So having had a general look at Ofcom’s Nations & Regions Communication’s Market Report for Northern Ireland and a look at the radio figures, it’s now time to see that the almanac has to say about our TV habits.
The average Northern Irelander certainly isn’t top of the gogglebox chart - watching only 3 hours 12 minutes of TV each day, 24 minutes less than the UK average. Mind you, a shade over three hours of TV every day isn’t bad going. That’s 22 hours 24 minutes of telly a week - just under a full day. Thank goodness for media stacking - people using two or more different types of media at the same time.
Across the UK, viewers are deserting the five main terrestrial channels (BBC1/2/ITV/C4/five), but according to Ofcom NI “the PSB channels in Northern Ireland are not haemorrhaging like the rest of the UK regions”, with audience share only falling 5 percentage points (down to 66%) since 2003 compared to a 12 point drop (to 64%) UK-wide. Only one other ITV region dropped less than 10 percentage points of share since 2003, so this kind of loyalty is unusual.
Away from just the terrestrial channels, the take-up of digital television (DTV = cable, Freeview, satellite) has locally risen from 69% in 2006 up to 79% in Q1 2008. Northern Ireland still lags behind the UK average of 85%. If you live in an urban area you’re more likely have DTV in your home than rural friends. And more likely in the east of the province (85%) than the west (66%).
“In multichannel homes, the most popular channel choice [in NI] beyond the five PSB channels was ITV2, with a 2% viewing share, followed by E4 (1% share) and the Disney Channel (1%).”
Before the report’s launch, I hadn’t realised that RTE availability and take-up was just so high in Northern Ireland. Guess who was brought up in a house that had no RTE aerial!
A massive 71% of the local population can pick RTE1/2/TV3/TG4. (Not sure from the wording whether that’s a theoretical reception or whether it’s folk with an aerial/cable and TV channels tuned in.)
And roughly one third of NI adults (16+) watch RTE1/2 daily, and 40% watch at least once a week. (TV3 and TG4 viewing is a bit lower.) Viewing is skewed towards border regions with daily RTE 1 viewing up to 44% in Ofcom’s border area whereas Belfast viewing is just 9%. And the access to RTE and TV3/TG4 is valued:
“We asked respondents how they would react to not having access to channels from the Republic of Ireland. Around two-fifths said that losing RTÉ 1, RTÉ 2, TV3 and TG4 would be ‘a major problem’ and that they would be ‘very unhappy’, while roughly another third said that it would not be a major problem, although they would prefer not to lose them. The remaining proportion of respondents said that it would not be an issue.
By channel, the loss of RTÉ1 would be a major problem for 28% of respondents, rising to 49% in the border region. Corresponding figures for the other channels for Northern Ireland as a whole (and for the border region) were: 26% (47%) for RTÉ2, 16% (35%) for TV3 and 15% (34%) for TG4.” (slight adaption from original wording)
No doubt due to Northern Ireland’s conflict and political shenanigans, we lead the UK in viewing of early evening regional news programmes. While the trend across the UK is wobbling, and trending downwards, Northern Ireland viewers are watching an increasing amount of early evening regional news.