RTÉ expands its digital radio network to 198,000 adults

30 Nov 2009

RTÉ Radio is expanding its digital radio network, making its four nationwide FM services and an additional seven exclusive digital radio services available to more than half of the population in nine counties via the digital platform.

By Christmas, radio fans in counties Kildare, Laois, Louth, Meath, Offaly and Westmeath can enjoy an enhanced radio listening experience using new digital radio sets. The announcement comes as RTÉ celebrates the first anniversary of its launch of digital radio on 1 December, 2008.

By re-using equipment used in previous digital trials, RTÉ has been able to deliver this expansion without incurring any capital costs.

RTÉ’s development of its digital radio infrastructure will allow it to continue to give Irish radio listeners the best possible services in the digital age, the radio director of operations JP Coakley said.

“I’m delighted that digital radio is now available to over half the population, meaning more people can experience the benefits of digital radio,” said Coakley.

“With this latest expansion of the network RTÉ Radio is contributing to the development of Ireland’s digital infrastructure and bringing a new free-to-air method of radio listening to audiences in a very cost-efficient manner,” Coakley added.

Digital radio via the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) standard has been available to listeners in the Greater Dublin area, Cork and Limerick city since last year’s launch which followed a twenty-month period of extensive trials. This latest expansion is the second phase in RTÉ Radio’s digital radio network rollout with 52pc of the population now able to access the service.

According to a recent radio listenership survey 198,000 or 6pc of adults aged 15+ live in a digital radio household. This figure is set to rise over the coming years as availability and awareness of digital radio grows and commercial broadcasters join RTÉ on the digital network.

Digital radios provide listeners with a whole new radio listening experience. The new radio sets are easy to tune, include information on programmes, songs and artists in the radio display, broadcast a clearer sound that is free of hiss and provide owners with new radio services in addition to their favourite FM services.

RTÉ intends to roll out digital radio to 56pc of the population over the coming two years. However any further roll out will require a regulatory framework that will allow commercial broadcasters to move to digital radio. This, RTÉ says, is to ensure that the whole industry moves together for the benefit of the listener.

The BCI commissioned a report on digital radio in Ireland and published the findings in September this year. The report makes a series of recommendations including the establishment of a digital radio forum and the development of a policy white paper.

RTÉ’s development of digital radio reflects progress in other European countries. More than 170 different radio brands already broadcast digitally in Northern Ireland and the UK. Digital radio is available throughout Northern Ireland.

The UK Government is aiming to secure digital radio as the primary radio broadcast platform in the UK and is proposing that all national radio stations will be transmitted via digital technology only by 2015, signalling the end of national FM services in the UK.

The UK Government has also put forward a five point plan for digital radio to be in all new cars by 2013. At present the UK market is the key supply point for electrical goods in the Republic and this migration is likely to have a significant effect on the products offered for sale in Ireland.

RTÉ’s four well known services: RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ 2fm, RTÉ lyric fm and RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta and RTÉ’s seven exclusively digital services are all available to listen to in digital quality sound on new digital radio sets that retail from approximately €50.

RTÉ’s exclusive digital radio services are Ireland’s only children’s radio service, RTÉ Junior; speech services: RTÉ Choice and RTÉ Radio 1 Extra; and music services: RTÉ 2XM, RTÉ Pulse, RTÉ Gold and RTÉ Chill.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years