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TV service under threat

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TV service under threat

Padraig Burns

TWENTY-five years after first providing a multi-channel television service, Mayo Community TV is facing a bleak future.
A dramatic decline in the number of people subscribing and the advent of satellite television has forced MCTV to consider its future. 
MCTV told The Mayo News last night that unless people pay their annual subscription, they (MCTV) will not have the necessary money that will be required to fund any essential maintenance that the system may require.
“The last thing we would want to do is switch the system off because we know what it means to people but we need the money to make sure that if there is an emergency that we have the money to do the work,’’ said Joe Gibbons of Mayo Community TV.
Mayo Community TV has eight transmitters throughout the county providing pictures of BBC 1 and 2, ITV, Channel 4 along with the Irish channels, RTE 1 and 2 and TG4. The group also assist community groups within Mayo who provide  broadband services.
Since last week, MCTV has broadcast a message on BBC 2 informing people that subscriptions are now due. The message will be taken off the screens later this week.  It is the latest in a series of efforts by the group to encourage people to pay the ¤75 annual fee.
“We’re frustrated,’’ said Mr Gibbons. “We advertised in the local papers and on local radio but when our collectors called to houses, they were told that they didn’t hear the ad on the radio or see it in the paper. It’s hard on our collectors and they’re getting frustrated. The company only gets around ¤20 from the ¤75 that we charge when the fees that we pay to stage agencies are deducted,’’ he said.
Mr Gibbons said it was unfair of people who have a satellite package not to subscribe to their service.
“Those people use our service and they have an aerial which can cost in the region of ¤350 where they get the pictures that we provide. Most people who have satellite have Sky but unless you have extra digi boxes it’s not possible to watch it in more than one room so our service is important. Some people have refused outright to pay, others have told our collectors that they’ll think about it. I’m not sure how long more we can go on like this,” he said.
He said that if the system was ever switched off then the people who could not afford to pay the subscription fee to Sky would be deprived of something they had become so used to over the past quarter of a century.
“It’s fine for affluent people who can afford to pay Sky ¤600 but a lot of our members are elderly and they can’t afford anything like that. If it was ever turned off it would be a very sad day,’’ he added.