Radio Telefís Éireann (RTÉ; , ) is the Public Service Broadcaster of Ireland. It both produces programmes and broadcasts on television, radio and the Internet. The radio service began on 1 January 1926, while regular television broadcasts began on 31 December 1961, making it one of the oldest continuously operating public service broadcasters in the world.
Radio Éireann, RTÉ's predecessor, was one of 23 founding organisations of the European Broadcasting Union in 1950.
In 1960, RTÉ was established (as Radio Éireann) under the Broadcasting Authority Act 1960, the principal legislation under which it operates. The existing Radio Éireann service was transferred to the new authority, which was also to make provision for the new television service (Télifis Éireann) which opened on 31 December 1961, from the Kippure transmitter site near Dublin. Eamonn Andrews was the first Chairman of Radio Éireann, the first director general was Edward Roth. The name of the authority was changed to Radio Telefís Éireann under the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Act 1966, and both the radio and television services became known as RTÉ in that year.
In 1977, Conor Cruise O'Brien, the then-Minister, issued a new directive in the form of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960 (Section 31) Order, 1977 RTÉ was now explicitly banned from broadcasting statements by spokespersons of Sinn Féin, the Provisional IRA, or any other terrorist organisation banned in Northern Ireland by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. These directives were generally reissued on an annual basis until the final one of 1993.
The effect of this ban was greater than the one introduced over 10 years later in the United Kingdom. In the UK case, the ban could be easily circumvented using actors' voices; this was not permissible on RTÉ. The ban did not, however, affect UK stations broadcasting in the Republic as, until 1988 at least, viewers in the Republic were still able to hear the voices of Sinn Féin representatives.
RTÉ receives income from two main sources:
The RTÉ Authority appoints the Director General of RTÉ who in effect fulfils the dual role of Chief Executive and of Editor in Chief. The Director-General heads the Executive Board of RTÉ, which comprises the company's top management and includes the Chief Financial Officer, the Director of Communications and the Managing Directors of the Television, Radio, and News divisions.
The first voice broadcast of 2RN, the original radio callsign for Radio 1, took place on 14 November 1925 when Seamus Clandillon, the 2RN station director said, 'Seo Raidió 2RN, Baile Átha Cliath ag tástáil', Irish for 'This is Radio 2RN, Dublin calling'. Regular Irish radio-broadcasting began on 1 January 1926. Unfortunately, most Irish people could not receive 2RN's (1.5 kilowatt) signal. When faced with numerous complaints from Cork regarding the writers' inability to tune to the signal, Clandillon remarked in The Irish Radio Review, a magazine dedicated to the service, that they did not know how to operate their sets. 6CK was established in Cork in 1927; however 6CK was mostly a relay of 2RN.
A high power (initially 60 kW) station was established in Athlone, in 1932, to coincide with the staging of the Eucharistic Congress. 2RN, 6CK and Athlone became known as "Radio Athlone" or, in Irish, "Raidio Áth Luain" and were receivable across virtually the entire country. Radio Athlone became known as "Radio Éireann" in 1938.
Radio Éireann tried to satisfy all tastes on a single channel (with very limited programming hours). However, this resulted in a rather conservative programming policy. It was barely tolerated by most Irish listeners, and usually trounced (particularly on the east coast and along the Northern Ireland border) by the BBC and later Radio Luxembourg. This did not really change until Radio Éireann became free of direct government control in the 1960s.
Now, RTÉ has a nation-wide communications network with an increasing emphasis on regional news-gathering and input. Broadcasting on Radio 1 provides comprehensive coverage of news, current affairs, music, drama and variety features, agriculture, education, religion and sport, mostly in English but also some Irish. RTÉ 2fm is a popular music and chat channel which commenced broadcasting as RTÉ Radio 2 on 31 May 1979, Brendan Balfe being the first voice to be heard on the station at midday, when he introduced the first presenter, Larry Gogan. RTÉ Lyric FM serves the interests of classical music and the arts, coming on air in May 1999, and replacing FM3 Classical Music, which had catered for the same target audience and time-shared with RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, an exclusively Irish language service, which first began broadcasting on Easter Sunday, 2 April 1972. Formerly RTÉ operated RTÉ Radio Cork (previously 'Cork 89FM' and 'RTÉ Cork Local Radio'), a local radio service in Cork, but this closed down in the early 2000s.
