Irish Times

All quiet on the airwaves during testing time

The State’s radio and television airwaves fell silent for the first time early this morning as part of a Government exercise on giving urgent messages to the nation.

At 4.45am the Department of Communications carried out a 30-second engineering test on all television and radio channels.

The four terrestrial broadcasters, regional broadcasters, all national radio channels and the 25 local radio stations carried an announcement indicating an engineering test was under way and normal programming would resume at the end of the test.

The exercise simulated the requirement of the Government and/or the emergency services to access to radio and TV platforms at short notice to broadcast to the nation.

The Government Task Force on Emergency Planning said it viewed the broadcast media as the most efficient vehicle to transmit emergency messages.

This is the first time such an exercise has been done in Ireland and the first time Government Buildings has been used to distribute a message to almost every broadcast entity in the State.

The Department of Communications said the timing of the exercise was chosen to test the response times of the broadcasters as most stations are unmanned in early in the morning.

Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan said, “I am pleased that this morning’s exercise went without a hitch. Contact was made with the broadcasters in question early this morning and they had very little time to co-ordinate this national broadcast response.

“The exercise was designed to test the ability of the broadcast networks to work together and to have available a critical infrastructure that will allow emergency messages to be broadcast to the public should the need arise. This they did quickly and effectively.”

According to a department spokeswoman, the ability of the Government to transmit information over multiple airwaves forms a key part of its emergency planning. There would be ongoing testing of such transmissions, she added.