Ireland’s communications minister Alex White has given the stamp of approval to the new UTV Ireland.

The minister has designated the channel for carriage on the Saorview DTT platform as “a television service having the character of a public service”. The channel already has agreement with Sky, UPC and eVision.

Welcoming the announcement, John McCann, Group Chief Executive, UTV Media plc said: “Today’s decision represents a major milestone in UTV Ireland’s short history, as this designation was important for the purposes of ensuring appropriate prominence for UTV Ireland, on the various platforms, allowing us to offer Irish viewers an increased choice of high quality content. I am delighted that we have now reached agreements with all platform providers and UTV Ireland will be universally available across the country.”

The Northern Ireland-based ITV affiliate will launch its new service on New Year’s Day.

UTV Ireland has an agreement with ITV Studios Global Entertainment, which will give UTV the exclusive broadcasting rights for ITV Studios programmes for the Republic of Ireland audience, including popular soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale.