Tara Television (or Tara TV) was an Irish cable and satellite channel aimed primarily at the Irish Diaspora living in Britain, it was set up in 1996 and began broadcasting a year later before being finally wound up during the early hours of 1 July 2002 by UKTV Documentary.
The station was launched by a consortium that included Ireland's state broadcaster, RTÉ, and aired a compilation of shows that had previously been aired by RTÉ in Ireland. It was initially carried by a number of cable providers, before being added to Sky Digital on 1 October 1998. The channel's original owners were RTÉ, United Pan-Europe Communications (owned by at the time by Dutch company United International Holdings, now part of Liberty Global) and Riordan Communications (involved in telecommunications companies active in rural Ireland).
Tara Television had an exclusive option to purchase the majority of RTÉ's programming, and this accounted for about 80% of the total programmes broadcast by the station, with the remainder being filled by programmes purchased from other networks. It mainly broadcast news bulletins and current affairs programming, as well as extensive coverage of Irish sport, in particular, GAA. RTÉ made sure that from 16 July 2001, Tara Television was blocked to Irish Sky subscribers as they feared loss of advertising revenue.
It was anticipated that Tara would pay royalties RTÉ to air these programmes, and it was also envisaged that this could eventually be extended to the United States, Canada and Australia. However, Tara was wound up in March 2002 in proceedings brought about by RTÉ, who claimed non-payment of royalty fees from Tara. Tara was placed into Examinership following the proceedings. An examiner, Ray Jackson of KPMG, was appointed and set out trying to place Tara back on a sound financial footing. Setanta Sports offered to take a majority shareholding in Tara and the restructured Tara offered to pay RTÉ all the outstanding money owed. In his report, Jackson stated that RTÉ were not prepared to consider this offer and were pushing for the total liquidation of Tara and therefore the station was taken off the air, three weeks before a deal between RTÉ and BSkyB for transmission of the RTÉ TV channels on Sky Digital to Irish subscribers.
At the time Tara was taken off the air, RTÉ's stake stood at 20% and 80% was owned by UPC, but Tara had acquired debts that exceeding its assets by €22.8m (including loans of €18m from United Pan-Europe (UPC) and €2.7m from RTÉ). At the time of its closure it employed twenty people at its offices in Derry and London.
In recent years, RTÉ have approached the issue of overseas broadcasting through the use of its website to stream current affairs and news programmes, and through RTÉ International, the working title of a service which will operate in a similar manner to Tara Television. RTÉ have now gone back on a commitment to transmit the replacement service. They originally promised to have the station on the air in 2009 at an unspecified date. Since then, RTÉ have introduced an online TV catchup service, the RTÉ Player, which enables international viewers to watch a limited number of programmes recently broadcast in Ireland.
- Farrel Corcoran, 'RTÉ and the Globalisation of Irish Television' (Bristol: Intellect Books, 2004) ISBN 1-84150-090-9