Radio in Ireland and the UK.

Scott Fybush
Sun Nov 9 09:56:22 EST 2008

Sean Smyth wrote:
> I'm making my maiden voyage next week to Ireland. While I will have
> family with me, I'm gonna sneak off for a day to do some driving.
> I'll be mostly in the north of Ireland (flying into Dublin) and
> Northern Ireland.
> What's the radio landscape like? Any interesting stations I can
> listen to?

Ay, lad, 'tis a very different radio landscape you'll be goin' to. :-)

In Northern Ireland (and the rest of the UK), there are a handful of 
national services and a welter of much smaller local signals.

Five of the national services are operated by the BBC: Radio 1 (heard 
between 97-99 MHz on FM) is the "youth" (top-40, etc.) channel, Radio 2 
(88-91 FM) is the pop service (roughly equivalent to a personality AC 
over here), Radio 3 (90-93 FM) is the serious music channel, Radio 4 
(92-95 FM and 198 kHz LW) is...well, it's Radio 4, with a mixture of 
news and talk that's roughly equivalent to NPR over here, but with lots 
of other "spoken-word" content we just don't get here, including radio 
drama, book readings, comedy shows, etc. Radio 5 Live is on medium-wave, 
at 693 and 909 kHz, with talk and sports.

The other national services are commercial: Talksport, at 1053 and 1089 
kHz, which is just what the name suggest; Absolute Radio (ex-Virgin 
Radio) at 1215 kHz, which is a pop-music service; and Classic FM 
(100-102 FM), which is classical.

Each of these services is broadcast over hundreds of transmitter sites 
across the UK, and the RDS function that's universal on car radios in 
Europe allows them to follow the network from transmitter to transmitter 
as you drive, making it possible to tune in to Radio 2, let's say, as 
you leave London and keep hearing it non-stop all the way to Wales or 
Scotland without needing to constantly re-tune the radio manually.

The BBC also operates regional and local services, which tend to mix 
local news and talk shows with rather bland middle-of-the-road music. In 
Northern Ireland, there's Radio Ulster (92-95 FM and 1341 kHz AM) and a 
smaller regional service, Radio Foyle, at 792 kHz and 93.1 FM from the 
northwestern corner of Ulster.

(I should note that the 1341 kHz service comes from a tower at 
Lisnagarvey that is apparently the only Blaw-Knox "diamond" tower in 
western Europe. If your travels take you that way, Garrett and I would 
both love to see pictures!)

Then there's local commercial radio. These stations tend to be MUCH 
lower in power than most of our commercial stations - anywhere from 50 
watts up to a maximum of only a few thousand watts. They're found 
between 95-100 and 102-108 on the FM dial, and tend to be rather similar 
(but for the accent) to our commercial formats over here.

On to the Irish Republic: RTE, the government broadcaster, operates four 
national services. RTE Radio 1 is the spoken-word service, heard at 
88-90 FM and 252 kHz LW. RTE 2fm is pop music, heard at 90-92 FM. RTE 
Lyric FM is classical and jazz, at 96-99 FM. And RTÉ Raidió na 
Gaeltachta is the Gaelic-language service, heard at 92-94 FM.

No medium-wave radio is left in the Irish Republic - the last RTE 
transmitters went dark back in March.

Ireland also has a national commercial FM service, Today FM, at 100-102 
on the dial, as well as numerous lower-powered commercial stations in 
the upper reaches of the FM dial.

Two more notes: on both long-wave and medium-wave, you'll be able to 
hear lots of other signals from Europe at night. Among the more 
prominent are BBC Radio Scotland at 810 kHz, BBC Radio Wales at 882 kHz, 
Luxembourg at 1440 kHz and several powerful Dutch transmitters at 675 
and 747 kHz. On LW, France is at 162 and 216 kHz with a huge signal, 
Germany at 183 and 207, Luxembourg at 234. Most car radios over there 
still get LW.

And if you can get your hands on a "DAB" receiver, which are much more 
widely available in stores over there than they are here, you can listen 
to a pretty broad spectrum of digital services in both Northern Ireland 
and the Republic. They use "Band III", the VHF frequencies around 200 
MHz that were taken out of TV service over there. The BBC, for instance, 
has a "bouquet" of digital services that includes simulcasts of the 
national channels plus several additional music channels (1Xtra, which 
serves black listeners, and Radio 6, a sort of AAA), as well as channels 
for kids and one that does nothing but replay classic BBC programming. 
Many of these services are also broadcast over satellite, where they 
probably enjoy a bigger audience than they do over terrestrial digital.

Enjoy the trip!


More information about the Boston-Radio-Interest mailing list