A Consultative Group comprised of RTÉ, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the umbrella organisation Irish in Britain and representatives of Irish community in Britain has today issued a statement of agreed recommendations in respect of RTÉ’s Longwave radio service. The service will now continue until closure by June 2019 and in preparation, RTÉ plan to launch a replacement service on DAB+ digital radio.
Minister of State for the Diaspora, Joe McHugh T.D., has welcomed the recommendations: “I am delighted that there is now a way forward that takes into account as much as possible the views of older members of the Irish community in Britain. I have committed to making a contribution to this via the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme. The research we funded on this issue has made clear that RTÉ Radio is a fantastic resource for Irish people in Britain. I’d like also to acknowledge the leadership the Irish community in Britain has shown on this.”
Minister for Communications, Climate Action & Environment, Denis Naughten, T.D. has also welcomed the recommendations: “Public service broadcasting has a crucial role to play in keeping Irish people abroad informed and connected. While ultimately the future of the longwave service is an operational matter for RTÉ, I very much welcome the broadcaster’s practical involvement and its engagement in the process that has led to today’s announcement. The constructive approach taken and the solution that has been reached will be welcomed by many, particularly the older Irish community living in the UK.”
Dee Forbes, Director-General, RTÉ, added “This is about listening, compromising and forging a way forward in partnership. Longwave as a technology is no longer viable in the long-term. It is crucial that we work with all partner bodies to evolve a replacement service and that RTÉ plays its part in supporting evolving technologies. I’m confident we have a meaningful solution and the goodwill to make a success of it for audiences in the UK.”
Since 2004 Ireland’s national public service media RTÉ has transmitted its most popular radio station RTÉ Radio 1 on Longwave 252kHz. This service has significant overspill into the island of Britain. In September 2014, RTÉ announced the closure of the service which was subsequently deferred to 2017.
• RTÉ plan to launch a service on DAB+ digital radio modelled from RTÉ Radio 1 and to work with stakeholders to maintain contact with the Irish community in Britain. Details of this service are still being worked out but it is likely to include a limited amount of new targeted programming commissioned for audiences in Britain. As a terrestrial radio service this is subject to regulatory approval in the U.K.
• The broadcast will be transmitted via a chain of small broadcast networks which cover main urban centres. This is where the majority of RTÉ Longwave listeners live. In line with research findings as to preferred medium, this network will provide a conventional radio experience with sets from as little as £30. The transmission cost will be considerably less (approx one fifth) than the present quarter of a million per annum that RTÉ expends in running costs for Long Wave 252.
• As the new service is being established, RTÉ Longwave will continue to be broadcast. It will close by the end of June 2019. The Consultative Group notes that longwave radio does not have a long-term future but welcomes the extension of the RTE Longwave service for a total of four and a half years beyond its original planned closure.
• RTÉ, Irish in Britain and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (via the Emigrant Support Programme) have undertaken to co-operate on communications and digital awareness measures and on outreach to older members of the Irish community in Britain to ensure they can continue to access the much valued RTÉ Radio services and other relevant digital services.
• RTÉ Radio 1 will remain available in the UK on the RTÉ Radio player, the Irish Radioplayer and Sky, FreeSat and Virgin TV services.
• The Consultative Group thanks all of its members and the organisations they represent for their constructive involvement and good faith.
Sally Mulready, Founder of the Irish Elderly Advice Network and Member of the Council of State added: “We have come a long way since this issue was first addressed, in communicating the Irish community’s strong links with home. The proposals going forward will succeed because RTÉ engaged with our community in a supportive and imaginative way.”
Patrick Morrison, Chair of Irish in Britain added: “I believe that this way forward represents the ‘happy medium’ that the research we commissioned has recommended. I look forward to working in partnership to provide a channel for communication between RTÉ and the communities and organisations we represent.”
JP Coakley, Director of Operations with RTÉ Radio said “This is about balance. We are helping each other to move on; to maintain an important connection for our UK based listeners, in a cost effective, modern way. RTÉ will continue to reach out to the Irish abroad.”
Tony Corcoran, Founder of the Tyneside Irish Festival and Secretary of the Tyneside Irish Centre, added “Most people who have a service now will have an enhanced or better service. Those who have no service will have a new service. This is to be welcomed.”
Notes for Editors:
Following a public response from the Irish community in Britain, a decision was taken by RTÉ in December 2014 to defer the shutdown of RTÉ Longwave until 2017. The Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade and the Minister for Diaspora Affairs undertook on behalf of the Government of Ireland to fund research into the listeners amongst the Irish community in Britain, which was commissioned by Irish in Britain. This research is available from the Irish in Britain website. http://www.irishinbritain.org/cmsfiles/Images/RTE/FINAL-Exec-Summary-for-uploading-to-website.pdf
In overall terms the research showed:
• Listeners to the service were in the main over 60, born on the island of Ireland and retired
• While nearly 60% lived with a spouse, more than a third lived alone
• They tend to live in London, the Midlands and the North West
• The RTÉ Radio 1 Long Wave service was generally represented as a “lifeline” to Ireland by listeners
• The majority owned a TV and a computer but less than half owned a smart phone or tablet
• Listeners were on the whole reluctant or felt unable to change to online digital platforms
The Consultative Group is chaired by a representative from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Irish Abroad Unit and comprises representatives of RTÉ, a representative of Embassy London, representatives of Irish in Britain (the national representative organisation for the Irish community in England, Scotland and Wales), and two Irish community representatives. The Irish community representatives are Cllr Sally Mulready and Tony Corcoran, both of whom serve on the Emigrant Services Advisory Committee.
• Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Press Office (Dublin): +353(1) 4082032, 4082268, 4082274, 4082276 or 4082280
• RTE Press Office: Maureen Catterson, Communications Manager RTÉ Radio. Phone: 01 2082255, 087 7800737
• Embassy of Ireland to Great Britain, London Press Office +44 (0) 207 2012 522
• Irish in Britain, Patrick Morrison, Chair, + 44 (0) 20 8801 6308