite on Sky Digital, although these are encrypted and anyone wishing to view the channels needs to obtain a Sky subscription (they are part of the Variety Mix under the new pricing system, or the Family Pack in the pre-2005 system). In addition, some sports programmes are blocked to NI viewers due to rights issues which conflict with the UK. Since 24 October 2012 RTÉ One and RTÉ Two have been available from some transmitters within Northern Ireland on the UK Freeview DTT service.
  • Great Britain

  • Unlike its radio stations, RTÉ's television channels are not available to Sky subscribers in Great Britain. The television channels are not available due to the cost of television rights. However, between 1997 and 2002, under a joined agreement between RTÉ and Liberty Global they operated Tara TV. This channel mainly targeted audiences within the United Kingdom carrying RTÉ One and RTÉ Two programmes. The channel ceased broadcasting in 2002 due to a payment dispute. While both the Irish government and RTÉ have expressed an interest in launching a similar service to Tara, no serious attempt has been made to establish one. In the meantime, a thriving grey market in Irish-registered Sky Digital receivers means that Irish people in Britain and much of Europe are able to watch RTÉ and the other Irish channels, provided they import an Irish-registered Sky Digital box. The West of Wales is currently able to receive RTÉ television via Saorview (DTT) overspill from the Republic.
  • International

  • In January 2007, RTÉ announced plans to launch a channel, with the working title of RTÉ International, which would offer programmes from RTÉ One and Two as well as TG4. It would be initially available in Britain, before expanding into the rest of Europe, North America and Australia. The Irish government, while supporting the initiative by proposing new legislation, stated that no extra funds would be available, leading to a deadlock where RTÉ will not provide the service until extra funds are made available, despite there being a legal requirement for RTÉ to provide such a service.
  • In the meantime, all RTÉ news and current affairs programmes, as well as specials like the St. Patrick's Day parade and Easter mass, started to stream live free around the world on 17 March 2007 at http://www.rte.ie/live/. RTÉ have since launched an international versions of the RTÉ player which provides access to RTÉ News Now as a live stream and access to made of their Irish programmes.

    From the outset, RTÉ had faced competition from key European broadcasters, particularly the United Kingdom's BBC. RTÉ's approach was pragmatic, as it introduced cable television in the 1970s, initially known as RTÉ Relays, and subsequently (following mergers with other companies) as Cablelink, although it later sold its stake in the company, to NTL Ireland which has now become UPC Ireland. In the 1990s, further competition came from satellite television, especially from Sky. UK terrestrial TV channels are now commonly available throughout the Republic of Ireland, but the number of channels received varies depending on the region. Despite this availability, RTÉ still manages to achieve over 40% of the total TV audience for all channels.

    Online content

    From March 2007, content from RTÉ One (and its sister network RTÉ Two) has been available online on RTÉ.ie. In May 2009, RTÉ launched RTÉ player which is an on demand catch-up service.


    RTÉ introduced digital on-screen graphics for both RTÉ One and RTÉ Two in 2004 a move which has proven somewhat controversial despite TV3 using them from the outset and TG4 since 1999. In late 2004, RTÉ produced the third series of the talent show 'You're a Star' in widescreen (i.e. the aspect ratio of 16:9). This was RTÉ's first official 16:9 production but the programme wasn't actually available to viewers in 16:9 format even on digital platforms. Instead, it was broadcast like all other 16:9 programmes in the 14:9 'letterbox' aspect ratio. It was not until March 2005 that RTÉ One and RTÉ Two began broadcasting some programmes in true 16:9 format on digital platforms. This was followed by a complete switchover to 16:9 output on both television channels in May 2005 with the exception of a few programmes. This did not require a make-over of the on-screen identity of the two channels because all of the idents and other presentation output had already been created in 16:9 (as far back as September 2003 for RTÉ One and October 2004 for RTÉ Two) in anticipation of such a switchover. RTÉ's news bulletins (and the rest of the news and current affairs programming) were not broadcast in 16:9 until 28 August 2006 when RTÉ's news output was given a new look.

    RTÉ is to re-position its branding for both RTÉ One and RTÉ2 in early 2015.

    RTÉ television genres

    Since 2003, RTÉ has branded its television programmes under a number of different genres. Each genre operates broadly under a Commissioning Editor, except for RTÉ News and Current Affairs which are separately structured and controlled. The genres are;

  • RTÉ Arts – producing cultural shows and documentaries.
  • RTÉ Diversity – producing programming which promotes intercultural dialogue, Irish language and people with disabilities.
  • RTÉ Religious – producing religious programming.
  • RTÉ Drama – producing soap operas and other drama series and shows.
  • RTÉ Education – producing educational programming aimed at both children and adults.
  • RTÉ Entertainment – producing chatshows, comedy shows and reality shows..
  • RTÉ Factual – producing present-day documentaries, nature documentaries and scientific programming.
  • RTÉ History – producing historical documentaries.
  • RTÉ Music – producing shows on all types of music, including Classical, traditional Irish and pop/rock.
  • RTÉ News and Current Affairs – producing all of RTÉ's news and current affairs programming.
  • RTÉ Sport – covering both Irish and international sporting events.
  • RTÉ Young People's Programming – producing shows for children and teenagers.
  • References

    RTÉ Television Wikipedia

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