Radio Nova has welcomed an announcement by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland that it is seeking expressions of interest in new commercial radio licences.
The BAI has advertised in the national press for submissions from parties interested in the provision of new commercial analogue radio services on the FM band. The BAI is open to suggestions on both the types of services to be provided, and the areas to be served by such additional services.
“We’re preparing a very well-reasoned and logical argument that Radio Nova can bring diversity, and a new radio service, to many more people that we are currently allowed to. We’ve identified that we could provide the parts of Ireland outside Dublin with higher population density, some 2 million people, with a new rock radio service”, says CEO Kevin Branigan.
The new area would take in the cities of Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway and Kilkenny, as well as the Midlands and the North East of Ireland.
Branigan claims that Nova already has a substantial number of listeners outside the Dublin commuter belt, listening via the stations smartphone apps and the Irish Radio Player and that there is no service like Nova anywhere else in Ireland
“Thousands of people listen to us every day outside our franchise area. We continually receive calls, emails and Facebook messages from people wondering why they cannot receive us on FM outside Dublin”, says Branigan. “Our listeners have even set up a petition, with thousands of signatures on it already, to have Radio Nova available outside Dublin”, he says.
He says that if it won a new license it would create up to 10 new jobs under its plan and could broadcast nationally within two months of being given the go-ahead by the regulator. The station has 135,000 listeners according to the latest JNLR figures.
However the chairperson of Communicorp, Lucy Gaffney, has strongly criticised the BAI’s decision to seek expressions of interest and has called on it to undertake an immediate economic evaluation of the radio sector before making any decision.
“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. The digital share of the advertising market has grown to 40% 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.”
Communicorp has formally written to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten TD, seeking a meeting to outline the urgent reform needed to the regulation and funding of the independent radio industry. “The minister must move to immediately abolish the BAI broadcasting levy. The Minister has indicated proposed changes but nothing has happened to date. In addition, the licence fee must be redistributed and made available to the independent radio sector for the provision of public service broadcasting,” said Ms Gaffney.
“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. 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.”