Radio licence groups meet IRTC today


THE names of three interests taking up the final 30 per cent shareholding of the Radio Ireland consortium will be announced today.

At the hearings for the national radio licence, the consortium is expected to tell the Independent Radio and Television Commission that it has attracted two Irish publishing concerns, one a newspaper, and a financial institution.

Consortium sources would not say who had decided to put up money but it is believed final agreement was not reached until the weekend.

The music industry is represented in the consortium, which is headed by Riverdance producers Ms Moya Doherty and Mr John McColgan.

Radio Ireland is one of five groups which will make their applications at today's hearings in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

Each will have 20 minutes in which to make a presentation and a further 20 minutes will be allocated for questions from the IRTC.

The other four bids are National FM, headed by Scottish Radio Holdings, which runs Radio Clyde; New Ireland Broadcasting, headed by Cork's 96 FM and which includes Mr Peter Quinn, an accountant and former GAA president; Energy Radio, headed by Dublin's 98 FM and several local stations from around the country and Ireland 100 Productions, which includes the directors of FM 104 and The Irish Times.

Both New Ireland Broadcasting and Ireland 100 are likely to emphasise their experience in radio. National FM is likely to push its experience of running a profitable station in Scotland, while Energy should concentrate on its policy of aim at a young audience of 15 to 25 year olds. It has identified this market segment through market research.

Contenders have criticised Radio Ireland for being weak on radio experience. But it claims that if successful it will announce a chief executive with vast experience in radio.

Its head of news is expected to be Mr Patrick Kinsella, former economics correspondent with RTE and a former BBC journalist. He is now a lecturer in journalism at Dublin City University.

Following the failure more than four years ago of Century Radio, the IRTC will be anxious to get the national station right this time. IRTC members are expected to question applicants on more than just the financial health of the consortiums but also programming policy and staff issues.

The age profile of RTE Radio 1 listeners has been rising. This should allow a new station to exploit some of the important 25 to 45 year old market. Optimistic advertising industry sources say there will be sufficient advertising for all, given the current growing value of advertising investment.

Last year £260 million was spent on advertising for all media. That is expected to grow this year. The new station is expected to begin broadcasting by September, in time to capture some of the extra spending in the run up to Christmas.