Irish people in the UK should be allowed to subscribe to RTE, according to a letter writer in today’s Irish Independent.
R Mullins points out that the possible demise of Setanta Sports looming, Irish GAA fans in the UK are worried. He suggests that people who live abroad should be allowed to subscribe to RTE.
The Irish government had pledged to have RTE International on air in the UK by this past St Patrick’s Day, but RTE nixed the move in November, blaming budget constraints. The 2007 Broadcasting Act required RTE to set up a channel for broadcasting to Irish communities outside the island of Ireland; the legislation authorised for license fees to be used to do so.
The Irish Times is reporting that ‘growing unease’ among TDs and Senators over RTE’s decision to shut down its medium wave service on March 24. It says there will be a meeting between the Oireachtas Committee on Communications and RTE in the next few weeks over the issue.
The report quotes several politicians citing their concerns, including Senator Denis O’Donovan, a former TD for Cork South West. The report says:
“As somebody who lived abroad in the 1970s in London, working my way through college, I remember the importance of the service for emigrants,” he said.
“To listen to the broadcast of a GAA match was hugely important for emigrants.”
He said many of those who would be most affected were now silent because they were unaware it was going to happen.
Mr O’Donovan said while a young generation might be adept with modern technology, there was still a significant number of people who relied on the medium wave service. “These are people of modest means who who might also be living in remote areas. They have been using this service for years and years,” he said.
“I would call on RTÉ to reverse this decision. The closure of this service will not save a great deal of money, and if it can make people’s lives happier at home and abroad, why not continue with it?”
The Belfast Telegraph has weighed in on the continuing controversy over RTE’s move to shut down its medium wave service – a move that will affect those in the North as well as emigrants in Britain and beyond.
In its editorial, titled “RTE should listen to this signal”, the newspaper says that the RTE should be expanding its offerings to the North, not cutting them. It adds:
Although RTE is discomfited by the negative publicity over the ending of medium wave radio transmissions, the company must be privately pleased that so many of its listeners are concerned.
The Irish News, a newspaper based in the North, has been running substantial coverage of the recent announcement by RTE that it will be shutting down its medium wave service.
On its first day of coverage run nearly six pages of articles on the RTE shutdown of medium wave. The coverage includes a front-page article, an editorial, and four pages of articles on inside pages.
Thanks to the Irish News for allowing us to link to the PDF versions of the following articles:
- Front page: Minister weighs in on RTE’s switch-off
- Editorial: RTE must show equality to all
- Broadcaster defends plan to cease MW transmissions
- Trusty old AM has edge in terms of availability – by Ean member Enda O’Kane
- Foreign Affairs Minister Ahern steps in
- Switch-off gets poor political reception
- UK regulator contradicts RTE claim that MW harms environment
- Dead air from Belfast-born boss amid row
- The broadcaster’s history
Update: February 13
Update: February 15
Update: February 16
Update: March 3
In a front page story, the Irish News reports today that the issue of RTE’s medium-wave shutdown will be examined at Dail and Stormont committees. The paper notes that Sinn Fein, the SDLP, Fine Gael and Labour have all their concerns over the shutdown, which is scheduled for March 24.
RTE has pledged to find a way to extend its FM coverage throughout the North before the end of its MW transmission.
There have been no reports on any plans to address the loss faced by emigrant communities.
The Labour Party is calling on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications to ask RTE to explain its decision to eliminate its medium wave broadcast.
The party’s communication spokesperson Liz McManus said that the shutdown was in violation of the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, because it will cut off one of the traditional cross-border links.
Ms McManus also highlights the situation of the Irish abroad:
This decision also affects Irish emigrants, particularly those who were forced to leave during harder times, and they must be given assistance to manage this change and keep their radios tuned in to our national broadcaster. They must not be left behind during this modernisation programme by RTE.
Ms McManus proposes a possible solution: Postpone the switchoff until there is a digital alternative.
There are many who would have preferred RTE to have postponed the switch off until it begins broadcasting in digital. Medium wave should be recognized as an integral tool in the strategy toward digital radio.
I will be asking the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications to invite RTE to come in to discuss this matter in full. I will also be writing to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on this matter.
This matter should also be debated by the Committee established by the Oireachtas to oversee progress on the Good Friday Agreement. Denying people in Northern Ireland access to our national broadcaster service is a step backwards. Denying emigrants in Britain the same access compounds an injustice to many of them who were forced to leave out of economic necessity
Edit: Liz McManus also brought up the issue in the Dail during the Order of Business on the 12th. From the transcript:
Deputy Liz McManus: I am not sure whether the Taoiseach is aware that in Northern Ireland there is considerable concern at the fact that next month RTE intends to close down the medium wave radio service. This seems to fly in the face of the Good Friday Agreement, that people who have been able to access RTE radio all their lives will no longer be able to do so.
Will the Taoiseach ensure that the Broadcasting Bill is brought forward? In the meantime, because this affects people in Northern Ireland and our emigrants in Britain, who in many cases will also lose a service, will he ensure that RTE does not close down this service until the Broadcasting Bill is debated and that we can ensure there is consistency? For example, the FM signal is so weak on parts of the Falls Road that people simply will not be able to get RTE radio. This is a matter for debate in this House and for the committee on the progress of the Good Friday Agreement, as well as the Joint Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.
An Ceann Comhairle: It is a matter for the House but not on the Order of Business. The Taoiseach to reply on the Broadcasting Bill.
The Taoiseach: The Broadcasting Bill will be before the House shortly.
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