Northern Ireland news

RTÉ head of sport says broadcaster does not stop people in the north watching gaelic games

Northern viewers were left despondent after being left unable to watch a live RTÉ broadcast of the All-Ireland qualifier between Armagh and Roscommon
John Monaghan

RTÉ is a "32-county broadcaster" and "do not stop people in the north watching gaelic games", its new head of sport has said.

However, Declan McBennett also re-iterated that problems whereby northern viewers cannot access RTÉ because of IP (internet protocol) addresses defaulting to locations in England are not his responsibility.

RTÉ and TG4 programmes are often 'geo-blocked' for northern web users whose devices are incorrectly linked to England.

Mr McBennett has recently taken over from Ryle Nugent, who left RTÉ in June after 24 years.

Last weekend RTÉ said it dealt with "dozens" of complaints from frustrated GAA fans across the north who were left unable to watch a live broadcast of the All-Ireland qualifier between Armagh and Roscommon.

The match, which was screened online via the RTÉ News Now channel, was unavailable on the RTÉ Player.

In an interview with Gaelic Life newspaper published this week, Mr McBennett said RTÉ gets "a lot of criticism", of which he claimed 10 per cent is "perfectly legitimate".

"We didn't draw up the rights agreement. If you have a UK ISP address then it's going to be blocked to you because that's what technology does," he said.

"I want as many people as possible in the 32 counties to see as much gaelic games as possible.

"I understand their frustration, I share their frustration. The issue, however, is not RTÉ geo-blocking, the issue is your internet service provider recognising you as being from a particular jurisdiction."

Asked whether RTÉ has the power to lift restrictions on GAA content, Mr McBennett replied: "No, because the UK rights are held by Sky and we have to operate within the terms of the contract."

Mr McBennett, who is from Co Monaghan but now lives in Armagh, said that GAA coverage could only be increased through a combination of contracts and technology.

"We are the national broadcaster and the national broadcaster, to our minds, is 32 counties.

"We have to work towards finding a contractual situation...and then a technology solution which allows us to get as much gaelic games coverage to as many people as possible across the island," he added.

In 2015, a briefing report from Ofcom, the communications regulator, was provided to members of the assembly's enterprise, trade and investment committee, which was exploring the possibility of seeking a separate IP address for the north.

The Ofcom report said this would be "inefficient and costly" and queried whether such a service would always be accurate.

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