Fuzzy radio rules do Irish speakers no favours

Cantillon: Language too often seen by stations as ‘a sop to vague licensing requirements’

‘Minimal’ Irish on the radio: Some ‘craic’, but not much in the way of current affairs, a new report has found. Photograph: iStock

‘Minimal’ Irish on the radio: Some ‘craic’, but not much in the way of current affairs, a new report has found. Photograph: iStock

 

There’s not much Irish on the airwaves – not much more than a cúpla focal. That’s the conclusion of research by Dr John Walsh of NUI Galway and Dr Rosemary Day of Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, that should give the broadcasting regulator pause for thought.

Studying radio stations beyond those that exclusively broadcast in Irish (RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta and Raidió na Life), Walsh and Day have found that the language has a “marginal” and “minimal” presence. Some stations (including Galway Bay FM, which broadcasts to a Gaeltacht area) had no regular Irish programming, while others had only brief “inserts”. With few exceptions, the language was confined to non-peak hours.

What’s more, many of the programme titles (Ceol agus Caint, Craic agus Ceol, Craic an Lae and Aon Chraic?) give the impression that Irish language content is exclusively “light-hearted and entertainment-based”, the report concluded.

Remarkably, no current affairs-type programming in Irish was “clearly identifiable”, with Irish too often seen as “a hobby for those who remember Irish from school or a sop to vague licensing requirements”, not a living language that people speak every day.

Amid “weak and imprecise” legislation and scant monitoring, the authors are calling for more support for stations, including the rehiring of an Irish language officer at the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), and a framework for sharing regular Irish-language content among commercial stations.

The BAI says it has “not yet had an opportunity to consider the report, but looks forward to reviewing the findings, and conclusions, in due course”. The authors and the regulator are expected to be invited to an Oireachtas communications hearing soon to exchange more than a cúpla focal on the subject.