A retired RTÉ radio engineer and long-time campaigner to preserve RTÉ radio transmissions to the UK has urged Irish who save 252 LW groups not to “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory”.
The chair of Ireland’s Oireachtas Communications Hildegarde Naughton TD (Galway West and South Mayo) announced last week that a major antenna upgrade will ensure the transmission of RTÉ on long-wave will continue for at least the next two years.
RTÉ has repeatedly tried to axe the service on cost grounds, urging listeners here to continue listening via the internet or satellite tuners.
That has been resisted as impractical, and second best, by many older and elderly Irish, especially in the north-west, for whom RTÉ radio is deemed to combat loneliness and isolation and for whom their portable radios provide companionship.
Plans to provide a version of the RTÉ One radio service on DAB have been turned down by the UK regulator, Ofcom.
Deputy Naughton said the upgrade would ensure the service would continue for at least another two years – but only after a ten-week interruption of service in the autumn-winter months for maintenance, repairs and upgrade.
Campaigner Enda O’Kane, who used to work for RTÉ and its transmission network pointed out that RTÉ 252 LW is unlistenable in the south and south-east of England because of interference from Radio Algeria beside it on the dial.
“Just a tiny bit further down the LW dial is a frequency that is unused and would bring a much clearer, interference-free signal of RTÉ radio to London and beyond.
“It would cost next to nothing to do with a little diplomacy and goodwill,” said Mr O’Kane.
“It would give RTÉ a much bigger radio audience among the Irish in Britain as well,” he added.
Deputy Naughton said her committee would continue to keep the issue of RTÉ LW transmissions to Britain under review and look for “longer-term alternative solutions”.
The west of Ireland TD said: “The maintenance of long wave radio for the Irish diaspora is a significant concern to the Committee.”
She announced that service will have to be “temporarily suspended” for approximately ten weeks, but RTÉ has said it will endeavour to complete the works as quickly as possible.
“I welcome the efforts being made to continue this service, which serves as an invaluable link between the diaspora and home,” she added.