Scottish Radio Holdings, who own a string of local stations in Scotland as well as Today FM in Ireland, have offered to buy struggling local station Dublin’s Country 106.8FM. The deal is expected to be completed within weeks following approval – albeit ‘in principle’ – from the BCI. They are also expected to ‘change the format’, although what this exactly means is anybody’s guess until they submit the proposed changes to the Commission.
Dublin’s Country have been on air for less than a year with disastrous listenership figures. They have proved unsuccessful at attracting advertising and have had to let staff go in their time on air. This means that the station will be sold for a very low price, once the debts have been covered.
Dublin’s Country – as Star FM – were awarded a licence under a lengthy and costly BCI process. A number of other stations also applied for the same ‘specialist music’ licence, including Dublin Alternative Rock station Phantom FM, who were disappointed for the second time in recent years.
Pete Reed, Phantom FM’s general manager, reacted angrily to the news: “I am shocked that the deal has been given approval,” he said, speaking to Radiowaves News tonight. He pointed out that: “it states quite clearly in the BCI’s application form that the Commission would look ‘very unfavourably’ on any attempt to sell in the first two years of a station’s existence.”
Indeed, conscious of the costly process, the BCI’s statement says: “[We] will generally look unfavourably upon proposed changes in ownership structures within a two-year period after the granting of a licence. The Commission takes the view that such changes are likely to undermine the integrity of the licensing process itself and be unfair to unsuccessful applicants.”
Pete is not the only one who is outraged at this development. He said he has been speaking to a number of the other unsuccessful groups with a view to taking legal action against the sale.
“It is outrageous that SRH can come into this country and pick up a local station for a song,” he continued. “We will definitely be pursuing this further.”