Formerly known as the IRTC, The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) today signed a broadcasting contract with Star Broadcasting Limited, who will operate the new special interest music station for Dublin City.
Star Broadcasting Limited were one of the recent successful applicants for two new special interest radio licences for the Dublin area and they were represented at the signing by Chairman David Harvey and Director Paul Coulson.
The station will be known as Dublin’s Country 106.8FM and will provide a special interest music service specialising in Country and Irish Music genres. Music will represent 70% of total output over the broadcast day. In addition to the overall music mix special music features will be broadcast in the evenings. Other important elements of the station’s programming will be news & current affairs and information, which will include regular local news bulletins, community notice board updates and frequent Dublin country gig guides.
Speaking at the signing, BCI chairman Conor J. Maguire said, “We are delighted to see Dublin’s Country 106.8FM join the independent radio sector. This contract signing marks the continued implementation of the Commission’s licensing policy developed in 1999, in which increasing the number of stations on-air and ensuring diversity of types are integral to the development of our policy”, Conor J. Maguire concluded.
Test broadcasts on 106.8 FM in Dublin City are planned for the near future and live broadcasting is scheduled to commence in October.
Presently on test, Dublin’s Country 106.8FM will be officially launched by An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, tomorrow afternoon at 3.30pm. However, the latest licensed station for Dublin will be live from breakfast time with Stephen Keogh. The rest of the first day’s schedule has also been confirmed: 10am Gerry Wilson; 1pm Pam Wilson; 4pm Bob Conway; 8pm Bill McLoughlin and 10pm, John Ford.
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.”
Troubled station Dublin’s Country 106.8FM have resumed negotiations with other possible buyers following the collapse of talks with Scottish Radio Holdings, according to today’s Sunday Tribune. SRH pulled out of the deal as a result of a number of unresolved issues.
Dublin’s Country have been on air for just over a year and have continuously hemorrhaged cash, not to mention staff, in that period. Although station owner David Harvey feels that the station will be able to keep going until a buyer is found, he is far from convincing. Indeed, staff at the station have expressed concern about their futures to today’s Ireland on Sunday newspaper.
Dublin’s Country are planning to uproot from their Dublin premises and relocate to East Coast FM’s studios, which are based outside of its franchise area in Bray, Co Wicklow. They will share resources with the Wicklow station in a cost-cutting plan designed to save a fortune on rents and commercial rates. Although the special interest station will no longer be based in Dublin, the service will still be transmitted from Three Rock Mountain. The idea has still to be formally approved by the BCI, although they have agreed in principle.
Seán McCarthy has quit Dublin’s Country 106.8FM after just two months on-air with the Bray-based station. McCarthy had been working in the 1-4pm ‘Lazy Afternoon’ weekday slot but was moved to ‘The Home Drive’ 4-7pm show today, after which he tendered his resignation – effective “immediately”.
Speaking to Radiowaves News this evening, Seán (pictured) said that he never wanted the Drivetime slot. “From the start of being offered it, I didn’t ‘want’ the Home Drive. Sure, most jocks would jump at the opportunity, but I was quite content presenting afternoons, where I had no conflicts with other broadcasting engagements. When I discovered the option to ‘remain’ on afternoons was not ‘open’ to me, I was very surprised.”
Previously working under the alias Gary Hamill, Seán’s broadcasting career spans 22 years and has seen him work for top stations such as Radio Nova, Energy 103, Q102, and 98FM here in Ireland, as well as a host of stations in the United States. In effect, he has a few ideas about what works and doesn’t work in the radio world.
Of his treatment at Dublin’s Country, he says: “None of it made much sense to me, to be honest. If you have a presenter [who is] ‘engaging’ enough for you as a station to want to move him/her to a prime-time slot like Drive, what then could he/she possibly achieve for the station on a ‘lesser-profile’ slot like the afternoon? In my experience in radio, it is the ‘weaker’ slots you focus on, and not those like Morning or Drive which already have the upper-hand, being that they are so highly listened to.”