A slightly adapted version of Radio 1 is broadcast as RTÉ Europe on Sky Digital and Hotbird; the main difference between this and the main FM feed is the inclusion of several programmes taken from RTÉ Radio na Gaeltachta.
DAB test broadcasts of RTÉ's four stations began on 1 January 2006, along the east coast of Ireland, also carrying the private Today FM and World Radio Network, to which RTÉ is a contributing broadcaster. DAB was launched to the public in late 2006, and now contains eight RTÉ digital-only stations – RTÉ 2XM, RTÉ Chill, RTÉ Choice, RTÉ Digital Radio News, RTÉ Gold, RTÉ Junior, RTÉ Pulse and RTÉ Radio 1 Extra – as well as the four terrestrial services. RTÉ's radio stations are also carried on digital cable and satellite platforms in Ireland, as well as on digital terrestrial television, and RTÉ Radio 1 has been carried on shortwave in DRM during specific events, including the All Ireland finals.
A survey carried out by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs showed that demand for an Irish language radio station aimed at a younger audience than RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta was high. This means that RTÉ might have plans to launch such a radio station.
While Ireland had been one of the first countries in Europe to go into radio, it was a relative latecomer to television. The state operated on a shoestring budget for much of the time after its formation in 1922, and the Department of Finance would not approve of anything it deemed to be a 'luxury' that the people could do without; television fell into this category, though this did not mean that television was completely absent, south of Northern Ireland. When the BBC activated its Divis transmitter in July 1955, it was strong enough to be seen in much of Ireland, roughly north of a line from Sligo, running down to Wicklow. Ulster Television, the Northern Ireland contractor for ITV, followed in October 1959; however, the picture quality was considerably lower for viewers in the Republic than it was for those in Northern Ireland.
In the late 1950s, a Television Committee was formed; their goal was to set up an Irish television service with as little financial commitment from Dublin as possible. It initially recommended setting up a service along the lines of ITV, plus five mountain tops as transmission sites, which were also equipped for FM radio transmission. However, since Éamon de Valera was somewhat wary of television, nothing more of consequence was done until Seán Lemass succeeded him as Taoiseach in 1959. A year later, Radio Éireann was converted from an arm of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs into a semi-state body and given responsibility for television. Eamonn Andrews was appointed as the new chairman.
Telefís Éireann began broadcasting at 19:00 on New Year's Eve, 1961. (It was originally supposed to go on the air on Christmas of that year, but Andrews gave the 'Radio Éireann' staff time off for Christmas.) The opening address by President de Valera described the benefits and disadvantages of the new medium; he went on to say that 'Like atomic energy, it can be used for incalculable good, but it can also do irreparable harm.' There were other messages from Cardinal d'Alton and Lemass; following this, a live concert was broadcast from the Gresham Hotel in Dublin. The show, which was a countdown to the New Year, was hosted by Andrews, with appearances by Patrick O'Hagan, the Artane Boys' Band and Michael O'Hehir.
Television opened up a completely new world to the Irish people. Topics which were hitherto not discussed openly and soberly in Ireland, such as abortion, contraception and various other controversial topics, were now being discussed in television studios; The Late Late Show, which began in July 1962 and is still running as of 2007, and its original host, Gay Byrne, pioneered many of these discussions, and has been credited with being a major influence in the changing social structure of Ireland.
In 1977, a new Fianna Fáil government came to power, and as one of its many promises, the government quickly authorised a second channel to be run by RTÉ. RTÉ 2's remit was to provide alternative television. As a consequence, the original RTÉ 2 schedule had many live relays of British programmes; however, there was also some original RTÉ 2 programming. The new television channel went on the air on 2 November 1978, and the opening night featured a gala variety show from the Cork Opera House.
