What Free to Air TV Channels Can I Get in Ireland?

Free TV Combo Receivers

What are Free to Air Channels?

What Free to Air means is channels that are broadcast unencrypted.   This means that you can view these channels without paying a monthly subscription or using a viewing card.   The reception of these free channels is totally legal.  The companies that broadcast these channels make their money from advertising, so the more people that can access their channel, the more they can charge advertisers.   Of course you still need a TV licence to view them but as far as monthly TV bills go, you will never get one if you have a Free to Air system.

How can I Get Free to Air TV?

There are currently two different ways that you can receive the Free to Air channels in Ireland.

  • Free to Air Satellite TV
  • Free to Air Digital Terrestrial TV (Saorview)
  • It is also possible to combine these two services using a combo receiver

Free to Air Satellite TV

At the moment, the most common by far method of receiving free to air satellite TV is from Astra 28.2e.   There are 100s of free satellite channels broadcast from Astra including the BBCs, ITVs and C4 range of channels among many others.   There is currently around 400 free channels you can pick up this way.   When you have finished a scan for these channels on your satellite receiver, you will find that they have all come in on the box in an unordered fashion and there will be duplicates. For our customers convenience, we give the option of having the box pre-programmed. In that way, you can have all the duplicates removed and the channel line up ordered in a more logical fashion.  There are a couple of drawbacks to Free to air satellite though.

  • EPG is only now and next
  • When channel frequencies change, the box does not automatically update
  • You will have to manually change the settings yourself (not a big job)


Free to Air Channels

Free to Air Channels Digital Terrestrial TV (Saorview)

In line with European regulations, we in Ireland, had to switch over to Digital TV in 2012.  What this meant is that the old analogue signal was turned off and anyone who had not got either a compatible set to box or compatible TV would not be able to get the new digital TV signal called Saorview.   There was a massive public information campaign on Saorview beginning in May 2011 to inform people of the impending swicth off of analogue and the full move to Digital Terrestrial TV.

Saorview is a huge improvement on the old analogue TV system. Not only does it improve the quality of TV reception, it also improved the coverage.   The Digital TV signal is so strong that the days of fuzzy or snowy TV picture is consigned to the history books.  Set top boxes or TVs that can receive the Saorview signal also have the advantage of a 7 day EPG also.  In the long term you will also be able to get all the irish Free to Air channels in HD (High Definition).   Currently as we write this, many of the Saorview channels are being broadcast in HD.  

Saorview increases the number of domestic Free to Air channels in Ireland from 4 to 10.  There is among others an addition of a dedicated childrens channel called RTEjr, a rolling news channel called RTE News Now and a +1 catch up Channel for RTE One. UTV Ireland was also added to the Saoview channel list in 2015. There are also a wide range of Radio channels being added to the Saorview service including all of your favourite RTE Radio channels and other RTE broadcast channels that are available on the Irish DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) network.

There are also other advantages like Digital Telextext (TV or Receiver must have Mheg5 Middleware installed). Digital Teletext is a giant leap forward from the old type of teletext.  Apart from the fact that the signal is stronger and you won't get missing text, pages or nothing at all due to poor reception, it also has the advantage of allowing interactive services also.   How these are to be utilised, we will have to wait and see but the possibilities are exciting.

What Channels are on Saorview?

Saorview Channels

The full list of TV channels currently on Saorview include the following...

Saorview TV Channels

  • RTÉ One
  • RTÉ Two HD
  • TV3
  • TG4
  • RTÉ News Now
  • 3e
  • RTÉjr
  • RTÉ One + 1
  • UTV Ireland
  • RTÉ Digital Aertel

Saorview Radio Channels

  • RTÉ Radio 1
  • RTÉ 2fm
  • RTÉ lyric fm
  • RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta
  • RTÉ Choice
  • RTÉ Pulse
  • RTÉ 2XM
  • RTÉ Gold
  • RTÉ Chill
  • RTÉJnr
  • Radio 1 Extra

There are currently no immediate plans for any pay TV services on Saorview.   This is probably going to be true in the medium to long term due to the current economic state Ireland's finds itself in.


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