Rivals make their case for radio licence

Rivals make their case for radio licence
The two bidders for the north Donegal radio franchise have presented their case for why they should be awarded the licence.

The two bidders for the north Donegal radio franchise have presented their case for why they should be awarded the licence.

Highland Radio and DLFM made their cases in oral presentations before the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) in Letterkenny on Monday.

Both bids were allowed 15 minutes to give an oral presentation which was followed by questioning from the Contract Awards Committee of the BAI.

The hearing, which was well-attended by members of the public, heard the presentation from Highland Radio first. As well as managing director Shaun Doherty, the presentation panel included programming coordinator Linda McGroarty, financial controller Hazel Russell and presenter Lee Gooch.

Mr. Doherty said Highland Radio would continue to be an outstanding success if it was awarded the licence.

He said the station would not stand still if it was awarded the licence. “Our promise for the future is that Highland will continue to be unique with unique relationships with our listeners and advertisers,” he said.

The station will be forward-thinking, evolving and based on a strong business plan and will grow its listenership and profitability, he said.

Head of Marketing and Sales, John Clancy said Highland Radio is one of Donegal’s most loved brands and “brands are not built in a day”.

Financial controller Hazel Russell said the station has reduced costs by 23 per cent during the downturn and has remained profitable. The station’s business plan is fully funded and stress-tested, she said. She said an investment plan of €500,000 would see the station spend on programme development and transmission upgrades.

Responding to a question about the station’s finances Ms. Russell said parent company, Orangold, has an agreement with a bank to extend a loan of €2.5m over the next ten years. “Highland Radio operates itself as a stand alone company, it is fully profitable,” she said.

Chairperson Gerry Rabbitt said the shareholders are “in it for the long haul”.

The presentation received a strong reception from the audience, which included many of the station’s 55 staff.

The presentation from DLFM was introduced by chairperson and CEO, Charlie Collins and the presentation panel included Chairperson Paddy Simpson, directors Damien Blake, Mary G Blake, Lisa Burkitt and financial advisor Michael Meehan.

Mr. Collins said the station will not be “a female-free zone from 7am to 7pm” and will grow listeners in the afternoon. “We will not press the snooze button in the afternoon,” he said.

He said DLFM’s vision is “listeners first, local first”. “Our mission is to ensure that our listeners are represented, informed and entertained on air,” he said.

Mr. Collins said the major shareholders are “people of real financial substance” which will allow the station to draw on funds without recourse to borrowing.

He said the station’s programming vision extends across “the interest of language, gender and news”. There will be a complete change in the afternoon programming, he said. “DLFM will sound different because it will be genuinely different,”

Director Damien Blake said the programming vision was based on a detailed audience survey. Innovative programming based on continuing research will deliver commercially, he said.

The Contract Awards Committee now assess and score both applications before making a recommendation to the Authority of the BAI in the coming weeks.