By Noreen Bowden | February 13, 2008
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.