Radio groups want broadcasting authority to grant new station licences
The regulator is being urged by Radio Nova and a country music consortium to push on with new opportunities for niche stations around the country
Dublin's classic rock station Radio Nova and a consortium attempting to secure a licence for a country music station have both expressed their frustration with the speed at which the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is moving ahead with an initiative that may lead to the issuing of new radio licences.
The Broadcasting Services Strategy is intended to assess the demand for new radio services in Ireland. The Authority is obliged to regularly offer available radio wavelengths for new radio stations, and invite members of the public to suggest radio services they feel are lacking on the FM band.
Although the advertising market remains tough, a number of radio investors are anxiously waiting in the wings for new niche licences to become available.
Dublin's Radio Nova has gauged reaction from listeners in Limerick, Cork, and Galway, and based on that research it aims is to become available to listeners in those cities in addition to Clare, Waterford, and Kilkenny.
Managers at the station are confident a market exists for their product outside the capital.
Radio Nova was launched in September 2010 and the most recent Joint National Listenership Research survey showed the station has 76,000 daily listeners in its current licence area, which includes the capital's commuter belt. The station has been running trial broadcasts in other parts of the country with the approval of the BAI.
Kevin Branigan, who founded the station and is its chief executive and programme director, said: "Radio Nova has been uniquely successful in filling a large niche for radio listeners in the Greater Dublin area.
"Numerous people have contacted us outside our area asking why they cannot receive Nova or a similar service - and we don't know what to tell them."
He claimed that the Irish commercial radio market needs more diversity, as output has moved increasingly to the middle ground in some areas.
While Dublin has a wide range of stations, there is less choice in rural areas, where services are limited.
Branigan added: "The BAI was visionary in licensing specialist music services in Dublin, but people outside the capital deserve specialist radio services as well."
Martin Block is a consultant for Easy Media, a consortium seeking a licence for a specialist country music station.
The group unsuccessfully challenged a licence currently held by Dublin's easy-listening station Sunshine when it came up for renewal in 2014.
Easy Media, too, is keen to engage with the authority.
Block said: "Although we are disappointed that the BAI unfortunately was not able to commence its research into the proposed Broadcasting Service Strategy this year as originally indicated to us, we are delighted that the authority intends to undertake the task of delivering a revised broadcasting strategy next year, followed by a public consultation process.
"We are firmly of the view that there is a demand for a country music radio service, which will add further diversity of choice for Irish audiences, and look forward to taking part in future consultations with the broadcasting authority."
There is also some interest in the licence held by Dublin-based alternative rock station TXFM. Its broadcasting licence recently expired after Communicorp did not apply to keep it.
Commenting on the implementation of the Broadcasting Services Strategy, the BAI said it envisaged that work on a revised strategy will commence in 2017, following the publication of its new three-year Strategy Statement 2017-2019.
A spokesman said: "It is intended that a revised Broadcasting Services Strategy will make provision for the potential licensing of new services.
"As a matter of course, the BAI will undertake a public consultation on any revisions to the Broadcasting Services Strategy.
"In this regard, both representatives have been assured that, as and when the revised Broadcasting Services Strategy is developed and a public consultation opens, they will have the opportunity to input into the process of its development, including the submission of proposals and supporting research, in common with all other interested parties and the general public."
Sunday Indo Business