Radio Survivor
By Paul Riismandel
3 April 2023

It’s the Final Shutdown for Ireland’s Longwave RTÉ 252

After being on the precipice of shutdown since 2014, Ireland’s long wave (LW) RTÉ 252 is finally leaving the airwaves on April 14. I was alerted to the news thanks to James Cridland’s International Radio Trends, and realized I had not given the station much thought since September, 2021 when it returned to the air after two months of maintenance.

As Radio Survivor contributor Paul Bailey explained in a 2016 post, RTÉ 252 has a storied history. The station was founded as a commercial station in 1989, broadcasting rock music to the UK. It was acquired by the Irish public broadcaster in 2002, seeing an opportunity to reach the Irish diaspora. Protests from those listeners in the UK motivated the broadcaster to forestall 252’s demise several times in the last decade, but it appears April will see the final shutdown.

The 252 KHz signal rebroadcasts the RTÉ Radio 1 signal, which is otherwise available on satellite TV in the UK, and online worldwide. A primary argument for keeping it running was that it served older listeners, less savvy with internet streaming, and those tuning in while in their cars. Those rationales seem to have lost their power.

Though never used for broadcast in North America, the long wave band was once used throughout Europe and the Middle East in order to reach audiences over broad distances of hundreds of miles. LW propagation could be even better than medium wave (MW) AM, which served that function in the US, Canada and Mexico.

But the catch is that LW and AM broadcasting are expensive, especially to accommodate the high power needed to significant distances. According to RTÉ the 252 transmitter requires a full 2.5% of the organization’s total energy use. The antenna arrays also take up a lot of real estate to function at such low frequencies because, as the name implies, they have long waves. However, RTÉ has not announced plans to dismantle the transmitter site in Summerhill.

Across Europe both LW and AM/MW are in steep decline, principally due to these high costs and overall declining demand. For instance, the BBC is planning to wind down its own Radio 4 LW service and Radio 5 Live MW/AM transmitter network. AM is under threat in the US, too, as automakers drop support in their electric vehicles, citing interference caused by the motors that is difficult to mitigate.

As an aside, I own a Subaru Crosstrek plug-in hybrid, which has both electric and gas motors. I rarely listen to AM radio in the car, but I’ve noticed that performance on the band is significantly worse than I’ve heard in other gas-engined cars. By comparison, the FM receiver is quite good, especially on HD Radio stations.

It’s probably still too early to write AM’s obituary in North America, though additional life support may be needed. However, the end is likely nigh for LW and MW/AM in Europe.

While I’m always a little sad to see such an historic service phase out, I do find the energy consumption argument rather convincing. I also suspect internet radio is even more accessible to RTÉ 252 listeners than it was in 2014. But I will admit a little part of me is waiting for the 11th hour stay of execution.

The post It’s the Final Shutdown for Ireland’s Longwave RTÉ 252 appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Mike Terry to Longwaveradiolistening iog (2023-04-09)