Radio in the Republic of Ireland

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Licensed radio broadcasting in Ireland is one element of the wider Media of Ireland, with 85% of the population listening to a licensed service on any given day.[1]


A morse code transmission on 24 April 1916 from the General Post Office in Dublin by the rebels during the Easter Rising is considered the first broadcast in Ireland.[2] Regular radio broadcasting in Ireland began with 2RN's test transmissions in 1925.[3] 2RN has since become RTÉ Radio 1, which celebrated 80 years of uninterrupted broadcasting in January 2006, making it amongst the oldest continuously operating (if not the actual oldest), continuously public service radio station in Europe. RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta joined in 1972, and RTÉ Radio 2, now 2FM, launched in 1979.

Commercial radio was outlawed in Ireland until 1989, leading to the development of Irish pirate radio. Upon legalisation, licences were advertised and awarded on a franchise system explained in the article for a national service and a network of regional services covering the country. These all took to the air during 1989 and 1990, and although the national service (Century) eventually failed, all the local services lasted until their licence was revoked, or still exist. Additional licences have been added on an erratic basis since the late 1990s.

An 'international' service, Atlantic 252, also operated on long wave between 1989 and 2002, although it was aimed solely at the United Kingdom and Ireland. It was never subject to the authority of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI),[citation needed] and was operated under RTÉ's remit as a joint venture between RTÉ and CLT-UFA. After a short period as a sports station (TeamTalk), the frequencies reverted to sole RTÉ control and are now used as an additional frequency for RTÉ Radio 1.

In Ireland, Community Radio has been active since the late 1970s. However, it took until 1994 before the Independent Radio and Television Commission established an 18-month community radio pilot project to explore and evaluate the potential offered by community broadcasting in an Irish context. This project went operational in 1995, when licenses were issued to eleven community and community of interest groups across the country. 2004 saw the establishment of CRAOL the Community Radio Forum of Ireland.[4]


Aside from the stations operated by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), radio stations in Ireland operate under sound broadcasting contracts issued by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). This body supervises and regulates the commercial Independent National, Regional, and Local Radio stations, as well as the non-profit Community Radio stations, Institutional Services and Temporary Services. After the Broadcasting Act 2009, the BAI now is responsible for RTÉ also.


All stations broadcast on FM, barring those on the DAB Ireland multiplexes, which broadcast on VHF Band III; and the long wave version of RTÉ Radio 1 mainly intended for reception outside Ireland. RTÉ radio services are also available free-to-air on digital satellite, as is Newstalk, and a number of recently licensed services or applicants have used satellite transmission to homes as part of the licence applications.

Medium wave (AM) licences were issued for new commercial stations for Limerick and Galway in 2002, although these services never reached the air (with the licences being withdrawn); and a medium wave licence has been awarded for a quasi-national religious service Spirit Radio.

During 2006, a group, Choice FM, applied for and received permission to broadcasting on MW in the Dublin area over a period of thirty days. The 'easy listening' radio station relayed its FM programming on 1278 kHz MW, and operated opt-out programming at various times. The group is said to be interested in obtaining one of the four MW channels that are allocated to the Dublin area, however the BAI's future schedule for licensing does not indicate that any MW licences will be offered on a permanent basis.

During 2007, a radio station called 'The Rock' obtained a temporary 'classic rock' music service. The station broadcast on 94.9 FM and also on 1278 kHz MW. The Rock was operated by the same group that operated Choice FM during 2005 and 2006, although different MW facilities were used by the group during 2007.


Raidió Teilifís Éireann and Communicorp dominate the national radio broadcasting sector. RTÉ own the more popular Radio 1 and 2FM stations, the Irish Language station RnaG, and classical station Lyric FM. The 2 national commercial stations are both owned by Communicorp - Today FM and Newstalk.

Ownership rules were relaxed in the mid-2000s, which saw several companies buying up local and national commercial stations, including Scottish Radio Holding who sold their stations to Emap, who eventually sold on those stations to Denis O'Brien's Communicorp. The ownership of commercial radio in Ireland is largely by two companies; Communicorp with 5, and UTV Radio with 5.

