LW252 mast Co. Meath Photo: Save RTE Longwave Radio

LW252 mast Co. Meath Photo: Save RTE Longwave Radio

Thank you RTÉ for putting a stay until 2017 on any closure of the LW252 transmitter for Radio 1. Following a campaign that included a petition, the national broadcaster has decided it will work in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and commission new research as well as consulting with Irish emigrants groups.

RTÉ Radio 1 LW will operate a full service in 2015, with reduced hours in 2016 before working towards a full shutdown in 2017. The service was due to end early next year after RTÉ postponed a decision to close the transmitter until 19th January 2015.

RTÉ had previously announced that it would be ceasing its Longwave 252 service from the Clarkstown longwave transmitter on 27 October and migrating its Radio One service to digital platforms.

RTÉ said that in slowing the pace of the longwave shutdown, it has considered contact from listeners and submissions from a range of groups, who highlighted that more time was needed to “understand and enable the migration to digital platforms for all listeners”.

Head of RTE Radio 1 Tom McGuire said: “We’ve listened particularly to the concerns raised by and on behalf of the elderly Irish in the UK.

“Cost-reduction remains a key priority for RTÉ and we remain convinced that, in the longer term, longwave has had its day. Nonetheless and despite the mid-term cost impact, RTÉ believes it is necessary to take a collaborative approach and slow this transition.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is prepared to work with RTÉ to commission specific research to better understand the community in the UK who listen to the longwave service. The research will be conducted next year, will be funded by the department and will include perspectives from community groups representing the Irish elderly in the UK.

Chair of the Oireachtas Transport and Communications Committee John O’Mahoney TD said he was delighted at the decision of the RTÉ board to retain the service. Minister for Communications Alex White TD, a former RTÉ radio producer, has also welcomed the announcement.

He said: “I recently met representatives of the Irish community living in Britain, who stressed the value they place on RTÉ’s longwave service. I welcome the decision to extend the life of the service by two years, which will give the broadcaster space to engage with its listeners about other ways of accessing RTÉ radio in the UK.”


LW252 mast Co. Meath Photo: Save RTE Longwave Radio

LW252 mast Co. Meath Photo: Save RTE Longwave Radio

When I tune into RTÉ Radio 1 in Belfast I usually have my radio on 252 Long Wave, This is because the signal quality seems to be more stable than FM. Even with the swap of FM frequencies between Radio 1 and Lyric FM, I find the Long Wave service much more convenient. It was always very useful to have LW252 as an option when travelling by car in Britain. When it comes to summer sports such as GAA finals, the LW service remains a very important link for the Irish diaspora in Britain and beyond.

In the Irish Times, Patsy McGarry has an interesting article about the benefits of LW252. RTÉ’s planned closure of its long-wave radio service on January 19th has been described as a “crying shame” by a leading Irish child sex abuse campaigner in Britain. Mick Waters founded the Survivors of Child Abuse Soca (UK) group, precursor to Soca (Ireland). It grew out of the Artane Old Boys organisation he set up in the English midlands in 1965. Speaking to The Irish Times from Coventry, Mr Waters said many of the people he had dealt with down the decades “love that [RTÉ long-wave] connection. It’s very important to them.”

Tony Corcoran was driving in Southport, Lancashire, listening to RTÉ radio when he spoke to The Irish Times on the issue. “It’s as clear as any local station,” he said. If the long-wave service was to go, neither he nor anyone else in the UK would be able to listen to RTÉ in a car, he said. He said that during the football championship, people sat in cars across the UK with RTÉ on and windows open so others could hear commentary. rteradio1

RTÉ originally intended to close down the transmitter at Clarkstown in County Meath on October 27th 2014 but it has postponed the move until January 19th 2015 following calls by emigrants’ groups and others in Britain. The Catholic bishops of Ireland also criticised the decision. If you want to know more about the campaign to save LW252, a page with a petition can be found here.