Donegal Stations

IRTC pressure community station to remove programme

A morning chat show on a licensed community radio station has been forced off the air as a result of pressure from the IRTC. Patrick J Ferguson’s magazine-style show aired on Inishowen Community Radio in Donegal from 10am every morning.
“Suddenly the I.R.T.C decided to request that my programme be moved to a later slot in the day because they said it was in conflict with a similar type radio show from the commercial sector,” Patrick told Radiowaves News.
“As I work from the afternoon through to the early hours of the morning I could not broadcast the programme at any other time. I believe that a commercial radio station put pressure on the I.R.T.C to request its removal from the morning slot.”
Patrick has forwarded a letter to all Irish licensed commercial radio stations and the media. The full text can be read below…

An open letter to the commercial radio sector Re: Community Radio
4 Pillar Park, Buncrana, Inishowen, Co Donegal

Dear Station Manager,
From my understanding, the ethos of community radio is to supply via the airwaves an alternative programme schedule (from that of a commercial franchise holder), to the community for which they have received a licence to broadcast to. It is also fair to say that community radio programming is designed to entertain, inform and educate it’s listeners in subjects that the listeners may not hear on commercial radio but find important to them. I totally agree with those principles.

Community radio is not, nor should the commercial sector conceive them to be a threat to their existence, but instead should help to nurture and support them as a viable part of community life especially in area’s where (because of logistical, financial and geographical reasons) the commercial sector is unable to broadcast their programmes to all of the towns and villages in their franchise area.

There are a number of such commercial franchise holders who are encountering this problem. Galway, North Donegal and Clare are three such licence holders and as the I.R.T.C continue to approve new community radio licences, I’m sure other commercial franchise holders throughout Ireland will also be included in that list over the next few years or so.

Because of their geographical location and at times their inaccessibility by road never mind the airwaves, West Clare, Connemara, and Inishowen are such areas, to have received community radio licences from the I.R.T.C over the past number of years. I think it is only right that the residents of these areas receive some form of local radio be it be it from the commercial or community sectors, (in these three cases they are receiving radio programmes from the latter).

Whilst I can understand the fears of the commercial sector of infringement (on the hours of broadcasting, programming, advertising, etc) by community stations within their franchise area, they should be aware of the constraints imposed on those same community radio stations by the I.R.T.C. Here are a few of them. Restrictions on the size of transmitters, Limited broadcasting hours, 6 minutes of advertising against 15 for commercial radio stations, enforced repeating of programming and the latest constraint the timing on which certain programmes can be aired. These are just a few of them but believe me as you are well aware there are many, many more.

It seems that freedom of speech and the right to freedom of expression are out the window when it comes to those volunteers involved in community radio. The same constraints have not been imposed on the commercial sector so why should that same sector be afraid of the concept of community radio, I know that if I was in their shoes I wouldn’t be.

Finally let me make this heartfelt request to the commercial sector involved in radio (locally & nationally) give COMMUNITY RADIO a chance. It is not there to be in competition with you. It is there to support you albeit by a choice of different programming, (or in some cases the style of that programming may be similar to that of a franchise holder but yet technically can be classified as an alternative because the town, village or hamlet does not receive a signal broadcast from the franchise holder) in those area’s where your signal is not received by a substantial number of residents within your franchise area.


Yours truly, Patrick J Ferguson

Newspaper: Radio licence case adjourned for three weeks

Sligo Weekender
Radio licence case adjourned for three weeks

Sligo Weekender – February 3rd 2004

Radio licence case adjourned for three weeks

The full story of North West Radio’s grounds for appealing the BCI decision not to renew their radio licence will not be heard until the end of this month.
Tuesday, February 24 has been set as the date for NWR’s judicial review to reconvene after it became apparent that the case would last longer than the two days allocated for it in Kings Inn, Dublin.

The full story of North West Radio’s grounds for appealing the BCI decision not to renew their radio licence will not be heard until the end of this month.
Tuesday, February 24 has been set as the date for NWR’s judicial review to reconvene after it became apparent that the case would last longer than the two days allocated for it in Kings Inn, Dublin.
Presiding Judge Purch heard the outline of the difficulties NWR have with the decision of the BCI to award the Sligo, North Leitrim, South Donegal licence to Ocean FM instead of themselves.
On Thursday Senior Counsel for NWR, James O’Reilly delivered the station’s case, questioning the transparency of the BCI’s decision and decision making process.
The chief focus of the case for North West Radio is the slow reaction of the BCI to their request for the minutes of a meeting held on April 29, 2003 at which the Commission agreed to award the licence to Ocean.
According to Mr O’Reilly the minutes and the feedback eventually supplied to NWR by the BCI outlining their reason not to renew the licence did not comply with the BCI’s own guidelines for assessing a licence.
He claimed the original minutes could not be produced in court because the transcript had been shredded by the secretary of the BCI.
Mr O’Reilly also highlighted the four week wait NWR endured before the BCI gave, in a written form, the feedback and the minutes from the meeting of April 29 last.
He referred to the feedback, which was described by the CEO of the BCI Michael O’Keeffe in a letter to NWR as a complete document, for the reasons for rejection.
Mr O’Reilly claimed it was a bland document and the reasons for rejection were not even numbered by the BCI in it.
The Broadcasting Commission are denying that they did not fulfil their own criteria in discussing the renewal or non renewal of the radio licence to NWR.
A spokesperson for the commission said each member discussed each item under its own headings and it was, they said, a collegiate discussion.
Mr O’Reilly said the only evidence that the commission had followed their own proceedings was the copy of the feedback and the minutes of the meeting, which he argued did not reflect that level of discussion.
The case will resume on Tuesday, February 24.

