New FM radio station to launch but only when revenues improve

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has launched its revised Broadcasting Services Strategy with plans to launch at least one new FM radio station, but only when signs of improving revenues and profitability are evident.

This is a backward step from previous statements in which the BAI said would start the licensing process for a new service upon the release of their new strategy, with a new station expected to be on-air in 2019.

Previously, Michael O’Keeffe, chief executive of the BAI confirmed it will approve at least one commercial FM licence outside the Dublin area – something Radio NOVA has been highly vocal about applying for.

The BAI says that when signs of improving revenues and profitability are evident, it commits to exploring the licensing of at least one new sound broadcasting service on the FM band.

There are no plans mentioned in this report about future digital broadcasting platforms such as DAB.

The BSS provides the framework for the formulation of licencing plans and associated licencing activities by the BAI. It is one of the primary means by which the Authority fulfils its key statutory objective of endeavouring to ensure that the number and categories of broadcasting services in the State best serve the needs of the people of the island of Ireland.

In addition to the licensing of broadcasting services across a number of platforms, the strategy also has a number of related objectives. These include facilitating a mix of voices, opinions and sources of news and current affairs; promoting quality programming in the Irish language; promoting creativity and innovation throughout the Irish audio-visual sector; and working with stakeholders to achieve greater sustainability.

The BAI commissioned an independent report on market structures, dynamics and developments in Irish media to inform the revised BSS. It also considered the findings of a survey of viewer and listener attitudes, and undertook an extensive public consultation to elicit views on its vision for the Irish broadcasting landscape and options for future development.

Commenting, chair of the BAI, Professor Pauric Travers said: “The first BSS, which was published in 2012, anticipated change and evolution in the media landscape. However, the degree of the change and its pace, in particular, have been notable. The broadcasting environment is now one of significant disruption and challenge. In preparing this revised BSS, the BAI was mindful of this environment, the legislative requirements and key economic, regulatory and technological factors. When signs of improving revenues and profitability are evident, the BAI commits to exploring the licensing of at least one new sound broadcasting service on the FM band.

“The BAI envisages an Irish media landscape that reflects and shapes who we are. We believe that the people of Ireland, in all their diversity, should be served by a vibrant and dynamic broadcasting sector. To this end, the BSS aims to ensure that Irish audiences are served by a diverse range of broadcasting services that are open and pluralistic in nature. We are grateful to all those who have made submissions to the BAI during the consultation. The feedback we received has greatly informed and shaped our decisions in respect of the revised BSS.”

The revised BSS is available on the BAI website here.

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