RTÉ to continue longwave service next year

Broadcaster extends Radio 1 service until 2017 after complaints by emigrants

RTÉ will operate a full longwave Radio 1 service next year, service with reduced hours in 2016, before closing it down in May 2017, the station has announced, in an effort to assuage anger from Irish living in Britain.

The station says that while it still believes that longwave is “an outdated and costly technology” and “poor value for money”, it had listened to concerns from groups representing elderly Irish living in Britain.

"We want to work with all those concerned to ensure that RTÉ Radio 1, that voice from home, remains a voice that can be heard where it needs to be heard. All groups asked for more time," said Tom McGuire, head of RTÉ Radio 1.

Mr McGuire said the broadcaster remained convinced that longwave “has had its day”, but a delay would give British audiences longer to adapt to listening to its services digitally.


The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is to fund research next year to understand the needs of UK-based listeners, particularly from organisations such as the Irish in Britain.

In terms of the longwave signal’s reduced hours in 2016: “It will not be decided until closer to the date how many hours that will mean,” a spokeswoman told the Irish Times.

“The rise of smartphone and tablet usage among older users, the growth of platforms like Freeview in the UK, our own Radio Player and the imminent launch of the Irish Radio Player, all offer sustainable, practical solutions into the future,” said JP Coakley, head of operations at RTÉ Radio.

Link with home

Welcoming the move, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he had heard "first hand" from many Irish living in Britain who feel "very attached" to the longwave signal which provides an important link with home.

Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan said the delay will give people time to prepare: "While we may have preferred to see the decision reversed, this is an operational matter for RTÉ."

Paying tribute to those who signed petitions, Jenny McShannon, the chief executive of emigrant organisation Irish in Britain, said she hoped that no decision will be made by RTÉ that will pre-empt next year’s research.

RTÉ had previously announced that it would be ceasing its Longwave 252 service from the Clarkstown longwave transmitter on October 27th, leaving Radio 1 available only on FM and digital platforms.

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy is Ireland and Britain Editor with The Irish Times