Fast-track radio licence process at Denis O’Brien’s Today FM

Station application to retain licence speeded up by BAI due to lack of other contenders

Denis O’Brien: he bought Today FM in 2007 in a €200 million deal that also included FM104 in Dublin and Highland Radio in Donegal. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Denis O’Brien: he bought Today FM in 2007 in a €200 million deal that also included FM104 in Dublin and Highland Radio in Donegal. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Denis O’Brien’s Today FM is set to have its application to retain its national radio licence put into a fast-track renewal process by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

The regulator recently sought expressions of interest for the 10-year licence but only Radio Ireland Ltd, which trades as Today FM, lodged an application by the April 12th deadline.

The Irish Times has learned that the BAI intends to place notices in national newspapers tomorrow signalling that Today FM’s licence renewal will be fast-tracked.

This allows another 28 days for other parties to come forward with an application, although any rival bid at this late stage would have to include detailed information on programming plans and financial projections.

Newstalk

Today FM’s licence is not due to expire until March 2017 but, as a result of being fast-tracked by the BAI, the station can expect to be granted another 10-year term beginning in either September or October of this year.

Mr O’Brien’s Newstalk 106-108 is already in a fast-track process with the BAI to have its quasi-national licence renewed.

No comment on the licence application was available from either Today FM or the BAI.

Today FM began broadcasting in 1997 and has already had its licence renewed once by the regulator. The station was bought by Mr O’Brien in 2007 in a €200 million deal that also included FM104 in Dublin and Highland Radio in Donegal.

Sale

The other stations were later sold for a combined €63 million, meaning Mr O’Brien effectively paid €137 million for Today FM.

Separately, staff at Today FM have been told the station expects to appoint a new chief executive next month to replace Peter McPartlin, whose departure was announced last December.

In a note to staff at the end of April, Gervaise Slowey, chief executive of Communicorp, Today FM’s parent company, said: “The work continues on the search for a new CEO. I expect to be in a position to make an announcement in June. Until then, the business continues to be in the strong hands of the management team.”

It is understood a number of candidates are being considered for the role.

Today FM’s market share dropped slightly to 7.5 per cent from 7.6 per cent, according to JNLR listenership figures published last month. All weekday shows on Today FM in the peak hours from 7am-7pm lost listeners in the year to March 2016.