Station ‘can afford’ service

The chairman of the Oireachtas Communications Committee said that if RTÉ can find the money to poach Ray D’Arcy from Today FM, it can find €250,000 to save the longwave service.

The service was due to end in October but was extended until January 19 over concerns from thousands of elderly Irish emigrants who said the service was their only link with Ireland.

Chairman of the communications committee John O’Mahony said the decision to close the longwave service but hire a highly paid presenter “flies in the face of true public service broadcasting”.

“RTÉ have not disclosed the exact amount to be paid to the high profile broadcaster, Ray D’Arcy,” said Mr O’Mahony, a Fine Gael TD.

“There are reports that the sum is as large as €500,000. We won’t know exactly until 2017, but suffice it to say that each year Ray D’Arcy will be earning more than it costs to run the longwave service, a service that benefits thousands of Irish people living abroad.”

Mr O’Mahony said it was “ironic” but unfair that the Government had appointed a minister for the diaspora, while at the same time one of the main State agencies is planning to cut off the diaspora.

“I think a bit of perspective is needed here,” he said. “What is more important; that colossal salaries are paid to individual presenters or that funding is directed towards providing a service for thousands of people who have been loyal RTÉ listeners all their lives?”

He called on RTÉ to reverse the decision and continue the service “for the benefit of the thousands of Irish people living in the UK”.

“Many Irish emigrants use long wave to listen to GAA matches from home, and for some it is their last connection with Ireland,” he said.

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