With the recent decent rise in listenership for Dublin’s Country in the JNLR ratings, from the outset of being offered Drive Seán felt that ‘if it’s not broken, why fix it?’ “Or even: ‘if we’re doing well now, why start changing the scenario?'” He continues: “I am proud of my contribution, in such a short time, to a station with great potential, if finely ‘tuned’.”
Seán also works as a journalist, actor and voice-over artist and is credited with introducing Spin 1038’s ‘Story’ news format to the station when he worked there just before joining Dublin’s Country.
Presenter Greg Gaughran has joined 106.8FM Dublin’s Country. Starting today, Greg will present ‘Lazy Afternoon’ and represents the Bray-based station’s biggest indication yet that they are moving in the right direction. Speaking to Radiowaves News this afternoon, Robert Walshe, Programme Director at the station, said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome a presenter of the calibre and ability of Greg onto our team here at 106.8FM Dublin’s Country. In my opinion, he brings a certain maturity of presentation style and, with his knowledge of music and his undoubted talent, he will bring a freshness to our schedules which proves that we are now establishing ourselves in the Dublin radio market. With Greg added to the likes of Dave Harvey and Bob Gallico on our schedules, we now have some very established radio stars on board.” Dublin’s Country has struggled to establish itself since its launch in October 2001, and has also faced some criticism that they were neglecting the specialist audience that they were set up to serve. However, the recent JNLR listenership survey results gave Dublin’s Country double their previous audience, and according to Robert, listener feedback has been tremendous in recent months. “That listener feedback has been very important to us,” he says. “It shows that we are moving in a very positive direction. We don’t want to be a huge station. Our remit is not to compete with the likes of FM104, 98FM & Lite FM. We just want to serve our niche audience, and serve them well. We are very committed to our Country & Irish remit and we continue to work very closely with the BCI.” Other new recruits for Dublin’s Country include Alan Curry, a nighttime presenter who has already worked in Community Radio in Dublin, along with Trevor Keegan (ex-AA Roadwatch) & Ian McKeever (ex-Today FM) who will appear at weekends.
Dublin’s Country are, since this morning, now identifying on-air as Dublin’s Country Mix 106.8, having finally been given the go-ahead for a name-change by the BCI. The station’s website also relaunched yesterday with a slick new look at perfectstation.com.
Rumours that Dublin’s Country Mix 106.8 are to close are premature. So says the station’s Chief Executive Seán Ashmore.
Speaking to The Irish Times Seán admits that the station are facing difficult times and that four staff members have been let go but he denies that the station have discussed handing back their licence to the BCI.
Dublin’s Country Mix 106.8 have announced that that it will be re-branding to Dublin’s Sunshine 106.8. The re-branding of the station has been approved by the BAI and will commence this weekend through the use of on-air promos announcing the change.
From early next week the new brand will be introduced in on-air programming (initially alongside the existing identification). The re-branding will be complete by year-end. No programming changes are planned by the station as the re-branding process gets underway.
Seán Ashmore, the station’s CEO, says: “We’ve decided on a re-brand because our research has confirmed that the phrase ‘Country’ means different things to different people. People’s perception about what the station has to offer was not in line with the scope of the music played on-air. Today our playlist covers a wide range of artists from The Eagles to Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum to Ronan Keating and classics from the likes of Glen Campbell to Dolly Parton.”
A completely new logo and brand mark to reflect the station’s new name has been developed by Pat Kinsley of Neworld Design in Dublin (see below).
Robbie Robinson, the founder of the original Sunshine Radio in Dublin in 1980, is happy to see the name back in use in Dublin and wishes the station the best of luck with the re-brand.
Country Mix 106.8 was launched in 2001 and currently has a daily reach of 4% of all adults in the Dublin market and a market share of 3.3%.