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RTÉ criticised for policy change that cuts off Northern Ireland from TV competitions

RTÉ said that it changed its policy to comply with regulations in Northern Ireland.

Image: Leah Farrell

RTÉ HAS BEEN criticised for changing its policy on premium rate competitions, resulting in people in Northern Ireland being unable to participate. 

The national broadcaster changed its policy in January after an internal review showed that it would be in breach of Northern Irish regulations should it continue to allow people in the North to enter the competitions. 

The policy will prevent Northern Irish audiences from entering competitions by phone or text where a ‘premium rate entry cost’ is incurred. Competitions include those featured on The Late Late Show, The Ray D’Arcy Show, and RTÉ One. 

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Assembly Member Justin McNulty said he had been contacted by “quite a number of constituents” complaining about the issue. 

“This is a shambles, and to be frank, it’s a partitionist policy which is preventing people from here participating in these competitions,” said McNulty.

He said he raised the concerns with both RTÉ and the Department of Communities in Belfast. 

“RTÉ is our national broadcaster – people in Newry are every much as entitled to participate in competitions’ as people living in New Ross.”

RTÉ said the change in its policy on premium rate competitions “reflects the outcome of a review examining how regulations governing these competitions in particular are applied in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland”.

“Current regulations in Northern Ireland require that ‘any prize competition’ must have a substantial degree of skill and must be free; regulations in the Republic differ from this.”

McNulty said: “Programmes like The Late Late Show and the Sunday Game are part of every Irish family’s viewing habits, and to tell those of us who live in the North we cannot participate in competitions like the rest of the viewing public on this island is just mind boggling.”

RTÉ said it made the decision following the review to ensure it wasn’t in breach of regulations in Northern Ireland.

It said that this decision applies to premium rate competitions only.

The Department of Communities had not responded to comment at the time of publication. 

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