Newstalk and UCB Ireland Leave Satellite

Changes that have escaped my attention until I started using satellite TV myself, are the removal of two radio stations, Newstalk and UCB Ireland, from satellite transmissions. Both changes appear to have occurred this year (2021), with Newstalk leaving satellite on the 31st August.

This will impact on most on Sky viewers in both the UK and Ireland, where both services could be found on the Sky EPG. Both services were broadcast free-to-air, so could also be accessed via generic satellite receivers, including dedicated Freesat receivers in manual or non-Freesat mode. Both stations are aimed at Irish listeners and continue to be available on other platforms, including FM (Newstalk), and Saorview terrestrial TV (UCB Ireland) in Ireland. For satellite listeners seeking Irish radio, stations from RTE continue to be available.

Both changes are understood to be cost driven, although few if any public announcements appear to have been made. Unlike with analogue radio, where there is one clear platform that proves most popular (FM), digital radio has struggled to see a clear winner.

DAB in particular has seen mixed fortunes, with DAB seeing a lot of investment in the UK, but hasn’t seen widescale adoption in Ireland. After a brief foray into semi-national DAB, RTE closed the only national DAB multiplex in Ireland, with commercial broadcasts never commencing beyond a handful of trials. The UK, although seeing more investment, has seen a race to the bottom with DAB and the newer DAB+ format. Broadcasters have sacrificed bit rates to squeeze on an ever increasing number of stations. This has (broadly) widened choice, but at the expense of audio quality, to the point at which some stations become unlistenable.

Going back to Ireland, beyond on-line listening, it would appear that digital listening is struggling in the popularity contest, with neither satellite or DAB able to muster much interest.