RTÉ Radio has announced it will postpone the closure of its longwave 252 service until 2017.
Following a backlash from listeners across Britain and a campaign led by The Irish Post, the national broadcaster revealed its revised plans today.
“Radio 1’s longwave 252 service was scheduled to close in January 2015; however RTÉ is now targeting a revised shutdown date in 2017,” they said.
“In slowing the pace of longwave shutdown, RTÉ has considered contact from listeners and submissions from a range of groups; all of which highlighted that more time was needed to understand and enable migration to digital platforms for all listeners.”
Having originally planned to switch off the longwave service on October 27 and migrate their Radio One service to digital platforms the broadcaster was forced to postpone their transition by the weight of complaints received by listeners across Britain – many who would no longer be able to avail of the service.
After initially postponing the switchover to January 19, 2015, in order to “consult the community” in Britain, they today admit that the move was too soon.
“RTÉ is targeting the longwave service for shutdown on the basis that it is an outdated and costly technology, representing poor value for money,” they explain.
“However, following extensive consultations with listeners, a wide range of diaspora groups in the UK and relevant bodies in Ireland, the decision has been taken to slow the pace for transition from longwave. The extended timeframe is intended to allow affected listeners longer to adapt and to give RTÉ the opportunity to learn more about their circumstances, access to and use of newer technologies.”
In a further development, The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has announced it will work with RTÉ to conduct research to understand the community in Britain who listen to the longwave service.
The DFA-funded research, which will be undertaken in 2015, aims to gather “greater detail about listeners’ circumstances and of the technologies they use”.
It will include perspectives from community groups representing the Irish elderly in Britain.
JP Coakley, Head of Operations at RTÉ Radio, said: “We’ve learned that the closure requires a greater degree of patience and nuance and we very much welcome the DFA’s offer of help in this respect.”
He added: “We need to transition from longwave, but we do understand that some alternatives still feel remote, especially to elderly audiences who cannot hear Radio 1 on FM. The next year or so will see growth in adoption of new technologies and alternatives will strengthen.
"The rise of smart-phone and tablet usage among older users, the growth of platforms like Freeview in the UK, our own Radioplayer and the imminent launch of the Irish Radio Player, all offer sustainable, practical solutions into the future.”
More than 300 people responded to an Irish Post survey regarding the intended closure of RTÉ’s longwave service.