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405 Lines in Ireland (1961 - 1983)

The 405 line television standard was the first modern TV standard. It was invented in 1935 by a team at Marconi in England and was adopted by the BBC when their TV broadcasts started in 1936.  

Ireland's first TV broadcasts were made using the 405 line standard - but the European 625 line standard was the preferred choice for Telefis Eireann due to the greater picture and sound quality.  

However Telefis Eireann's decision was made for it at least in the North and East of Ireland as many people already owned 405 line sets to watch the BBC and ITV programmes from Belfast. 

And so it came to pass that an "Irish Solution to an Irish Problem" was adopted. Telefis Eireann would broadcast in 625 lines VHF across the country, however in the North and East of Ireland where BBC and ITV were available Telefis Eireann would also be available on 405 lines for those viewers who already had a 405 line set. 

RTE 405 line transmitter map 


Kippure Dublin & East 7 H 100 kW 1-Dec-1961 1-Sep-1978
Donnybrook South East Dublin 3 H 25W ? 1-Sep-1978
Monaghan Co. Monaghan 10 H 1 kW ? 1-Sep-1978
Truskmore Sligo & Northwest 11 V 100 kW 1-Feb-1962 1-Sep-1978
Moville Inishowen Peninsula 12 H 2 kW ? 1983
Fanad Fanad Peninsula 7 H 1 kW ? 1983
Letterkenny Letterkenny Town 6 V 1 kW ? 1983

The original HTML code for this table came courtesy of Mike Brown whose website tells you all you need to know about British TV broadcasting. 

Although Telefis Eireann did not go on the air until 1961, television had been available in Ireland as early as ten years previously when some enthusiasts set up aerials to receive BBC signals from the Holme Moss transmitter in Northern England. A demonstration service was also set up during the 1951 Spring Show by Pye Ireland. 

In all, two main transmitters and five relay stations were built to carry the Telefis Eireann 405 line service, all purely in the northern and eastern parts of the country where the British 405 signals were available. From 1962/63, Telefis Eireann was also broadcast in 625 lines across the country. 

Five 405 line relay stations were built, three in Co. Donegal, one in Monaghan and one in Dublin City. 

RTE Colour transmissions began in 1969 on the VHF 625 line network, and gradually as the old black and white 405 line sets were replaced by colour sets, the 405 line audience dwindled. A standards converter was used to provide the 405 line service, but according to more than one former RTE engineering source the converter blew up and afterwards the 405 line service was provided by a 405 line camera pointing at a monitor! 

The two main 405 line transmitters at Kippure and Truskmore were closed in 1978 to clear frequency space for the new RTE-2 service, as were the Monaghan and Dublin relays. The Donegal relays stayed on the air until 1982 when they too were closed and replaced by 625 line VHF transmitters. 

A look across the border... 

"The Strabane transmitter is shielded to avoid unnecessary radiation into the Irish Republic" 


ITA Yearbook 1963 

 Apart from PYE Ireland’s experimental transmissions at the Dublin Spring Show in 1951, the BBC were the first transmitters of television in Ireland. A temporary transmitter on Cave Hill outside Belfast was pressed into service in 1953 in time for the Coronation of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. A more permanent transmitter was placed on Divis mountain later. The Belfast transmitter could be received easily as far south as Dublin and across the North. A relay station opened in Derry to fill gaps in the Divis transmitter’s coverage. 

Original UTV logo ITV came to the North in 1959 when Ulster Television opened on Channel 9 from Black Mountain, close to Divis. A second transmitter opened in Strabane on Channel 8 in 1962 and provided coverage for the west of the UTV region. 

BBC transmitters 

Divis (Belfast) Channel 1 

Derry Channel 2 

Brougher Mtn Channel 5 

ITA transmitters 

Black Mountain Channel 9 

Strabane Channel 8 

All 405 line transmissions in the North ceased in 1985. 

Beyond the Fringe... 

Fringe reception of the Belfast transmitters was perfectly feasable across much of the Republic. My own parents house in Co. Kildare was typical - we had a 60 foot pole attached to our roof with guy wires! On the top of the pole was a Band III aerial for RTE from Kippure for channels 7 and H, and a high gain Band I aerial for BBC on channel 1 from Divis. The BBC aerial was a monster, with five elements. Reception quality was a little grainy, but watchable. Needless to say our RTE reception was crystal clear. 

All these extra viewers were not at all encouraged either by BBC or ITV. The ITA in particular tried to actively discourage southern viewers by making regular announcements in their publications that the official service areas stopped dead at the border between the north and the south - even when, as in the case of the ITA Strabane transmitter, the mast was about five miles from the border! Local weather maps on BBC Northern Ireland and Ulster Television would magically stop at the border and a schoolmate of mine was told off by Noel Edmonds when he rung Swap Shop sometime in 1977: 

Noel: Who's calling on line 5? 

Schoolmate: My name's Donal and I'm calling from Dublin. 

Noel: Dublin? You're not supposed to be watching us! 

(Puts phone down) 

For many years Dublin City was listed as an official aircraft hazard thanks to the forest of television aerials across the city. Things got even worse in the early 70's as even higher aerials were required to pick up the UHF transmissions from the north. The introduction of cable TV in the early 70's managed to control this problem and today the Dublin skyline is free of TV aerials! 

Today almost the whole of Ireland can recieve BBC and ITV thanks to nearly all towns and cities being cabled and rural areas can recieve UK transmissions via MMDS, a wireless "Cable TV" service, via analogue cable and privately run "deflectors" that retransmit the UK terrestrial services on the UHF band.



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