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    Letter highlights MW problems in North

    By Noreen Bowden | March 20, 2008

    A letter to the Irish Times highlights the fact that there are problems with the reception of RTE on FM. RTE switched Radio 1 with Lyric FM on the FM dial last week, in an effort to resolve concerns among Northern listeners about the shutdown of medium wave.

    The letter says:

    Madam, – The report in your edition of March 18th on next week’s planned closure of the RTÉ Radio 1 service on medium wave focused on the effect on Irish emigrants in Britain.

    I would like to add the voice of a Northern Ireland resident to the clamour of opposition. Most radios sold today do not have long wave, and sitting by the computer to listen to radio is not ideal or always practical.

    Last week RTÉ was trumpeting its solution for Northern Ireland residents – an FM frequency swap which would reach listeners in Belfast and elsewhere and allow us happily to switch from medium wave. The new service started on Friday.

    I eagerly searched for it on all four FM radio receivers in my home. Nothing. The medium-wave signal, however, came through as before – a bit crackly, and not really clear enough for listening to music, but perfectly adequate for speech. I went for a drive around Belfast. The FM signal cut in and out at various points around the city; when it was present, it was inferior to the medium wave broadcast.

    I drove south, towards the transmitter. Only after I passed Sprucefield, more than 10 miles south of Belfast, could the signal be said to be reliable and acceptable.

    I noted from the Irish Newsover the weekend that listeners in the Glens of Antrim, who had been eagerly anticipating the new FM service, were also bitterly disappointed with what was delivered.

    Next Sunday I will listen to Sunday Miscellany – for the last time if the current proposals are implemented. RTÉ’s promises to Northern Ireland residents, which were welcomed by us all just a few days ago, have been shown to be empty, hollow words.

    Surely this is precisely not the time for RTÉ to diminish its service to Northern Ireland. – Yours, etc,

    Kensington Gardens,

    See the letter on
    See a scanned version of the letter.

    Topics: Latest News, radio | 4 Comments »

    4 Responses to “Letter highlights MW problems in North”

    1. Duncan Hill Says:
      March 20th, 2008 at 4:20 pm

      Dear Mr. Hanna,

      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:

      “Most radios sold today do not have long wave”.

      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. ean Says:
      March 20th, 2008 at 5:28 pm

      Hi Ducan,

      Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, some of your information is out of date.

      To begin with, only a few sets these days have longwave. In Ireland, the Argos catalog shows that only 4% of the sets they carry have longwave. Looking at the website, there are only about 10% of the sets under 50 pounds that have longwave.

      I have personally been ringing both car manufacturers and radio manufacturers and they report a precipitous fall in the number of cars and radios being produced with longwave. One industry executive estimated that only about 30% of cars have longwave as standard today.

      The current longwave transmitter is NOT transmitting at the same power as Atlantic 252 did. Atlantic 252 used 500 kw. RTE replaced the transmitter in 2007 and is now transmitting at only 300 kw.

      It’s not true to say that RTE is inaudible by the time it reaches Britain. It is true that it is not an option for most of those in the greater London area, as Hertfordshire is, but we know there are listeners in places like Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, and Huddersfield, where there are substantial Irish communities.

      Additionally, the longwave signal is subject to severe interference from Tipaza – a problem RTE acknowleges and says it is attempting to negotiate over.

      When RTE was off the air for maintenance, there was an understanding it was coming back. March 24 is a total shutdown, not a maintenance break.

      Neither MW nor LW are perfect solutions – but MW does have an important role to play, and this needs to be acknowledged.

    3. Enda O"Kane Says:
      March 21st, 2008 at 12:16 am

      Dear Duncan,

      A one time resident of Hertfordshire, I worked on the commissioning of Atlantic 252 and was active in campaigning to have it bought back after its sale to “TeamTalk 252.

      As you say 567 kHz is no match for longwave 252 kHz in the south of England and near Europe but only during daylight hours.

      567 kHz has provided Central England and Scotland with a signal over the years and gives an extra option beyond London into Europe after dark when longwave suffers from co-channel interference.
      As Mr. Hanna points out FM is patchy in some areas of Northern Ireland.
      Those with mediocre FM depend on medium wave even though RTE longwave is now possible.
      BBC have always used MW in N. Ireland due to an overlap of stations from Scotland on longwave. As there is no LW tradition purchasers have already made their choice.

      RTE’s charter call for the use of modern technology.
      RTE must convert to digital on LW initially and then MW. This means a new MW transmitter.
      Tullamore MW is now thirty years in service and energy inefficient.

      Costings available to me show that a new solid state installation of exactly similar design to the new LW unit can pay for itself in just 2 to 3 years.

      New broadcasting legislation will be before the Dail next month. This legislation must detail RTE’s role in serving the needs of a modern Ireland where many of its citizens regularly depart these shores on business, holidays or travelling to homes in Europe. A relay of existing programmes across the EU is possible using digital short wave, These citizens have already paid €5M travel tax on leaving the state and are entitled to such a service.

      In shutting MW RTE are turning their back on DRM – digital long, medium and short wave.
      To exploit its frontier crossing capabilities, RTE must have a MW fallback channel,
      Digital Radio Mondiale would give Ireland an opportunity to drive down the cost of receivers and provide a noise free hi-fi sounding service across these islands on LW and into Europe on short wave.
      Sadly in their efforts to confuse, RTE costings for running MW are out of date and bear no relationship with reality.

    4. Tony Lewis Says:
      March 27th, 2008 at 4:37 pm

      I must live in the same part of Belfast as this lady and I too looked forward to receiving RTE on glorious FM after weeks of RTE trumpeting about how the FM signal will be “Greatly enhanced” in the Belfast area. How disappointed I was when I tried to tune in on the new 87.8 frequency and received precisely nothing!
      Again as this lady did I moved around the house to different rooms and hung out of a few windows with no improvement at all. So I wrote to RTE and expressed my concerns, and the reply I received told me that the signal must be blocked by the terrain and to go and purchase a longwave radio. I have several radios around my house ranging from an expensive Hi-Fi system with DAB/FM/AM to portable radios with DAB only and one with AM/FM/SW/Worldspace but only a small cheap travelling set bought in Argos with longwave which wouldn’t be suitable for listening for any length of time (and its battery operated). Its correct EAN when you say that most radios today are sold with either DAB/FM or FM/AM(MW). I did track down a Roberts radio on the internet that was discounted by £16 but that still left me with a bill of £33 which I was prepared to pay for a decent set.
      RTE must understand that whilst I am in a position to afford such items many people, particularly the elderly are not and they as always will be the first to suffer. I notice from their website that even though they say radios can be purchased from 8 euros they neglect to say the build quality of the items (probably cheap plastic battery only imports) or where indeed they are on sale.