Much of the discussion nationally around this issue has been about the crisis that RTÉ finds itself in. However, what is not being discussed in the national conversation to date is the impact the proposed closure of the Lyric studio will have on the city of Limerick and the Midwest region.
Lyric FM is an exemplar for decentralisation of State services. It has had an enormous positive effect on Limerick City and surrounding counties in the past 20 years. The principal reason to locate Lyric FM in Limerick in 1999 was to breathe new life into our third city. And that is exactly what it did. Amidst all the poorly managed and failed decentralisation projects by successive governments, the decision to locate Lyric FM in Limerick was a good one and it stands apart as a true success.
While it provides a much-loved national service, the presence of Lyric FM at the Cornmarket Row studios, located beside the city’s historic Milk Market and just 5 minutes walk from O’Connell Street, is finely interwoven with the story of Limerick in the last two decades, and that has been a remarkably positive and successful story of which both Limerick and Lyric are very proud.
Over its 20 years in the city the station has won numerous international awards for excellence in radio production, among these the Prix Europa (“the Oscars of Radio”), the Gold Medal at the New York radio festival, and countless others. The city and county of Limerick has been the backdrop for these honours and distinctions. Examples include the ‘Hearsay Audio Festival’ which brings the world’s top podcasters to the village of Kilfinane, and now has a massive international reputation. Another example is “Mighty Mac” – one of RTE’s most downloaded radio documentaries of all time. It was made by Lyric and features the story of Ger McNamara, a powerlifting champion and upholsterer whose workshop is around the corner from the Lyric studios . Impact Prize winning author Kevin Barry’s story is linked with that of Lyric Fm too. The list goes on. Limerick and Lyric have embraced each other and have a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship which would be wrong to break apart.
To consider taking the service away on narrow cost grounds (which really don’t stack up in any case) is to not see the full picture and recognise the value of this service to the city and the region that very proudly hosts it.
There is a broader point about balanced regional development. For all kinds of very good reasons we should be looking at growing our regional centres, not pulling everything away from them and towards Dublin. We should be talking about decentralisation not recentralisation. Our economy is heavily lopsided and that is neither good for Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Waterford or Galway. Nor is it in any way sustainable. On cost grounds alone there is an argument to expand RTE’s services in Limerick. It makes no sense whatsoever to diminish them, as is being proposed.
The unanimous message should go out loud and clear from this Limerick City and County Council that we are totally opposed to this decision, and we insist that the Executive of RTÉ reverse it, and that the Minister spares no effort in encouraging them to do so.