Is RTÉ Radio 1 on digital radio in the UK?

Can I get RTE1 on a DAB+ radio? I don’t have cable, satellite or internet. Up to now I have listened to Irish music on Saturday night on long wave but I haven’t been able to find it for a couple of weeks and I’m wondering if long wave has been switched off.
– Seamus

RTÉ Radio 1 has been available on longwave 252 kHz since 2004. The transmitter in County Meath provides ‘overspill’ into the UK, allowing listeners outside of Ireland to hear RTÉ’s most popular radio station. RTÉ previously announced that the long wave service would end in 2017, but this has been delayed to June 2019.

Currently RTÉ Radio 1 is not available on DAB/DAB+ digital radio in the UK, but there have been developments which could bring Radio 1 or a similar service to the UK.

In March 2017 RTÉ announced a plan to “launch a service on DAB+ digital radio modelled from RTÉ Radio 1”. Details of the service were still being worked out, but “it is likely to include a limited amount of new targeted programming commissioned for audiences in Britain”. The broadcaster anticipated that the service would be available in urban centres where the “majority of RTÉ Longwave listeners live,” rather than across the UK. The specific areas have not been detailed yet.

At the time of the announcement the Director-General of RTÉ said long wave was not viable as a technology in the long-term.

“It is crucial that we work with all partner bodies to evolve a replacement service and that RTÉ plays its part in supporting evolving technologies. I’m confident we have a meaningful solution and the goodwill to make a success of it for audiences in the UK,” said Dee Forbes, Director-General, RTÉ.

The reason for launching a new service is that only UK-based stations are able to apply for a radio licence from Ofcom, the broadcast regulator.

However, in December 2017 plans were unveiled by the UK Government which could see this changed. Legislation on the deregulation of commercial radio is due to be brought forward when parliamentary time allows, and Ofcom could look at any changes which can be made in the short-term.

This would allow RTÉ to broadcast Radio 1 on DAB digital radio in the UK.

In February 2018 the Irish broadcaster unveiled their 2018-2022 strategy. Under ‘Audiences first’ the strategy says that audiences abroad have access to RTÉ content online (e.g. RTÉ Radio Player) and that although LW will be phased out, “plans are underway for a UK DAB station for the Irish abroad”.

Continued reception of long wave

Although engineering work was carried out during the summer of 2017, there does not appear to be any current issues affecting the long wave transmission. Indeed we are able to receive it in North East England at the time of writing.

Long wave is susceptible to interference from PCs, televisions and other electrical devices. Powerline devices which are used for home computer networking can also cause issues. You mention you don’t have the internet, but it may be worth moving the radio around your home or even trying another location to see if something is interfering with the reception. Even moving the radio around the same table could make a difference.

There could also be a problem with your radio. You could try tuning to 198 LW for BBC Radio 4 to see if reception is also problematic. If you need a new radio it may be worth finding a local Euronics store where staff may be more knowledgable about radios. Some Euronics shops sell Roberts radios which receive long wave and they may be able to demonstrate reception in store.

Long wave is still used by other stations, such as Europe 1 from France, which can be received in parts of the UK on 183 kHz. In recent years Radio France and Germany’s Deutschlandfunk have switched off their medium wave services.