In 1987, RTÉ 2 was renamed Network 2, with the revamp intended to revive flagging viewership ratings, with many preferring to watch BBC Northern Ireland or UTV, both accessible within much of the Republic. All sports coverage was transferred to the newly renamed channel, along with all children's programmes. The few Irish-language programmes provided by RTÉ were now broadcast on Network 2, although RTÉ One now also broadcasts Irish-language programmes.
Although Irish language programmes, such as news bulletins (Nuacht) and the long-running documentary series Léargas ('insight'), have been an integral part of the schedule, a new Irish-language TV service, Teilifís na Gaeilge (now TG4), began broadcasting in 1996.
RTÉ developed its only major studio complex outside Dublin in Cork. RTÉ Cork, opened in 1995 and became a huge success. It also became a large contributor to network output on both Radio One and RTÉ One.
RTÉ One, RTÉ Two and TG4 are also available in much of Northern Ireland via terrestrial overspill or on cable (coverage and inclusion on cable systems varies). Since 23 April 2002, (18 April 2005 in Northern Ireland) the channels have also been available via satellite on Sky Digital, although these are encrypted and anyone wishing to view the channels needs to obtain a Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland subscription (they are part of the Variety Mix under the new pricing system, or the Family Pack in the pre-2005 system). In addition, some sports programmes are blocked to NI viewers due to rights issues which conflict with the UK.
In January 2007, RTÉ announced plans to launch a channel, with the working title of RTÉ International, which would offer programmes from RTÉ One and Two as well as TG4. It would be initially available in Britain, before expanding into the rest of Europe, North America and Australia. The Irish government, while supporting the initiative by proposing new legislation, stated that no extra funds would be available.
From the outset, RTÉ had faced competition from British TV channels such as those of the BBC and ITV, broadcasting from Northern Ireland, whose signals spilt over into the Republic. RTÉ's approach was pragmatic, as it introduced cable television in the 1970s, initially known as RTÉ Relays, and subsequently (following mergers with other companies) as Cablelink, although it later sold its stake in the company, to NTL Ireland which has now become UPC. In the 1990s, more competition came from satellite television, especially from Sky based in the UK. British terrestrial TV channels are now commonly available throughout the Republic, but the number of channels received varies depending on the region. Despite this availability RTÉ still manages to achieve over 50% of the total TV audience for all channels.
RTÉ News and Current Affairs, or Nuacht agus Cúrsaí Reatha RTÉ in Irish, is a major division of Radio Telefís Éireann responsible for news programming on television, radio and online within Ireland. It is, by far, the largest and most popular news source in Ireland - with 77% of the Irish public regarding it as their main source of both Irish and international news. It broadcasts in both the Irish and English languages, as well as Irish Sign Language.
RTÉ News and Current Affairs provides the most comprehensive range of national and international news and current affairs programming in Ireland. The station is also a source of definitive commentary on current affairs. RTÉ News is based at the RTÉ Television Complex at Montrose in Donnybrook, Dublin, Ireland. However, the station also operates regional bureaux across Ireland and the world. RTÉ News faces stiff competition from within Ireland and abroad. Within Ireland, TV3 News, BBC Newsline and UTV Live provide competition in the television sector; as does Independent Network News, Newstalk and Today FM in the radio sector. However, RTÉ News remains the most popular source of news in Ireland. As Ireland is a predominantly English-speaking nation, international news channels (CNBC Europe, CNN International, EuroNews, France 24, Sky News, etc.) and Britain's BBC News and ITN (ITV News, Channel 4 News) also pose threats to RTÉ in terms of television news coverage of international events.
RTÉ News and Current Affairs produces over 1,000 hours of television programming and 2,000 hours of radio programming a year.
RTÉ is a major broadcaster of sports programming in Ireland. Gaelic football, hurling, soccer and rugby are all broadcast live on radio and television and increasingly online. The broadcaster also transmits live golf, boxing, athletics, horse-racing and show-jumping and other minority sports, usually when there is a significant Irish participant(s), or the event is in Ireland. The broadcaster has secured many events, free-to-air which might otherwise become pay-per-view.
