Call for retention of RTÉ’s UK long-wave radio service

Senator Billy Lawless cites survey revealing 92% of Irish in UK listen daily to service

Independent Senator Billy Lawless wants RTÉ to continue to provide its UK long-wave service, which is due to be abolished later this year. Photograph: The Irish Times

Independent Senator Billy Lawless wants RTÉ to continue to provide its UK long-wave service, which is due to be abolished later this year. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Independent Senator Billy Lawless has called on RTÉ to retain its UK long-wave radio service for Irish emigrants.

He told the Seanad the service was due to be abolished some time this year.

“There are more than 600,000 Irish-born emigrants living in the UK, with many of its older members forced out of Ireland in the 1950s with little education and no prospects of work at home,’’ said Mr Lawless.

He said a survey, carried out by the Social Policy Research Centre at Middlesex University London a year ago, revealed 92 per cent of respondents listened every day or most days.

Some 44 per cent listened in the car or in another vehicle, he said.

Older age groups

“Unsurprisingly, it was the so-called older age groups who did not access the service on digital radio platforms, on a laptop or digital TV,’’ Mr Lawless said.

He urged Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Joe McHugh to “implore RTÉ management to reconsider this ageist and discriminatory cut” to its long-wave service.

“Nobody is trying to halt the digitalisation of our media or impede RTÉ in its process of modernisation,’’ Mr Lawless said.

Mr McHugh said a survey in the United Kingdom had revealed 72 per cent of listeners were over 60, while 68 per cent were born in Ireland and 62 per cent retired.

A lifeline

“For the majority of respondents, long wave was seen as a lifeline to Ireland, helping them to maintain a sense of Irishness and to keep up with events back home,’’ he added.

Mr McHugh said the majority of listeners in the focus groups preferred the familiar analogue service as opposed to digital platforms: computers, laptops and smartphones.

He said a meeting of a consultative group would take place in London next week to discuss the next steps and he was hopeful for a positive outcome.

Ultimately, it was an operational matter for RTÉ, he said.