The rest of the stations, mostly small services, are generally owned by local businesses, with notable proprietors of stakes including Thomas Crosbie Holdings, the Roman Catholic Church and the Mid Western Area Health Board.

RTÉ also broadcast six DAB stations, however DAB is not widespread.

Local Radio owners

National stations[edit]

RTÉ (national public service broadcaster)[edit]

Station Genre FM AM DAB Saorview DTT Virgin Media Sky Freesat Internet radio
RTÉ Radio 1 Mixed network - speech and music 88-90 MHz 252 kHz (usually) Mux 12 200 0160 m3u
RTÉ Radio 1 Extra Speech No 252 kHz (limited times) Mux 1 201 940 No No m3u
RTÉ 2FM Popular music 90-92 MHz No Mux 1 202 0164 m3u
RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta Mixed network in Irish language 93-94 MHz No Mux 1 204 0166 m3u
RTÉ Lyric FM Classical music 96-99 MHz No Mux 1 203 0165 m3u
RTÉ 2XM Alternative music No No Mux 1 206 944 No No m3u
RTÉ Pulse Electronic dance music No No Mux 1 205 943 No No m3u
RTÉ Gold Classic hits No No Mux 1 208 No No m3u
RTÉ Chill Chillout and ambient music No No Mux 1 209 No No
RTÉ Junior Children's music, stories and poetry No No Mux 1 209 942 No No m3u

Independent national radio[edit]

  • Today FM (formerly Radio Ireland) - popular music with some speech programming
  • Newstalk - news and talk radio
  • DAB-specific services which are theoretically national services.

Multi-city and county radio[edit]

Broadcasting to Greater Dublin (Dublin city and county; limited parts of County Kildare, County Meath and County Wicklow), Cork city and county, Limerick city and county, Galway city and county and County Clare:

  • Classic Hits - music service for over-45s
  • Spirit Radio - Christian and religious service aimed at over-15s; launched on 27 January 2011 with FM frequencies in the cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. In July 2012 the station as required by its licence introduced its planned AM transmission on 549 kHz medium wave to increase coverage to nationwide.

Independent regional radio[edit]

Map of regional and local stations in the Republic of Ireland

Independent regional radio[edit]

  • Beat 102-103 - Counties Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford and South Tipperary.
  • Spin South West - Counties Kerry, Clare, Limerick, North Tipperary, and south west Laois.
  • iRadio (NW) - Counties Galway, Mayo, Longford, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.
  • iRadio (NE and Midlands) - Counties Kildare, Meath, North Laois, Carlow, Louth, Westmeath, Offaly, Cavan and Monaghan.

All services are licensed for 'youth' content, no franchises area geographically overlap, and the entire country is served apart from County Wicklow and the cities and counties of Cork and Dublin, both of which have 'youth' licensed services (Red FM and SPIN 1038 respectively). Beat 102-103 was the first to air, and was a pilot for the rest of the system.

In 2011, i102-104 and i105-107 merged to become one iRadio entity.

Independent local radio[edit]

There are 25 commercial stations (Independent Local Radio - ILR) licensed on a regional franchise basis. Often several counties of Ireland are covered by one station only, but Dublin and Cork have several. The majority of the ILR stations collectively own the sales house, Independent Radio Sales.

Dublin ILRs[edit]

Except for the two original ILR licenses - 98FM and FM104 - each additional ILR license in Dublin was awarded for a specific format, intending on meeting demands which it was felt that 98FM and FM104 were not catering to. The majority of stations heard in Dublin can also be heard in North East Kildare, South Meath and North Wicklow.

  • 98FM - general service
  • Radio Nova 100FM (Ireland) - classic rock music service; the Original Radio Nova (Ireland) International, Ireland's first Superpirate station by the same name previously broadcast in Dublin from 1981 - 1988
  • Dublin's Q102 - service aimed at older listeners (35+); renamed in 2004, formerly 'Lite FM'. A pirate station by the same name previously broadcast in Dublin from 1985 - 1988
  • SPIN 1038 - service aimed at youth (initially licensed for dance music).[dubious ]
  • FM104 - general service; formerly 'Rock 104' and 'Capital Radio' 104.4FM
  • Sunshine 106.8 - easy listening service; renamed in 2010 - formerly 'Dublin's Country'/'Country Mix'. A Superpirate station called The Red Hot Sound Of Sunshine 101 previously broadcast in Dublin from 1980 - 1988.

