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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 31 October, 2014

‘UTV Ireland’ promises serious news and current affairs output alongside diet of UK soaps

The media company has announced plans to go head to head with RTÉ and TV3 as it launches a new Dublin-based TV station.

A scene from 'Coronation Street'
A scene from 'Coronation Street'
Image: ITV/Screengrab

THE NEW TV channel that could be offered to Irish viewers at the start of 2015 won’t just be relying on ITV staples like ‘Coronation Street’, ‘Emmerdale’ and ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’ — at least according to the submission handed into the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland by UTV Media.

The company announced this morning that it plans to have a new station on the air within the next 18 months. The move follows the signing of an agreement giving UTV exclusive Irish broadcasting rights for ITV Studios programmes, including the above-mentioned soaps and a raft of entertainment shows like ‘I’m a Celebrity…’, yesterday.

The development is likely to have set alarm bells ringing in TV3: the ITV shows are currently staples of the Ballymount broadcaster’s schedule – the station even flew Jeremy Kyle over to help launch their new season of shows earlier this year.

In its submission to the BAI, the company says it’s applying to set-up “a television service, web and mobile platform” that will also offer video on demand.

It says the TV service  - to be known simply as ‘UTV’ will have a “similar style” to UTV’s Northern Ireland station, but will be “a completely separate” channel.

One of the anchors of the proposed new channel will be a “one hour, peak-time news, current affairs and community programme similar to UTV Live Tonight” which runs from Monday to Thursday evenings.

According to the submission, the station will develop original documentary programming as it grows, launching shows similar to ‘Lesser Spotted Ulster’ and ‘Hidden Heritage’.

The company has announced plans to create 100 jobs as part of the new venture — with a likely 70/30 between Dublin and the rest of the country. About 50 per cent of those jobs will be on the editorial side.

Announcing details of the plans at a press conference this afternoon, UTV Managing Director Michael Wilson confirmed the company would be looking to set up additional office space in the Docklands/Point Village area.

UTV currently occupies two floors of a building on Mayor Street, where its two Dublin stations Q102 and FM104 are based.

The media firm runs six radio stations in the Republic of Ireland, including Cork’s 96FM/C103, the Drogheda-based LMFM and Live 95FM in Limerick, alongside the two Dublin services. Wilson said there is “no intention to change the model of the stations”, adding that radio journalists will work with the new station to generate news content.

Its UK stations include TalkSport, which is the country’s number one commercial speech broadcaster.

Wilson would not be drawn on earlier reports that UTV had considered a takeover of TV3 but cited the station as a new rival.

“We will be going head to head with RTÉ and TV3,” he told reporters.

The BAI application process is expected to take about three months. Although an exact figure was not given, the move is a multi-million-euro investment and the executives today said they had “faith in the Irish economy”.

Additional reporting, Sinéad O’Carroll.

Read: UTV plans to launch new Dublin-based TV station

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