Newspaper: Radio station takes legal action

Mayo News
Radio station takes legal action

Mayo News – February 4th 2004

Radio station takes legal action

A legal challenge has been brought by North West Radio (NWR) against the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland’s (BCI) decision to award the licence for its former broadcasting area to North West Broadcasting Ltd. (NWBL), trading as Ocean FM.

A legal challenge has been brought by North West Radio (NWR) against the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland’s (BCI) decision to award the licence for its former broadcasting area to North West Broadcasting Ltd. (NWBL), trading as Ocean FM.

NWR, of Market Yard, Sligo, had broadcast in the Sligo, south Donegal and north Leitrim area for the past 13 years. It claims the BCI failed to adopt fair procedures when granting the renewal of the licence to Ocean FM. The commission denies the claims.

In the High Court on Thursday last, Mr. James O’Reilly, S.C. for NWR, said it was the most successful radio station in the country when the decision was made to award the contract to NWBL on April 29th, 2003. NWBL had next to no experience, and was established solely for the purpose of unseating his client.

He said the commission was appointed by the Government for a five-year period, and could be drawn from trade unionists, politicians or those who found favour with the Minister in government.

Those appointed made important decisions, and were not subject to appeal. Those who wished to appeal were left with no alternative but a judicial review.

In an affidavit, Mr. Paul Claffey, managing director of NWR, said their broadcast policy had succeeded against the odds, and now found it had been put out of business by a consortium created for that sole purpose.

NWR shared some of its programmes with Mid West Radio, who had successfully re-applied for a renewal of franchise last year, but, for reasons unknown, the question of shared programming and management appeared to have played a major part in the commission’s decision to refuse a renewal of NWR’s licence.

The commission denies its decision was in breach of the Radio and Television Act, 1988, and says it gave full consideration to the applicant’s performance.

The commission rejects arguments that its decision-making process was not transparent, and denies any breach of fair procedures. It says reasons for its decision were provided in a feedback report furnished to the applicant. This had afforded NWR the opportunity to discuss why it was unsuccessful. However, NWR had refused to or did not take up the offer.

Today’s Newspapers: February 20th 2008

Derry Journal – A fresh and interactive sound for the North West

A fresh and interactive sound for the North West

Broadcasting from Galway to Malin Head, Irish radio was changed forever with the opening of the new i 102-104 FM by comic duo Tommy Tiernan and Hector O hEochagain last week. This brand new station is the first dedicated station for young people in the North West and will broadcast to Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Galway, Longford and Roscommon.

We asked chief executive, Dan Healy what exactly is different about this station. Is it just another non-stop pop station? “Not at all. This station brings a fresh and exciting offering to our listeners in the North West. Our intention is to change the way our younger people consume and interact with media. You may have noticed the predominance of the (i) symbol around the studio and indeed the city. (i)-It means inquisitive, intelligent and perhaps most important, interactive.

“The listeners will play a big part in the running of this station – we will reflect their views, their music tastes and their concerns.”

As for being just another ‘non stop pop’ station, Healy said: “There are many issues out there facing the young people of today -these include social problems like drug abuse, sexuality, suicide and more. We will provide a platform for many of these issues where people can get an opportunity to discuss them openly. As you know, a problem shared is a problem halved. Over 40% of our air-time will be devoted to ‘talk radio’ and we want our listeners to do the talking. It’s all about involvement and interaction.”

Where will Donegal fit in with the whole plan?

“At present Donegal is blessed with the most successful local radio station in the country, Highland Radio. I suppose we want to fill a gap in the general market and do not see ourselves as direct competitors. People will still chop and change stations tuning into their favourite presenters.

“Donegal is high on our priority and we have been lucky to attract Lisa Brady who has been extremely popular with Ocean FM in the North West for quite a number of years and is exceptionally familiar with the Donegal scene.”

So the message is loud and clear to the Donegal audience, “Tune in, have a listen – your views are our news,” concluded Healy.

Irish Times – Highland Radio files 21% profit

Irish Times - Highland Radio files 21% profit

Connaught Telegraph – Mayo DJs crowned kings of the airwaves at Meteor Awards

 Connaught Telegraph - Mayo DJs crowned kings of the airwaves at Meteor Awards