Cork ILRs[edit]

  • 96FM and C103 (dual franchise) - C103 is aimed at older listeners, also sports and rural interest programmes.
  • Red FM - Corks Number 1 Radio Station Hot A/C format.

Leinster (excluding Dublin) ILRs[edit]

Munster (excluding Cork) ILRs[edit]

Connacht/Ulster ILRs[edit]

Community radio[edit]

Community Radio covers specific local communities or communities of interest. These operate on a non-commercial basis. In Ireland, the BAI requires that community radio stations subscribe to the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) Community Radio Charter for Europe. Community radio in Ireland is represented by CRAOL. Currently there are 20 fully licensed community radio stations on air in Ireland, with offers of contracts from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, while there are 42 stations in the process of obtaining a licence.

Special interest services[edit]

Special interest services resemble ILRs in most ways, but must be of specialist interest — e.g. heavier local interest content, or specialist music. Only one such station is licensed, Dublin City FM, which brand themselves as 103.2 Dublin City FM on-air, and DUB CITY on RDS. Dublin City FM are essentially a community station with specialist traffic reports around rush-hour periods.

Institutional services[edit]

Regional Hospital Radio 94.2 FM

The BAI may also issue licenses to institutions, such as hospitals and colleges, for the provision of low-powered FM services. At present, there are five such stations in operation; all of them are hospital radio stations, with the existing student radio stations operating under community radio or temporary licenses.

  • CUH FM Hospital Radio - (102.0FM) - Cork University Hospital, Cork, County Cork.
  • Mater Hospital Radio - Mater Hospital, Dublin, County Dublin.
  • Dreamtime 92.6FM - S.O.S. Kilkenny Ltd, Callan Road, Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny. [5]
  • South Tipperary General Hospital Radio 93.7FM - South Tipperary General and Maternity Hospital, Clonmel, County Tipperary.
  • St. Ita's Hospital Radio - St. Ita's Hospital, Portrane, County Dublin.

Temporary services[edit]

Stations may also be licensed to operate for shorter periods, with temporary licenses allowing stations to operate for up to thirty days in a given twelve-month period. These licenses may be used by stations providing a service to coincide with local, cultural and sporting events or festivals. Another group of stations to avail of this type of license are those that are being run as pilot projects; successful stations may later be established as Community Radio stations, or run for a permanent license.

Defunct stations[edit]

RTÉ radio[edit]

  • Atlantic 252 - a joint venture with RTL, eventually failed financially.
  • RTÉ FM3 Classical music/arts service, had existed prior to the launch of Lyric FM. FM3 time-shared the same national FM network as RnaG, resulting in limited broadcasting hours.
  • RTÉ Radio Cork, (was originally 'RTÉ Cork Local Radio', changed name in 1989 to 'Cork 89FM', and relaunched again in 1994 as 'RTÉ Radio Cork') - an opt-out of Radio 1 for the Cork area on medium wave and secondary FM transmitters, closed in 1999 due to declining interest. Listen to rare recording of the station
  • RTÉ mobile Community Radio station, existed during the late 1970s and 1980s, this mobile station provided temporary community radio services to towns and cities around the country.
  • Millennium 88FM temporary local radio service for Dublin during 1988 and part of 1989 to mark 1988 at the year of the Dublin Millennium.
  • RTÉ Digital Radio Sport, a rolling service in the early days of DAB.
  • RTÉ Choice, international and national speech service with drama, documentary, arts, world news. Merged in 2013 with RTÉ Radio 1 Extra.

