Midlands 103 is announcing a brand new schedule for its Westmeath service which will include former Shannonside Northern Sound presenter Seamus Duke. This is in tandem with a major investment in modern broadcast equipment, including software upgrades and enhancements to sound processor quality. The station’s name wil lalso change from Midlands Gold.
Midlands 103 Westmeath provides a dedicated output for the county from its studios in Mullingar and Athlone, while offering the primary station format to the three counties of Laois, Offaly and Westmeath.
Albert Fitzgerald, the station’s Managing Director, says: “Midlands 103 Westmeath aims to provide an alternative to the main service – intensely local output at specific times. We broadcast to three counties so it’s a constant battle to be ‘local’ to people of Finea in North Westmeath, and also be relevant to a listener in Graigecullen in South Laois. We’re fortunate to be in a position to provide two options for people in Westmeath.”
The company, which employs 50 full- and part-time staff, is increasing its investment in Midlands 103 Westmeath. This is not only reflected in the technical upgrades but also in the big-name broadcasters who have signed up for the new schedule: Seamus Duke is one of the best-known local radio broadcasters in the country, having drawn over 40,000 listeners to his hourly programme on Shannonside FM. His well-publicised departure from that station in the autumn presented Midlands 103 with what they call a golden opportunity.
Will Faulkner, Midlands 103’s Director of Programming, has been working closely with Mr Duke to prepare a three hour community programme for Westmeath, which will run from 2pm-5pm weekdays.
“I’m delighted to be working with a presenter of the calibre of Seamus Duke,” Will says. “He’s a former Head of News and Sport with Shannonside FM and he also worked with Radio Ireland (now Today FM.) He has an intricate knowledge of politicians and personalities in the Lake County – more importantly, he knows the local people and issues that affect them.”
The show, which is entitled ‘Good Afternoon Westmeath’, will be listener-driven and Seamus is anxious to get local people involved with the programme. It will compliment ‘The Afternoon Show with Roy Jennings’, which offers a music alternative on the main 103.5 frequency. The show will also feature hourly news bulletins from the dedicated Westmeath News Centre.
From 4.30pm, Midlands 103 provides a mix of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s music with regular news and traffic updates.
Will Faulkner comments: “We’ve received a huge amount of positive feedback to Carl James’ programme, but a sizeable number of listeners in Athlone, Kilbeggan, Mullingar – all areas of Westmeath, in fact – also contacted us to compliment Joe Cooney’s ‘Country Roads’ evening show. It convinced us that it makes sense to offer a country and Irish alternative to Drivetime in Westmeath.”
The station launched an extensive recruitment campaign to find a presenter for the new programme, interviewing over 40 applicants. Once again, a long established and hugely popular name emerged as the successful candidate – Ricey Scully.
Will Faulkner describes Ricey Scully as a broadcasting and music legend in the Midlands: “He’s done it all! He featured on pirate radio in Athlone and Mullingar before the inception of commercial radio in 1989. He has played music with all of the biggest names and he has a connection with ordinary people unlike anybody else in the business. We’re thrilled he has accepted the role of country music presenter on the new Midlands 103 Westmeath schedule.”
‘Teatime with Ricey Scully’ goes to air from December 4th as part of the revised schedule. It will feature a blend of artists from the Lake County such as Joe Dolan and TR Dallas, while also offering a flavour of Irish music talent from across the Midlands region.
In addition, a full schedule of specialist programming is being busily prepared for Midlands 103 Westmeath. They include ‘The Best Rock ‘n’ Roll memories with Billy Mc’, ‘Westmeath Showcase with Davy Hynes’ on Thursday evenings, and the dedicated Westmeath ‘Sports Diary’ with Willie Geraghty and Ned Flynn caps off the week.
The students of Athlone Institute of Technology will also showcase their talents with a one-hour programme. These shows will run opposite ‘Country Roads with Joe Cooney’ on the main station output. A further series of programmes to run at a later time is also being considered.
Midlands 103 Managing Director Albert Fitzgerald believes diversity is the key to being a successful radio station. He says: “Our ethos is to provide a service by local people, for local people. The people of Westmeath have two choices on their dial. They can tune to 95.4FM in Athlone, or 96.5FM in Mullingar, and hear specific content for their county. They also have the option of staying with the main service on 103.5FM.”
The company is investing €250,000 in its transmission network. Mr Fitzgerald went on to say: “We realise some listeners may have had difficulty receiving Midlands 103 during our upgrade work. I’d like to thank them for their loyal support and patience. I’m delighted to announce that a stronger, crisper, clearer signal will be beaming through their radios very soon. I hope you enjoy Midlands 103, be it our main service or dedicated Westmeath programming. Roll on December 4th!”