the following text has been passed to me by the very respected broadcast engineer Enda O’Kane who campaigns for the research group Irish Overseas Broadcasting as part of efforts to improve Ireland’s radio links with Ireland’s emigrants.
On March 24th, RTE’s national medium wave service will be switched off.
Starting 1932 Radio Athlone from the centre of Ireland brought news down the years to every home in Ireland. Our senior citizens, those who served Ireland well, will be badly discommoded. RTE – the national broadcaster – are making a major error. Is it believable that this could happen to a vulnerable and ageing audience in this the information age? We respect the needs of our Seniors with free travel, electricity, receiving licenses, alarms etc in an age of plenty. Following our national holiday a generation of Irishmen –southern, northern and UK based – will be unplugged.
RTE Radio One is the backbone national service since the birth of this state – it is the voice of this nation.
- It is a link to our fellow Irishmen north of the border and in the UK.
- Its core output of news and current affairs is speech-based.
- Adequate for speech, frontier crossing MW is upgradeable to FM quality DRM.
- MW is available on all dual-band radios, fly drive hire cars, longwave is not.
- We must continue with personal portability on Walkman and iPod.
Senior Citizens choose what is user-friendly and relevant.
- AM Medium wave is easier to tune in than FM.
- Medium wave gives predictable and stable reception.
- These cuts deny reception to parts of N. Ireland including Falls, Belfast
- It contradicts the Good Friday agreement and is now a political / media issue.
- A service to Emigrants for 75 years is now threatened by cash rich RTE.
- The Broadcsting (Ammendment Bill 2006) requires RTE provide a radio service to emigrants.
The simplicity of MW is particularly important to those with limited vision – the FM dial is cluttered with stations – tuning is a distraction – a factor in accidents.MW is also most useful for fishermen and those on the move – in cars, ferries, or on holiday, MW stays on the same spot on the dial.
Medium wave continues to be relevant – In Ireland and abroad it is experiencing a renaissance, Spirit Radio joins RTE on MW this autumn using 100kW with the option of digital medium-wave – DRM – with a lowering of carbon emissions.
The BBC has just opened a second digital medium-wave station. Its current AM offering, Radio 4 Droitwitch, is a service to Senior Citizen. UK regulator OfCom predicts the growth of DRM across the UK while France like Germany is converting its MW system to DRM digital.
RTE’s 30 year old MW transmitter is obsolete with muffled sound.
RTE must support both standards as happened with the launch of FM.
RTE’s Dublin MW site – sold to developers – a windfall of €13.8M.
Cork’s site now land filled by developers is expected to follow.
Is the sale of these unique sites – the family silver – taking precedence over service?
RTE have abandoned a principle which served then well over many years. When a new technical standard was introduced the existing was maintained during the transition period to allow the public time to switch over. That has not happened.
MW is a stepping stone to digital longwave now available on Longwave 252.
These disposals to developers have echoes of CIE’s dismantling railways in the 50’s.