Independent national radio[edit]

Independent local radio[edit]

  • Limerick 95 FM (Radio Limerick One) (95 MHz FM); lost franchise mid-term for stated misbehaviour - subsequently operated on a pirate basis.
  • CKR FM and Radio Kilkenny - franchises redrawn at end of contract, Kildare area awarded to KFM, Carlow and Kilkenny to KCLR. Gentrification of Kildare by Dublin commuters led Carlow to be closer aligned with Kilkenny in the eyes of the BAI, hence the changing of the franchise areas
  • Tipperary Mid-West Radio - held a very small franchise for South West Tipperary. Its franchise was merged with the rest of Tipperary franchise (held by Tipp FM). The station continues, being re-licensed as a Community Radio station.
  • North West Radio - subsidiary of Mid West Radio; replaced by Ocean FM at end of contract.
  • Easy 103 - held a licence for part of Wicklow and Horizon Radio held a licence for north Wicklow. These two stations merged to become East Coast FM.
  • Fresh 95.5 - short lived North Dublin-targeted station from LMFM; was licensed to Meath only, relying on signal overspill.
  • TXFM (formerly Phantom 105.2); alternative rock music station for the Dublin area.

Community radio[edit]

Institutional services[edit]

  • Beaumont Hospital Radio - Beaumont Hospital, Beamount, Dublin. Closed in 2007.
  • Vibe 107.4FM - was a student service in Waterford I.T.
  • Regional Hospital Radio 94.2 - Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick, County Limerick. Closed in 2018[6]

Radio Oglaigh na h-Éireann[edit]

Radio Oglaigh na h-Éireann (Irish pronunciation: [ˈradʲo ˈoːɡɫ̪iː n̪ˠə ˈheːɾʲən̪ˠ], ) was established in 1962 to provide a short wave service to Irish Defence Forces serving in United Nations peacekeeping missions in Congo. Daily broadcasts were made on 17.544 MHz at 17:30 UTC, using a transmitter located at the Curragh Camp. Programmes, which were provided by Radio Éireann, included news, sports results, music and drama, including The Kennedys of Castleross. The service was discontinued after several years, when the Irish peacekeeping mission in Congo terminated.[7]

Future stations[edit]

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland has either awarded, advertised, or announced its intent to advertise a large number of new services to launch within the next 24 months.[when?] These include a licence for an AM station, something which has never lasted commercially in Ireland, and the first attempt to license such since 2002; as well as what will amount to four stations easily receivable in most of Dublin city and county.

It is expected these may be the last commercial analogue services to be licensed, as the FM band will be highly saturated in Dublin and the midlands of Ireland. Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) on Ireland's many unused ITU-allocated medium wave frequencies is expected to be the next round of licensing, particularly as some of these allocations are 15 to 20 kHz wide, which is enough for FM-alike quality with the latest DRM+ coding methods. DRM has already been used by RTÉ to broadcast some content on short wave and long wave. Eureka 147 Digital Audio Broadcasting is in the process of being rolled out, having begun in 2006. The suspension of analogue licensing prior to the completion of this plan would further suggestion a termination of analogue licensing entirely.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland received three expressions of interest for radio services on Saorview. Easy FM, a country music service, an 80s mixed genre music service from Digital Radio Ltd., and Raidió Rí-Rá, an Irish Language pop music service[citation needed].

Country & Irish licences[edit]

It was planned by the BAI for two regional country and Irish licences to be advertised with the first (North East) region covering North Kildare, Meath, Louth and parts of Cavan and Monaghan; and the second (Mid West) region covering Limerick, Galway, Clare and parts of Tipperary and Kerry. These services were meant to be advertised by November 2007 but the suspension of the radio licensing programme by the BAI has deferred this. No mention of these licences has surfaced since.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "RTÉ Radio Sales". RTÉ. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
  2. ^ Bowman Show, RTÉ Radio 1, 20 May 2012
  3. ^ "RTÉ Libraries and Archives". RTÉ. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
  4. ^ Day, Rosemary. (2007). (Ed) Bicycle Highway: Celebrating 10 Years of Licensed Community Radio in Ireland., Liffey Press, Dublin. ISBN 978-1-905785-37-7
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Curragh Camp historical entry for Radio Oglaigh na h-Éireann

External links[edit]