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    Campaigners call for RTE to operate long wave transmitter at full capacity

    By Noreen Bowden | June 17, 2008

    The following is a press release calling for an amendment to the Broadcasting Bill that would ensure that RTE would be required to operate its long wave transmitter at full licenced capacity. Ean is supporting an amendment that would require this because of our concern that the long wave service is being broadcast at less power than that which was previously required by Longwave 252.

    Campaigners have called for an amendment to the Broadcasting Bill, currently being debated in the Seanad, that would require RTE to operate its longwave transmitter at full licensed capacity. They say that the current situation, in which RTE is operating at reduced power, means that RTE is not living up to its public service remit.

    Kevin J. O’Connell, a former director of engineering at RTE, says that the long wave transmitter has been downgraded, and it now transmits at about half-power. “When Atlantic 252 was transmitting on the same wavelength to reach teenagers in Britain, it was broadcasting at 500 kW. Now it’s only broadcasting at 300 kW – and the need for power has actually increased, not decreased, in recent decades due to a proliferation of mass-produced electronic devices that pollute the spectrum.”

    O’Connell continued, “With the reduction of power comes a reduction in service. The move has had a detrimental effect on broadcasting to emigrants and those in the North. It also presents a serious problem regarding national safety in the event of an emergency.?

    The issue has emerged with new importance since the closure of medium wave, leaving the long wave service as the only radio alternative to FM.

    The power reduction has implications for emergency preparedness, says Enda O’Kane, retired RTE engineer. The Government’s recently distributed book, “Preparing for Major Emergencies”, calls for keeping a battery-powered radio on hand for emergencies. And in an emergency, people may be taking shelter in buildings where foil insulation or mountainous terrain weaken radio signals. “In an emergency”, says O’Kane, “RTE would be obliged to broadcast at full power to ensure the best possible access to information – but the long wave transmitter is not being managed and maintained with this in mind”.

    Modern technologies have actually made it more vital for transmission at maximum power. Thanks to the increased use of new forms of lighting, switches and other electronic devices added to by a more relaxed regulatory system electromagnetic pollution levels have risen – with this comes a need for increased power to fight the effects of the increased electrical interference.

    The reduction in power hurts the Irish in Britain, who are suffering from poor long wave reception – their only radio option since the shutdown of medium wave. Éan, the Emigrant Advice Network, is also calling for the resumption of long wave broadcasting at full power.

    Éan director Noreen Bowden says, “Broadcasting to emigrants is part of RTE’s public service remit, and legislation passed last year provided for RTE to provide radio as well as television broadcasting to Irish overseas communities. RTE is making welcome progress in working on its television service to emigrants in Britain, but we are concerned that the current long wave service is less than adequate. A restoration of the long wave transmitter to full power would be an important step.?

    “RTE must keep in mind its public service remit”, says Mr O’Kane. “They have an obligation to ensure our safety and to broadcast to the Irish overseas”.

    For more information:

    Contact Enda O’Kane 086 1719886 or Noreen Bowden at 0872111397.

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