Communicorp wants Minister to intervene with BAI over licences

Company concerned that new FM radio licences will damage sector’s viability

Communicorp, the radio group owned by Denis O'Brien, is understood to want the Government to intervene to dissuade the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) from issuing any new commercial radio licences.

Lucy Gaffney, Communicorp's chairwoman, last night issued a statement to "strongly criticise" the BAI over its "sudden and unexpected" recent call for proposals for new commercial FM radio services.

Communicorp believes that issuing new licences will damage the commercial viability of the sector.

Prior to the BAI's call, Communicorp had already written several weeks ago to Denis Naughten, the Minister for Communications, seeking a meeting to discuss an overhaul of the funding of the radio sector. Communicorp's portfolio of stations includes Today FM, Newstalk, Spin and Dublin's 98FM.


It is understood that if the meeting is granted, the radio group will take the opportunity to ask the Minister to ensure the BAI issues no new licences until an economic impact study is completed for the sector.

“The radio sector is in crisis and facing unprecedented pressure on its commercial revenues which has resulted in many media organisations, including Communicorp, making significant cuts to their businesses,” said Ms Gaffney, a longtime associate of Mr O’Brien.

“The digital share of the advertising market has grown to 40 per cent with Google and Facebook commanding a large portion of the revenue and they are both unregulated. Meanwhile, the radio industry in Ireland is forced to continue operating in an outdated and inappropriate regulatory environment. Any decision to issue new licences will only serve to compound the existing pressures.”

Licence fee

Communicorp wants the Government to abolish the BAI broadcasting levy and to also give private radio operators a cut of the licence fee that is used to part-fund RTÉ.

“We believe that a formal and full economic evaluation of the radio sector needs to be urgently undertaken before any new radio licences are awarded,” said Ms Gaffney.

“This evaluation should include an assessment on the number of direct and indirect jobs created by the sector and also an analysis of revenues and the impact of non-regulated international players on the sector.”

Rock music station Radio Nova has already indicated it will submit a proposal to the BAI, which set an application deadline of August 3rd. Nova said its submission was at an “advanced” stage.

The BAI declined to comment prior to publication.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is London Correspondent for The Irish Times