RTÉ Radio 1's longwave service is a priceless link to Ireland for the Irish abroad

RTÉ Radio 1's longwave service is a priceless link to Ireland for the Irish abroad

ALTHOUGH initial shock may have subsided over RTÉ’s hasty decision to close its longwave 252 service, listeners from the Irish community in Britain and further afield have continued to express their anger.

Calls, letters and emails from disgruntled listeners continue to flood into our paper’s offices and their thoughts have been wide-ranging.

Where the responses are united is in the feeling that, once the service shuts on January 19, RTÉ will have savaged a priceless 80-year-old link with Ireland’s emigrants.

Many have noted the disparity between how people, particularly the elderly, receive the Radio 1 service and their means, either practical or financial, to make the switch to digital platforms.

The Irish broadcaster’s handling of the affair has been a further sore point. One question to be asked is why RTÉ bothered to send a delegation to Britain last month in order to meet community groups and discuss the impact of the loss of the service – after the decision to close had been taken.

Indeed a call to the broadcaster’s press office the day the delegation landed confirmed there would be no chance of a reversal of that decision.

The ‘no’ coming days after RTÉ Radio Managing Director Jim Jennings had been hauled in front of the Seanad to justify his organisation’s spurious decision.

To use an analogy from the school yard, most kids who have been naughty aren’t allowed to go away on trips.

Another prickly point is RTÉ’s bizarre comment that fewer than 2,000 people would be affected by the longwave closure.

It appears, according to Mr Jennings, that this estimate came after the broadcaster switched off its service earlier in the year for nearly two days and received only 37 complaints.

Neither Ireland nor Britain’s broadcasting survey-takers record listenership figures which come from Ireland to Britain on the longwave platform.

Therefore how RTÉ leapt from 37 complaints to 2,000 listeners is anyone’s guess.

Does such woolly thinking cast doubt on other assertions, such as the one that the service costs €250,000 to keep running?

Even if that figure is to be believed, does that mean thousands of Ireland’s emigrant population in Britain and the North of Ireland are valued less than say one of their presenters, for example Joe Duffy - who is paid a €300,000 annual salary by RTÉ.

One thing is for sure, now that the number of signatures for Irish in Britain’s petition against the closure tops 1,200 names, the fight will rumble on.


RTÉ: 'We’re working to try and make the transition a smooth one for listeners in Britain'


Last month RTÉ sent a two-man delegation to London to meet Irish community leaders who are concerned with the intended closure of the Radio 1 service on longwave 252.

During the visit radio chiefs, including RTÉ’s Director of Operations JP Coakley, spent time with Jennie McShannon, CEO of the Irish in Britain organisation.

Among topics discussed during the meeting were the impact of the closure on elderly people and those who listen to the service in their cars.

McShannon told The Irish Post that she used the opportunity to express her organisation’s frustration and disappointment at RTÉ’s failure to consult with them before making their decision to close the service.

She added that the broadcaster’s decision was “rash, inappropriate and ill-thought through”, but confirmed that IIB would support RTÉ if they could guarantee the most isolated and vulnerable members of the Irish community access to the service through other mediums.

RTÉ has postponed the closure of its Radio 1 service on longwave 252 until the New Year, admitting that more time was needed to discuss the effect the closure would have on groups and individuals who listen in Britain.

The Irish broadcaster has since revealed that they are looking at longwave availability opportunities on television platforms such as Freeview.

RTÉ Communications manager Maureen Catterson added: “We’re working alongside the Irish in Britain organisation to try and make the transition a smooth one and to try and get as many Irish in the UK aware of the situation as possible.”


For the last few weeks The Irish Post has been asking RTÉ Radio 1 listeners to get in touch and give their thoughts on the longwave switchover. Here's a snapshot of responses to date


Kathleen Dinan, based in Burnage in Manchester, said she listened to 'everything' Radio 1 has had to offer since 1955. “This programme means the world to me and my husband,” she added.

Katherine McDonald, a listener for over 40 years, also based in Manchester, said she listened all day when at home and regrets the ending of the service. “It will make me feel isolated as I enjoy all the programmes, especially Joe Duffy,” she said.

78-year-old Tony Scallan is an avid listener to Morning Ireland, Sean O’Rourke and Joe Duffy. The channel helps him keep in touch with news and opinion from home. “I don’t want the switch off. My sources will be reduced to The Irish Post and the Sunday Independent,” said Scallan, based in North-London.

Gordon G Stott tunes in every day in Oldham. He said he would miss the service greatly particularly in his car. The 59-year-old said: “I have LW radio specially fitted, [it] keeps me in touch with the best island in the world"

Mrs D Murray, 79, said she listened to Mass and most other programmes from her bedroom, kitchen and garden. “I get to keep in touch with family back home, it will be very sad... It’s my life, I listen to it in the morning and last thing at night,” she added.


If you would like to send us your thoughts on the longwave service see this week's Irish Post for a copy of our RTÉ survey