Northern Ireland

RTÉ insists northern viewers cannot legally enter competitions even though Stormont department disagrees

Prime time programmes including The Late Late Show previously offered a Northern Ireland number as an option for phone-in competitions. Picture by RTÉ
Prime time programmes including The Late Late Show previously offered a Northern Ireland number as an option for phone-in competitions. Picture by RTÉ Prime time programmes including The Late Late Show previously offered a Northern Ireland number as an option for phone-in competitions. Picture by RTÉ

A Stormont department has said RTE is wrong to claim that the law prevents people in the north from entering the national broadcaster's competitions.

Prime time programmes including The Late Late Show previously offered a Northern Ireland number as an option for phone-in competitions.

However, viewers in the north have not been allowed to enter RTÉ radio, TV and online competitions since 2019.

The competitions were restricted to residents in the Republic following a review, citing legal advice.

GAA fans were left furious earlier this month when 'Saturday GAA Live' offered a prize of a weekend package for two in a luxury hotel and €500 cash. The question was which county are the All Ireland football champions. However, the small print confirmed that viewers in Tyrone and the other five northern counties could not enter.

In 2019, prior to the restoration of power-sharing in January last year, officials at the Department for Communities said prize competitions must involve a "substantial degree of skill" rather than uncomplicated or easy answers.

However, a spokesman for the department has now told The Irish News it does not believe the 1985 order prevents anyone in the north from entering competitions.

"While the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (NI) Order, 1985 prohibits the conduct of any prize competition in which success does not depend to a substantial degree on the exercise of skill, this only applies to competitions promoted within this jurisdiction," he said.

"The Department is of the view that there is nothing in the 1985 Order which would prevent an individual from the north entering any competition promoted in another jurisdiction.

"The entry rules for prize competitions promoted by RTÉ are a matter for RTÉ."

In a statement to The Irish News, RTÉ said: "It is, and remains RTÉ's view, having taken legal advice, that taking premium phone line entries from Northern Ireland for premium phone competitions, such as those on The Late Late Show, could be in breach of the Northern Ireland regulations as set out in The Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (NI) Order, 1985."

SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty he was regularly contacted by constituents about the issue and also sporting events being blocked for northern viewers.

"RTÉ is our national broadcaster and they have an obligation to the whole island," he said.

"I will also be writing to RTÉ seeking a meeting in an attempt to seek their steer on how to resolve this issue for viewers once and for all.

"Many people across the north rely on RTÉ for news, sport and entertainment and it’s not right they should feel excluded in any way."