Saturday, January 3, 2015

In the News: UTV Ireland Launches

For the last few weeks, we've been seeing billboard advertising for a new television network, UTV Ireland. It was to be launched with the new year -- replacing the old UTV on satellite subscribers' channel lists.

The new network would be a strange hybrid of old UTV (UK-based) programming combined with homegrown Republic of Ireland content. New soaps (somehow still hanging on here in the British Isles), new talk shows, and a new nightly newscast (featuring Chris Donahue, our favorite morning radio talk host on NewsTalk Breakfast).

Not that this will make any difference to us at home, understand. We do not own (and have no plans to own) a television here in Ireland, because we are tightwad tax dodgers. A number of European countries charge yearly taxes to homes with televisions to fund government-run television (and sometimes radio) broadcasters. In the UK, television licenses (a word used to avoid the terrible t-word) fund the BBC. In Ireland, RTE.

We have been inspected for a television twice since moving to Ireland. TV license dodgers receive stiff penalties if the post office (the TV license collectors) catches an unregistered home watching Father Ted reruns. Having just recently made a trip to the TV license office to sign an affidavit affirming my lack of television set, maybe we are off the hook -- for a while.

As it happened, the launch went off without a hitch, with a quick introduction followed by an hour of the British show Emmerdale.

And that's when things got fun. UTV hired an Irish media ringer, Pat Kenny, to be its mascot and frontman. Kenny had a long career with the government-run RTE before his contract cost outpaced the cash-strapped public institution, and he was released into the private sector. Like Chris Donahue, he now has a radio talk show on NewsTalk and his face on UTV.

On the night of the premiere, UTV was scheduled to be airing an all-new documentary about... Ireland, and the greatness thereof. Images of Irish scenery and interviews with Irish celebrities like musician Hozier (who?) and the parents of one of the stars of Love/Hate (what?) would all be hosted and narrated by Pat Kenny.

Hilariously, the old UTV had scheduled a screening of The Dark Knight -- the popular Batman movie from a few years ago -- at the same time. The Kenny documentary preempted the Christopher Nolan classic, and Irish fans took to Twitter to show their displeasure. Check out some of the embedded tweets on the article for a good laugh.

It is nice to see the homegrown Irish media market growing. Twitter-complaining aside, I would guess that most of the country is happy to see Ireland just a little bit less reliant on the UK (and Hollywood) for entertainment and programming. If only the TV license wasn't so stiff, I might just have tried to tune in.

Good luck on the new venture, Mr. Donahue, Mr. Kenny, and the rest of UTV Ireland!


  1. What, you don't know Hozier??? You're joking right??? One of the best Irish musicians at the moment...Anyway, I don't watch too much TV, and we've dodged the TV licence for 6 years before finally getting scared... Best of luck to UTV Ireland, I don't think there will be anything spectacular to watch though...

    1. Guess I only listen to old people music from the 1990s... :(
      Glad you dodged the TV police for 6 years!

  2. The license is for just having the TV set or its for having cable and the like?

    1. Just for owning the set, whether you have cable or not. The RTE broadcasts over the air, so anyone with a set could tune in even without cable.


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