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.
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.