Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Census results - First Release - Phase 2

Phase 2 of the census results were published today. The results are effectively a breakdown of Phase 1 results by Local Government Districts (LGD). While today's publication does not give us a breakdown by community background, we can nonetheless break each LGD into Majority Nationalist (>55% CNR community background), Majority Unionist (>55% PUL communtiy background) and Balanced (both CNR & PUL community background 45%-55%) areas based on the 2001 census results.

Catholic majority areas have increased in population by an average of 9.2%. Protestant majority areas have increased in population by an average of 7.4%. Balanced areas have increased by 5.1%. Of course the LGDs in the tables above rely on the 2001 census which is ten years out of date. It is likely that some LGDs belong in a different group. For example the next batch of census results may show that Lisburn is a balanced LGD and at least one of the LGDs in the balanced areas group will have changed to the Catholic Majority group.

The phase 2 results also give us a breakdown of the population per LGD by age. In Nationalist districts west of the Bann and close to the border, the population is predominantly young.  This is demonstrated in the chart below showing the proportion of 0-15 year olds in each district as a percentage of the overall population.

In Unionist districts to the east, the population is predominantly old. This is demonstrated in the charts below showing the proportion of 65-84 year olds and over 85 year olds in each district as a percentage of the overall population.

Phase 2 of the 2011 census tells us that population growth in CNR community background areas is greater than in PUL community background areas. It also tell us that the CNR districts have predominantly young populations whereas the PUL districts have predominantly elderly populations. While I am uncomfortable speaking of the passing of elderly people in positive terms, it is only natural that as the older generation die off they will be replaced by children of the younger generation. Interesting times ahead.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Digital Switchover

On 24 October analogue transmissions will cease. The digital switchover will mean that RTÉ1, RTÉ2 & TG4 will be freely available throughout all of Northern Ireland.

Those living close to the border will receive RTÉ One, RTÉ Two HD, TV3, TG4, 3e, RTÉ News Now, RTÉjr and RTÉ One +1 through Saorview/Freeview approved set top boxes or TV sets. Those living further afield where Freeview HD-capable set top boxes or TV sets are unable to receive southern transmissions will receive RTÉ 1, RTÉ2 & TG4.

It is unfortunate that viewers in locations far from the border will not have channels TV3, 3e, RTÉ News Now, RTÉjr and RTÉ One +1 on Freeview. RTÉ1, RTÉ2 and TG4 will however be available from transmitters on Black Mountain, Carnmoney Hill and Brougher Mountain. Even so some sports programmes and films may be unavailable to them due to rights restrictions.

Despite this the benefits that the digital switchover will bring cannot be underestimated:

"RTÉ should grow from being the state broadcaster of the south to the national broadcaster of Ireland. People north and south will be able to watch the same programmes, follow the same stories, and interact with each other through panel shows and feedback. It will contribute in a small way to removing some remaining barriers. Once digital TV arrives everyone in Ireland will have equal access to the same broadcasters, and the carefully erected partition of the media will be over" (Horseman February 2010).

RTÉ gaining 1.8 million extra viewers will certainly encourage the broadcaster to include much more Northern topics in it's news and current affairs programmes which should strenghten connections and lead to better understanding among all people in Ireland.

The free availability of TG4 in particular will help Nationalists in their Irish language strategy and push for an Irish Language Act to be introduced.