Closing Down Medium Wave 567Khz – A Grave Error

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.

3 thoughts on “Closing Down Medium Wave 567Khz – A Grave Error”

  1. I hope you don’t think I’m being funny, but I think
    you need to get your technical facts straight
    regarding RTE closing down the 567kHz service in
    favour of the 252kHz service.

    I am referring to:

    “These cuts deny reception to parts of N. Ireland including Falls, Belfast “.

    In fact, 80% of radios have the capability to receive LW. Domestic services in both the UK and Ireland are transmitted using VHF/FM, MW and LW. So anyone buying a radio that doesn’t have one of these bands (normally a cheap unbranded import) is shortchanging themselves.

    The 252kHz service gives MUCH better coverage outside the Republic than 567kHz ever will. Mainly due to the fact that it’s a long wave service. In the same way that 198kHz (BBC Radio 4) can easily be heard on LW in the Republic, but many UK national services on MW (Radio 5, Talksport, Virgin) cannot without difficulty.

    In fact it may surprise you to learn that 252kHz was used by a station called Atlantic 252 for well over a decade. It used the same power and transmitter site as RTE currently does, and their coverage was not just Ireland, but almost all of Great Britain too (except for the far South East). In fact it was even considered a “British” station at the time by most people! By comparison 567kHz MW is almost inaudible by the time it reaches most of Britain.

    In a way, RTE was very lucky that Atlantic 252 closed down as it has now gained a better signal at little extra cost.

    It’s also worth noting that in 2004, the 567kHz transmitter was off air for four whole months due to maintenance. I can’t remember ever reading or hearing any outrage about people not being able to listen to RTE during that time.

    Duncan Hill,

  2. Duncan you make many of the arguments in the same way and using similar text that RTE use privately to us, to defend this move.

    RTE was very lucky that Atlantic 252 closed down ? RTE owned 51% of Atlantic at startup. We were lucky they bought it back.

    LW 252 does not serve the UK well at night!

    Radio 5 Live, Talksport, Virgin serves as far west as Leitrim for me (night) no problem. LW 252 has issues in South Wales.

    On LW radio set ownership – 80% you say please quote your source.
    Argos are a source to purchase a LW radio sets. Based on
    sets sold in Argos that have MW or LW, LW is available on 4% of the
    radios that it sells. MW is on 96%. see.pages 424-443 current Irish
    catalog, that is a ratio 15:1 in favour of MW. Sample size >150 radios.

    RTE do not use the same power as Atlantic 252. A252 was 500KW RTE252 same site and antenna uses 300KW max. that is the TX they had installed in 2007.

    Re. complaints, if its a numbers game RTE will next close the orchestras they have. PSB’s should not play numbers games as they will lose.

  3. Nearly 2 years now since he demise of RTÉ Radio One on medium wave, I think it was a poor decision and premature, since it did affect the elderly and less abled.

    As well as areas in the North such as Belfast and parts of Antrim who cant get an RTE FM transmission! I think this is in breach of the spirit and the word of the Belfast Agreement, there should be some arrangement similar to the one providing for access to RTE TV and TG4 in the North.

    I agree LW is seldom an option on radios sold nowadays and in indeed over the past 25 years FM/AM(MW) was the default radio options. So people in the UK who even have a LW on their bands may not be use to tuning into it even.

    Also Long Wave has a limited listening public and experience some reception black spots in the UK (I believe they have raised the power last year!) this again limits the scope for RTE providing a service to the diaspora in the UK via LW.

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