By Catherine O’Mahony
A religious radio station could be on air by mid 2001 if the IRTC responds to the interest of an ad-hoc group of four Christian churches in the last of the FM Dublin licences.
At the moment, the Catholic church, the Church of Ireland, Presbyterians and Methodists are having tentative discussions, but they have to make their expression of interest to the IRTC by June 23.
If the station is approved, it would cost a minimum of #150,000 according to Father John Dardis, convenor of the ad-hoc group. Confirming that advertising will be needed to sustain the station, Dardis said the group wants a quality radio station which means spending far above the minimum #150,000 figure.
The new station would be the legitimate sound of religious broadcasting, two illegal stations in the greater Dublin area have ceased broadcasting recently. Religious advertising is not currently allowed by the Independent Radio and Television Commission.
Its counterpart in Britain is currently reviewing its similar strict rules on religious advertising and is expected to relax regulations within months.
This FM licence is the last on the dial for Dublin, but its one kilowatt transmitter means the new Christian station would have a weaker signal than the commercial stations 98FM and FM104 which have a five kilowatt capacity.
But Dardis said that the group is considering applying for a number of special interest licences so it could re-broadcast to part of the city and county where getting a signal could be a problem.
Dardis, who spent a number of months setting up a radio station in Africa, has been looking at other religious radio stations including Premier in London, US stations and RCF in Lyon, France.
As one of the smaller Christian churches, the Methodists have expressed their concerns about editorial content on any new Dublin station.
Dardis said this was one of the reasons why he has been researching other religious stations.
He said that if they have a successful model showing to handle editorial content and running advertisements then it make sense for the Irish station to copy some of these models.
When the IRTC receives an expression of interest in the FM licence it will decide whether to move the process forward and ask for applications.
When this will happen has not been decided, but it could be early autumn for applications. A decision before Christmas could mean the religious station being on air by mid-2001.