In recent years RTÉ has been expanding its web broadcasting capabilities. With improved access to online material and better methods of delivery there is now a comprehensive range of services online. RTÉ streams all of its radio stations online, including digital, and there is a web only tv channel, RTÉ News Now as well as the availability to watch live programmes, subject to copyright.
RTÉ Publishing has four main constituent parts: Print Publishing, E-Publishing (both internet & teletext), Commercial Telecoms & Digital Consumer Technology Incubation. The division publishes the RTÉ Guide and sells DVDs and VHS videos of RTÉ Television programmes, and audio tapes and compact discs of RTÉ radio programmes. It operates all of RTÉ's many websites—branded as RTÉ.ie, and providing online news, sport, and entertainment services. Live streams of all of RTÉ's national radio networks are available online. In addition RTÉ Publishing operates a teletext service on both RTÉ One and RTÉ Two, called RTÉ Aertel, which has news, sport, and programme support information. Its commercial telecoms business provides both SMS and IVR telecoms services to all of RTÉ's broadcast services and channels.
RTÉ Performing Groups supports two full-time orchestras—the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra—as well as the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet, RTÉ Philharmonic Choir, and RTÉ Cór na nÓg. These groups perform regularly in the National Concert Hall and The Helix in Dublin. RTÉ Music's slogan is RTÉ – Supporting the Arts.
On 29 June 2005 the Minister for Communications, Marine, and Natural Resources, appointed the members of a new RTÉ Authority, replacing the previous one appointed in June 2000. Fintan Drury, chairman of Platinum sports management, and also chairman of Paddy Power plc, was appointed chairman of RTÉ. The other members of the Authority are Maria Killian, Patricia King, Ian Malcolm, Patrick Marron, Una Ní Chonaire, Emer Finnan, Stephen O'Byrnes and Joe O'Brien. The new Authority will hold office for not more than three years.
On 11 January 2006, Fintan Drury resigned as chairman of RTÉ, citing a potential conflict of interest in his role as an advisor to the organisers of the Ryder Cup golf tournament and as chairman of a broadcaster involved in a row over broadcasting rights. This occurred after government proposals to add the tournament to the list of sports events which must be broadcast on free-to-air terrestrial television, to which British Sky Broadcasting, the rights holders, were objecting.
On 22 February 2006, Mary Finan was appointed Chairperson of the RTÉ Authority.
In September 2006, the Government published on the internet the proposed text of the Broadcasting Bill 2006 This proposes that RTÉ and TG4 will become separate companies limited by guarantee, with the Minister as sole member of both companies (CLGs do not have shareholders). RTÉ will now be legally obliged to agree a charter every five years and publish a statement of commitments every year, and be under the jurisdiction of the proposed Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The bill was delayed,but was finally introduced into Dail Éireann on 14 April 2008. The bill as initated retains RTÉ as a statutory corporation, but renames the RTÉ Authority as the RTÉ Board and makes changes to the way it is appointed. It also renames the corporation to Radio Teilifís Éireann.
In the meantime, during 2007 the Broadcasting (Amendment) Act 2007 was passed by the Oireachtas, awarding RTÉ control of one multiplex for digital terrestrial television and giving it responsibilities in relation to broadcasting outside the state. In line with this, RTÉ and the government are currently in discussions with regard a new channel proposed for to launch outside the Republic of Ireland, this (as of March 2008) has the working title of Diaspora TV
In April 2007 TG4 became an independent statutory corporation, having previously been a wholly-owned subsidiary of RTÉ since its inception. RTÉ continues to contribute programmes to the channel, including Nuacht TG4.
Since July 2007 RTÉ has been participating in a HD trial in Dublin. It shows programmes such as Planet Earth and Gaelic Athletic Association matches. RTÉ have recently announced it is planning to launch a further two television channels; one general entertainment channel - RTÉ Three (working name) - and a timeshift service for RTÉ One - RTÉ One +1 (working name).