Munster Express Heavy-hitters seek regional radio licence
Munster Express – February 8th 2002
Both bidders for the lucrative new ten-year radio franchise for the South East hope to have their proposed operations on air within 18 months. Big-name backers behind local stations WLR and the ”pirate” ABC Power 104 are battling it out for Ireland’s first regional commercial FM broadcasting licence.
‘Beat 101’, WKW FM Ltd., c/o WLR FM, Georges Street, Waterford; and ‘Power FM’, c/o South East Regional Radio Ltd., Annaville House, Newtown, Waterford, are the only two applicants for the licence, with other initially interested parties possibly put off by the heavy-hitters involved.
Chief executive of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, Dungarvan man Michael O’Keeffe, says the ”very comprehensive and impressive” proposals will be assessed, and a decision on whether to hold public hearings made, at its next meeting on February 18th.
‘Youth’ stations Both contenders are proposing 24-hour ”youth” stations catering to the 15-34 age group, playing a chart/dance-orientated music mix (plus news and sports), as well as fresh, chat-style programmes with personality-type presenters.
Their detailed submissions (running to 92 and 195 pages respectively) are based on extensive market research and insist that their projects are viable.
WKW (Waterford-Kilkenny-Wexford) FM Ltd. would share ”non-programming services” with WLRfm (”No one voice will feature on both stations”), claiming that ”in the current climate, viability for a full service stand-alone regional radio station would be difficult to achieve.” It aims to have the new station profitable in year 3.
Formed as a limited company last September specifically to apply for the licence, it has a total authorised share capital of 2million ordinary shares at 1 euro each. The issued share capital is 760,00 euro, broken down as follows:
WLRfm Managing Director Des Whelan (44), who chairs the ‘Beat 101’ board, has 30%. Of the other directors, Kilmacthomas-born Mean Fiddler impresario Vince Power and U2 boss Paul McGuinness’s Principle Management group, hold 20% each; Ger Walsh, MD of People Newspapers Group, Wexford, and Redmond O’Donoghue, Waterford Wedgwood President and CEO, both have a 10% stake; Kilkenny man, John Purcell, MD of Communication Strategies PR and chairman of Newstalk 106, has 5% and a further 5% is being retained for staff.
Should the ‘Beat 101’ application be successful, the new station will be located in WLRfm’s proposed new state-of-the-art broadcast centre on the new Ring Road between Ardkeen and Williamstown. ”No undue planning delays are expected” and the studios will, it’s hoped, be ready for July 2003. As well as the board the station would employ 13 full-time and two part-time staff.
The company says that should it be awarded the franchise, it ”would anticipate going on air on July 1st, 2003. This we believe is a realistic time frame given that eight transmission sites must be commissioned and a new radio station built.”
December launch? ‘Power FM’, meanwhile, is targeting an even earlier start-up date, with the promoters’ application stating: ”should the award of the licence be issued prior to 30th of June 2002 it is anticipated that Power FM would commence broadcasting on Monday, 2nd December 2002.”
The station proposes to locate their ultra-modern studios in a premises of at Witches Lane, Ballinanesagh, on the outskirts of Waterford city. A total of 27 staff will be employed.
The company is 51%-owned by Scandinavian Broadcasting Services (SBS), which operates private commercial TV and radio stations in Western and Central Europe from its headquarters in Stockholm.
Bob Geldof’s TV, radio and fireworks company, TenAlps Communications plc, which produces programmes for BBC Radio 2 and Radio 5 Live and has its head offices in London, owns 20%.
Other Power FM stakeholders include WIT media lecturer Colm Dunphy and his ABC Power 104 cohort Steve Silby (ex-Capital Radio London and Director of Waterford service company Total Broadcast Ltd.). They own 6% each.
Dublin-based Businessman Barry Connolly has 9%, with the group’s proposed chairperson Barbara Nugent (chief executive of the Sunday Business Post) and Stephen Ryan (MD of Sonic FM in the UK and Operations Director for SBS’s European radio stations) each owning 3%. The remaining 2% is held by venture capitalist Eugene McCarthy.
‘ABC’ originally began broadcasting on-and-off twenty years ago and had been continuously on the air for six years before announcing a temporary break in transmission, as a condition of the current licence application, last October.
The ‘Power FM’ application cautiously budgets for total funding of 2.5m euros to support start-up costs, initial trading losses and capital expenditure. This will be entirely financed by share capital.