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Dubliner selected for top UK radio position

The Irish Times
19th March 1996

By MICHAEL FOLEY, Media Correspondent

A Dubliner has been appointed head of the 17 station group Emap Radio – one of the top jobs in British radio.

Mr Paul Kavanagh (29) was general manager and programme director of the Meath based Atlantic 252, the long wave station which is the UK’s most successful commercial radio station.

Mr Kavanagh leaves Meath to head Britain’s largest radio group, with a combined listenership of more than seven million.

Atlantic is 20 per cent owned by RTE with the remainder held by European media group CLT. Broadcast on the little used long wave frequency, it has been a surprising success given that this frequency is not available on the personal stereos beloved of its young audience.

In 1993 it made losses of £300,000. The following year, it posted profits of £300,000. Last year, profits were £2.5 million.

The station uses an Irish allocated frequency but British listeners are given no hint that the station is broadcast from Ireland.

Emap had profits in 1995 of £41 million. Recently, it has acquired companies abroad, including a large number of French magazine titles. In Britain it has over 70 local newspaper titles and more than 80 subsidiary companies.

According to Mr Kavanagh, one of his jobs will be to prepare the stations for the increased competition expected as major media interests move into radio, including Rupert Murdoch. Emap’s Manchester stations – Piccadilly Gold and Key 103 – have competition from five BBC stations, Virgin, Classic FM Atlantic 252 and BBC Radio Manchester.

In the next 18 months, a further three stations will become available in that market alone. Similar growth is expected in other areas.

“People are starting to realise that radio has been under selling itself,” he says. Advertising on radio amounted to about 2 per cent of annual spending until only a few years ago; that has now risen to 6 per cent. Competition has increased with growth.

Mr Kavanagh’s Atlantic formula will be used in Emap stations. This means listening to what the customers want and then refining what they are getting, he says. 

© The Irish Times