THE closure of RTÉ radio’s long wave 252 service marks the “end of an era” for older Irish people in Britain, a community leader has said.
Brian Dalton, CEO of the Irish in Britain (IIB) organisation, claims the “short window” given by the Irish broadcaster, who announced the closure of the service this month, will have a “significant” impact on isolated members of the Irish community living in Britain.
"The news that RTÉ will cease LW 252 for Radio 1 next month will have a particular resonance for those elder Irish in Britain who have a long attachment to the platform,” he said this week.
“Though we recognise that the transition from analogue to digital is in many ways inevitable, the notice window is short,” he added.
“The impact of the closure on isolated listeners, particularly those who have specific health needs such as dementia, is significant.”
Research previously undertaken by IIB, an umbrella organisation representing more than 100 Irish organisations and individuals across Britain, showed the majority of users of the service in Britain “were over 60 and used the service daily”, Mr Dalton said.
RTÉ first signalled its intention to close its long wave 252 radio service in 2014 and encouraged fans of its output to access it via digital platforms.
But the move was met with harsh criticism from those who rely on using the service through its traditional radio connection and had little or no access to it digitally.
Many of those were older Irish people based in Britain who deemed their daily access to the Radio 1 service a vital connection to their homeland.
Much campaigning over the years has seen the service receive a stay of execution, however, RTÉ confirmed last week that the closure of the service would now go ahead on April 14.
The closure was one of the recommendations of the Future of Media Commission Report which was published by the Irish government in July 2022.
Confirming the decision, RTÉ Director General, Dee Forbes said: “While RTÉ has invested considerably in prolonging the life of the transmitter to broadcast RTÉ Radio 1 on Long Wave 252, we can no longer justify this investment.
“Not only is RTÉ Radio 1 widely available in the UK across television and online services, including apps and smart speakers, the energy costs involved along with the cost of replacing the transmitter mean that, in line with the recommendation of the Future of Media Commission Report, the time has come to bring the Long Wave service to a close.
“While this may be disappointing to some listeners, RTÉ must continue to invest in critical projects underpinning our production, distribution and business activities, as well as digital projects which are essential to ensure we continue to deliver value to our audiences.”
The Irish broadcaster added that fans of the service can continue listening to RTÉ Radio 1 on Freesat (channel 750), Sky (channel 0137) and Virgin Media (channel 917*), and on the RTÉ Radio Player and Irish Radioplayer apps.
Evaluating the outcome for the Irish community in Britain, Mr Dalton stated that much work would now need to be done to ensure those reliant on RTÉ’s Radio 1 service can access it via the alternative platforms.
"There is now a shared responsibility to support those who rely on the service to access alternative platforms and we will work with our member organisations, many of who support the elder Irish community here in Britain in that task,” he said.
"[The closure] will mark the end of an era for many of the Irish in Britain and we are mindful of the role that RTÉ plays in keeping Irish people in Britain and beyond informed and connected with home,” he added.
"Our priority now will be to work with our partners across the network to support those who have relied on the service to access digital alternatives."