Sunday 19 November 2017

RTE's all too blunt message for the Irish diaspora: to Hell or the internet

RTE is saying goodbye to its radio service for emigrants, Longwave 252.
RTE is saying goodbye to its radio service for emigrants, Longwave 252.
John Waters

John Waters

Ireland is saturated with British media, but Britain has never shown much interest in what we are saying or thinking. You can buy an Irish newspaper in any British city, but this is because of the presence in Britain of immigrants from Ireland rather than because British people care to know what is happening in Dail Eireann. If you line up representative samples of Irish and British people, and ask them a range of basic questions about the two countries, you'll find the Irish know more than British people about the UK, whereas Brits know almost nothing about us.

We've assimilated everything from the Dandy to Shakespeare, from Kid Jensen to Jeremy Paxman. British people, of course, know Joyce and Yeats and Beckett, but in a different way - as world writers who happened to come from Ireland - when they're not claiming them as British, that is.

As a teenager, I listened on a solitary earphone under the bedclothes to John Peel and Whispering Bob Harris on BBC Radio One on Medium Wave. If they played something ambient like Mike Oldfield or Tangerine Dream, it became impossible to tell the difference between the music and the static, and to this day, when I hear pieces from these artists, they always seem less interesting than I remember. Bob Harris's voice on medium wave had the quality of a lonesome breeze whipping itself up in the distant ether and faintly becoming discernible above the other elements. Later on, I fell in love with Radio Four, and nowadays have access to innumerable BBC TV channels via satellite.

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