Rob Brown's Column

Tomorrow is St Patrick's Day and, for once, you won't have to be within range of an RTE transmitter to view the parade in Dublin commemorating Ireland's patron saint. You can watch it anywhere in the world, if you are wired to the Internet and possess a decent modem.

The Irish Times is justifiably proud of making the first "Webcast"; transmission of Paddy's Parade from Irish capital. But the technology manager of its Internet service has been careful to warn techies that they can only expect to receive broadcast quality pictures if they have a fast Internet connection. If their modem is slow, the images will be somewhat jerky. Even those with a fast connection will hear only the background noise. There will be no running commentary.

Still, this pioneering initiative by Ireland's most prestigious newspaper powerfully demonstrates how the traditional barriers between the print and electronic media are being smashed by the communications revolution. In the digital age, broadcasters are now facing something which they were shielded from by Spectrum scarcity on the old analogue system - real competition.

The people running RTE, Ireland's public broadcasting service, Radio Telefis Eireann, would claim that they have been facing an onslaught for some considerable time. Ireland entered the multi channel era long before Britain, a high number of households in Dublin and Cork were cabled when the first satellite dishes were just starting to sprout on breeze blocks in Birmingham.

BSkyB cottoned on to this some time back and has always taken the Southern Irish market seriously. Live coverage of Premier League football has proven a powerful battering ram into those households whose inhabitants are more passionate about Manchester United than a United Ireland.

RTE has managed to withstand this extra terrestrial invasion by gripping on to the rights for live coverage of sporting events which involve the Irish in international competition. At least it has up to now. Sky has secured exclusive live rights to the forthcoming England/Ireland rugby match at Twickenham. RTE will have to make do with deferred coverage after the game ends.

This is an unprecedented set back not just for the public broadcaster but for Irish rugby fans, who could rely on live coverage of Ireland's Five Nations Championship games for the last 30 years on plain old terrestrial TV. The only people who will benefit from this move are Rupert Murdoch and landlords of Irish pubs and clubs which possess satellite TV.

Alas, there seems little prospect of St Patrick returning before 4 April to banish the sneaks of BSkyB from the island. RTE will also have to learn to deal with the emergence of another serpent in what used to be its broadcast Eden.

From the autumn, it will face direct domestic competition from a new terrestrial outfit called TV3. This venture has taken years to get off the ground but it is now powerfully backed by CanWest Global, a fast merging media empire which can call upon vast reserves to mount a major challenge to RTE, as it has already to dominate broadcasters in Australia and New Zealand.

It's impact has already been felt in Ireland. RTE's bosses are bracing themselves to shell out pounds 4m extra to acquire programmes this year as it faces competition for transmission rights from a rival domestic bidder. Good news for the sellers of Australian soaps and the hawkers of Hollywood movies, but a grim development for RTE's own programme makers, who will inevitably have their budget squeezed

RTE's director general Bob Collins knows that he and his management team are in for a difficult time. As he showed in a recent conference hosted by the Voice of the Viewers and Listeners in London, Collins is an eloquent advocate of the continued need for public service broadcasters committed to National communities as opposed to global media conglomerates bent only on expanding their own bottom line.

But even he would have to acknowledge that RTE could be doing with some more competition in its own back yard. Monopoly is never healthy in any creative sphere. Producers, presenters and other performing artists should certainly welcome an alternative source of employment in the shape of TV3.

The late great Dermot Morgan could have done with that. Long before he shot to fame in this country as Father Ted, he had to endure a torturous relationship with RTE. Since his tragic and untimely death a few weeks ago, controversy has raged in the Irish press about whether or not his satirical show Scrap Saturday was scrapped for political reasons. RTE maintains that it was wound up only because Morgan was demanding too much money to make another series.

Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that Dermot Morgan would have been in a far stronger bargaining position had he been able to take his act to another rival broadcaster down the road. Instead, he had to take the immigrant boat to Britain to realise fully his comedic talents.

Competition is already proving a strong creative spur. RTE has already revamped one of its two channels Network 2 to appeal to a younger audience in anticipation of TV3.

But the battle between Ireland's three networks is likely to centre around far from glamorous factual programmes, game shows and the odd domestic soap. Both outfits will find it hard to muster resources to make sitcoms on a par with Channel 4's Father Ted or big budget dramas like the BBC's Ballykissangle. Although the digital revolution does promise to drive down production cost and thereby improve the economics of broadcasting for small countries, even the digital dividend won't totally end Irish Television's traditional dependence of the Brits.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Business Development and Analytics - TV

competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...

Head of ad sales international - Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king or Queen o...

Business Development Manager Content/Subscriptions

£50k + commission: Savvy Media Ltd: Great opportunity to work for a team that ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?