Private radio sector seeking public funds

Independent Broadcasters of Ireland group renews criticism of RTÉ 2fm

John Purcell (left), chairman of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland, and Q102 chief executive Scott Williams mark 25 years of independent radio in Ireland

John Purcell (left), chairman of the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland, and Q102 chief executive Scott Williams mark 25 years of independent radio in Ireland

 

It was “congratulations” and “very well done” all round from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications to representatives of the radio sector on Tuesday evening, as the industry celebrated the 25th anniversary of independent radio.

“It’s our silver anniversary, but we think gold for achievement,” said Scott Williams, the Q102 chief executive whose voice was the first heard on commercial radio in 1989.

At the hearing that took place before the Leinster House reception, TDs were wary about patronising the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) group with the one thing it didn’t want: more lip service.

Political inaction on the question of divvying up public funds from the licence fee is the “greatest threat” to the future of the sector, according to IBI chairman John Purcell.

Purcell, who is chief executive of Carlow and Kilkenny station KCLR 96FM, told the committee that the “vast majority” of its members, and most certainly the local stations that belong to the group, would be interested in a cut of any new funds collected under the proposed household broadcasting charge.

Although he stressed he was not “anti-RTÉ”, Purcell made the case that RTÉ’s “unlimited commercial mandate” was damaging its members. The loss-making “pop music station” 2fm was “the closest case of RTÉ not undertaking a public service remit”, yet it benefited from €6.2 million in public funds in 2013, he observed.

As RTÉ’s recently published annual report notes, that’s a sum of €4.49 from each €160 licence fee.