RTÉ’s Longwave 252 service will officially continue until closure its by June 2019 with the launch of a replacement service on DAB+ digital radio in the works.
As exclusively revealed by The Irish Post last month, a consultative group comprised of RTÉ, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Irish in Britain and members of the diaspora met in London where it was decided that the service would continue by at least two more years.
The consultative group have today issued an official statement outlining in concrete terms the plans for RTÉ’s Longwave 252’s immediate future.
RTÉ say they plan to launch a service on DAB+ digital radio modelled from RTÉ Radio 1 by working 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.
This new service will be transmitted via a chain of small broadcast networks which cover Britain’s main urban centres.
RTÉ say the transmission cost will be about a fifth of the present €250,000 a year that RTÉ say they spend on running Longwave 252.
As the new service is being established, RTÉ Longwave will continue to be broadcast.
Longwave 252 will then close by the end of June 2019.
RTÉ say they will undertake ‘digital awareness measures’ to reach older members of the Irish community in Britain to ensure they can continue to listen in.
Minister of State for the Diaspora, Joe McHugh TD, has welcomed the RTÉ’s recommendations and says he hoped the older Irish community living in Britain will too.
“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,” Mr McHugh said.
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.”
Dee Forbes, Director-General of RTÉ said that Longwave technology is “no longer viable in the long-term”.
She said: “This is about listening, compromising and forging a way forward in partnership.
“I’m confident we have a meaningful solution and the goodwill to make a success of it for audiences in the UK. RTÉ will continue to reach out to the Irish abroad.”
The Longwave 252kHz service has been transmitted by Ireland’s national broadcaster since 2004.
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 agreed to fund research into the listeners amongst the Irish community in Britain.
The research as commissioned by Irish in Britain and found that most listeners tuned in from London, the Midlands and the North West.
It also found that most listeners were aged over 60 and viewed the service as a “lifeline” to Ireland.
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.”
Tony Corcoran, Founder of the Tyneside Irish Festival and Secretary of the Tyneside Irish Centre, said that most people who have a service now will have “an enhanced or better service” by 2019.
“Those who have no service will have a new service,” he said. “This is to be welcomed.”