THE LONG-AWAITED findings of a Government-funded survey into RTÉ longwave radio listenership in Britain have been revealed – but they come with no commitment to save the service.
The survey received a response rate of almost 3,200 people when conducted among the Irish community across Britain last year.
Its key findings were released last Friday, June 3, revealing that for the majority of listeners, RTÉ longwave is seen as a ‘lifeline’ to Ireland.
In total, 76 per cent of those respondents stated that the service ‘maintains a link with Ireland’ for them, while 79 per cent indicated that it was valuable as it brings them news from Ireland.
The survey further showed that just over 70 per cent of listeners to the RTÉ longwave service in Britain are aged over 60; that a similar number of listeners were born in Ireland and that just over 60 per cent are retired.
Despite Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan acknowledging this week that the findings “demonstrate the very significant role that RTÉ Longwave Services play in providing a link with home for many within the Irish community in Britain” no commitment has yet been made by RTÉ or the Government regarding safeguarding its future.
Instead, the Government has confirmed that “a further meeting of the Consultative Group will take place over the coming months to consider the research findings in detail and to discuss the next steps.”
RTÉ Director of Operations JP Coakley also refused to commit to saving the service this week, stating: "This is a strong insight into an important community. These listeners are engaged and technically quite savvy. We look forward to working more closely with the Irish community in Britain and with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to chart a path forward."
The news comes as a devastating blow to the Irish community members across Britain who have been at the forefront of a campaign to save the at-risk service.
Myra Butler, a volunteer at the Irish World Heritage Centre is Manchester, told The Irish Post: “We’ve been waiting so long for the results of this survey and we were so hopeful for a positive result. To hear that we don’t even have a firm answer is devastating.”
She added: “It feels like the Government doesn’t even care about us. We will keep fighting though, to save the service.”
RTÉ first announced plans to close its longwave services in 2014.
This plan was postponed until 2017 after a successful campaign was launched in Britain – led in part by The Irish Post – to save it.
A survey was then commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs into the viability of the longwave service, which took place last year.
Funded by the Department of foreign Affairs and Trade, and in partnership with Irish in Britain organisation, the survey was carried out by the Social Policy Research Centre at Middlesex University Commenting on its findings, Foreign Affairs Minister Flanagan said: These findings also offer a strong basis from which to move forward on this issue over the period ahead and I am hopeful that a positive outcome can be achieved."
Minister of State for the Diaspora Joe McHugh added: “While any decision on the future of Longwave Services in Britain is ultimately an operational matter for RTÉ, I hope that it will be informed by awareness of the role that the Service plays in preserving and enhancing links with Ireland.’’
KEY FINDINGS: RTÉ Longwave Audience in Britain*
The age profile of the survey respondents shows that participants predominantly belonged to the older age groups: 70-79 years (32%), 60-69 years (27%) and 40-59 years (24%)
62% of respondents are retired and 27% are employed full time
The majority of survey respondents lived in North West England (34%), followed by London and the South East (22%) and the Midlands (18%)
Most of the survey respondents are in good health but one in five reported their health as being no better than “fair”, 22% of survey listeners have mobility problems, 33% live alone
Participants in this study primarily listened to Longwave to maintain a sense of Irishness and a link with Ireland and to keep up to date with news and current affairs ‘back home’
RTÉ Radio 1 on Longwave was seen as a ‘lifeline’ for the majority of respondents
92% of respondents listen “every day” or “most days”. Listening is strongest during the day and at home, though almost half of the survey respondents (44%) also listen in the car or other vehicle
Portable, car or kitchen radios were typically used by Longwave listeners of RTÉ Radio 1, whereas digital devices were much less likely to be used