RTÉ to face Oireachtas grilling over ending of longwave radio service

RTÉ chiefs will appear before an Oireachtas committee today to address concerns over ending the longwave radio service.

Chairman of the communications committee John O’Mahony said that the broadcaster would be asked to explain the rationale for the closure, due to come into effect in just 12 days.

“The committee is concerned about the impending closure of RTÉ’s longwave transmitter at Clarkstown, and particularly, its impact on the Irish diaspora in the UK,” said Mr O’Mahony.

“While low cost air travel and advances in digital communications has made it easier for the Irish in Britain to keep in contact with home, older emigrants have depended on the longwave radio service for news and sport from Ireland.

“While cognisant of the financial challenges facing the national broadcaster, the committee will wish to explore the rationale for the decision to close this valued service to the Irish in Britain.”

RTÉ Radio managing director Jim Jennings said the move was in line with a European trend towards shutting down longwave and would save about €250,000 yearly. “Longwave has been in operation for the last 10 years and we feel the time is right to move towards more online offering. We have a lot of offerings at the moment to the UK in particular. We are in 15m households in the UK with Virgin media, Sky and Freesat. We also have a radio player which is available online which is increasing its number of streams to the UK. And we think the number of people accessing longwave is very small.”

Mr Jennings said the broadcaster switched off this service earlier in the year for nearly two days and received just 37 complaints.

Founder of GlobalIrish.ie Noreen Bowden hit out at the decision saying there had been no consultation and RTÉ did not know how many people would be impacted. “This is a community of 400,000 Irish emigrants, Irish-born people. About a third of them are over 65. There is likely to be a very high proportion of people who will not be able to move on to internet.”

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