MHEG5 is a mandatory part of the minimum Specification for Saorview, the Irish DTT system.

From RTE Saorview

Key elements of the receiver specification include the following: 

1. The receiver needs to be capable of decoding both Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD) MPEG 4 signals. This is important as RTÉ is planning to replace its current SD RTÉ Two service with an RTÉ Two HD service on SAORVIEW. More HD services are likely to follow in the future.
2. The receiver needs to have MHEG5 middleware to decode RTÉ’s proposed new Digital Aertel Service and other possible interactive services.

Do we need MHEG5 and what is it?

It is what is called “Middleware”. The software added to basic channel changing but at a higher level than the operating system of the TV or Set-Box. It allows applications and functionality to be changed without having to buy a new TV set, thus “future proofing” your purchase to an extent.

The MHEG-5 language itself is just that, a language. To be useful in any particular context, the language needs to be profiled. A broadcast profile of the language has been standardized by ETSI forming ETSI standard ES 202 184. Saorview uses the UK Profile


As well as replacement for Teletext, with pictures and video optionally in the pages of text which should be much faster to load than old TVs many other Applications are possible.

MHEG5 based RTE text


It does a lot more (potentially) than simply pretty text.


It gives interactive access to Hidden video streams (e.g. BBC and Wimbledon). Allows quizzes, access to information on ethernet port, More featured interactive Program guide than basic DVB program information, text with embedded video or changing images. Also can manage Over The Air firmware updates. (OTA).

A hugely better user experience if properly used by the Network Operator and Broadcaster. An application can access one pane of a mosaic video stream, data from Ethernet port/ Internet, provide Interactive games. Unlike Teletext it’s a full featured Programming language where the programs are dynamically downloaded via Broadcast (aerial) and can do many things. S&T Interactive Applications link.

EPG (Program Guide)

DVB-T EIT EPG may only gives information about the Multiplex that is tuned and looks different on every TV and does not have a simple method for Series Link. With a decently written EPG in MHEG5 you can have entire EPG for all Multiplexes on each multiplex, Same GUI for EPG on every TV & Set-box and implement Series-Link for PVRs. You can even have option for more info on a program via Internet (IMDB etc).

Other Applications

TV3 and TG4 could even add applications too. The whole point is that unlike Teletext, Built in Program Guide and other standards included when you buy the TV, the MHEG5 “engine” is like a Web Browser for TV where the Web Site is Saorview. A new application or existing Text or EPG can be changed at any time. When you turn on the TV or Set-box it will check it’s stored MHEG5 applications and in the background delete obsolete or download new ones if needed. Even Games have been authored in MHEG5. If you recieve UK Freeview also, it’s like having TWO websites. The MHEG5 applications run depend on if you are on a Freeview or Saorview channel.  Applications can be stored or downloaded every time depending on the programming.

Could RTE NL have used alternative?

The only real viable alternative is MHP. But given Freesat already, Southeast and Border Freeview reception and Irish Digital in N.I. via DTT & Sat, it would have been perverse to NOT use MHEG5, which is free anyway. (MHP requires a royalty).

UPC in Netherlands using Mediahighway (NDS) and Sky uses Open TV (which isn’t “open” and is NDS/Thomson)

Using a French “TNT HD” box or TV was OK for early adopters and hugely more sensible than Sagem Picnic or Neotion cards. But makes no sense now that UK “Freeview HD” is starting to be widely available at a reasonable price.

Though today there is only the  €100 Walker Setbox and some Walker TVs (Vestel), there will be much more. Sony and Samsung may shortly have Saorview Approved models. LG “Freeview HD” sets may be a good choice.

Who else uses MHEG-5?

UK Freeview and Freesat, TVB Hong Kong, Australia, Germany (TechniSat), India – Digicable (cable pay-TV operator), New Zealand (Program Guide/EPG instead of DVB), and South Africa. Possible deployment in Turkey and Malaysia.

Windows 7 Media Center has working Saorview MHEG5 interactive text on any Tuner card (satellite or Terrestrial) or USB Stick with Windows certified BDA driver. (Single tuner from €20, Dual Tuner Stick from €30). MHEG-5 has also been selected as the mandatory interactivity engine for CI+ compliant TVs (and other CI+ devices).
see impala (MHEG5 publicity site)

Apart from Windows 7 MC, the DVBviewer is more functional and also supports XP and Vista. It now has option for MHEG5 plugin.



Images captured from DVBviewer on XP pro


If it doesn’t have this logo, it’s not approved and may not work.

saorview official logo

Analogue switch off is less than 2 years away
Full launch about 5 or 6 months.


At present there are a small number of SAORVIEW approved STBs or iDTVs, see below. Others are currently going through the testing process.
In the lead up to the full launch of SAORVIEW in spring 2011 there will be a wider range of approved receivers available from retailers and TV installers across the country.