Northern Ireland

Major antenna upgrade will ensure transmission of RTÉ longwave radio continues

Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton
Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton

TRANSMISSION of RTÉ's longwave radio is to continue for the Irish diaspora, a Fine Gael TD has said.

There was anger in 2014 when RTÉ planned to scrap its longwave 252 service, the only frequency on which many listeners in Britain and the north can receive a clear signal for Radio 1.

After a campaign and an intervention by the Irish Catholic bishops, the switch-off was postponed until June 2019.

RTÉ had initially defended the decision, claiming the money it would save annually would help meet other running costs while pointing out that Radio 1 is available on digital platforms.

Now Hildegarde Naughton, chair of the Oireachtas Communications Committee, said RTE was to undertake significant remedial works on transmission equipment which would guarantee the continuance of the service for a minimum of two years.

"The maintenance of long wave radio for the Irish diaspora is a significant concern to the committee," the Fine Gael TD said.

"The UK regulator, Ofcom, will not grant RTÉ, as a non-UK broadcaster, the necessary licence to broadcast on digital in the UK at this time.

"After engagement between the committee and RTE, I received a letter from the director general of the national broadcaster committing to maintain service into the future."

The antenna upgrade, she added, required manufacturing from a specialist supplier based in Canada and delivery of this was expected by mid-September.

"The relevant mast at Summerhill is 248 metres in height and is a high-risk work environment. I am told that the weather, and more particularly wind speeds, will be the main determining factor on the commencement and the duration of the works," she said.

"Unfortunately once this remedial work commences, the long wave service will have to be temporarily suspended. I understand that it will be out of commission for approximately 10 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. However I intend to work with the committee to explore other longer term alternative solutions to ensure this service continues."