Des Whelan, the founding Director, and shareholder of WLR, is stepping down from his role as CEO after 45 years in radio.
He will be succeeded by Michael Byrne, appointed as the incoming Chief Executive.
Currently holding the position of Programme and Operations Director at WLR, Michael will assume his new responsibilities from February 22nd.
Des Whelan’s career is marked by many achievements and a profound impact on the broadcasting sector.
In 1989, he spearheaded WLR’s successful bid to secure a licence for local radio in Waterford City and County. In 2002, Des founded Beat 102-103 and orchestrated the building of the Broadcast Centre at Ardkeen. His influence extended beyond WLR, as he played pivotal roles as a founding shareholder and director of Radio Nova and Newstalk.
Des Whelan’s contributions earned him the distinction of being the first person in the independent broadcasting sector to receive the prestigious PPI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Furthermore, in 2009, he was justly inducted into the Broadcasting Commissions Hall of Fame.
In addition, Des served as the Chairman of Red FM from 2009 to 2023. Beyond broadcasting, Des’s passion for Waterford is evident in roles like Chairman of the Tall Ships visit in 2011 and the Port of Waterford from 2014 to 2022. Currently Chairman at the Waterford Museum of Treasures and Mount Congreve Gardens, Des’s diverse contributions have made a lasting impact on both the broadcasting sector and Waterford’s cultural landscape.
Deirdre Veldon, Managing Director of the Irish Times & Chair of WLR conveyed her appreciation to Des, stating, “Des Whelan’s remarkable contributions to the radio and media industry have been considerable. As Managing Director & Chair of WLR, I extend our gratitude to Des for his outstanding dedication, hard work, and pivotal role in building an amazing radio station. His legacy will resonate for years to come.”
Broadcasting Commissioner of Coimisiún na Meán, Celene Craig, said “I’d like to wish Des the very best in his retirement as CEO of WLR FM and continued success in the years ahead. Des was not only pivotal to the establishment and success of WLR and Beat FM but has also been an outstanding voice in promoting the development and success of the independent, commercial radio sector in Ireland.
“I’d like to thank him for his contributions in this regard over the years, for his positive engagement with the regulator and industry alike, but, principally, for his outstanding commitment to providing such diverse and high-quality radio to audiences in Waterford and wider South East.”
Michael Byrne has been an integral part of WLR since 2001, ascending to the senior management team in 2014. Under his stewardship as Programme Director, WLR has achieved 16 Gold IMRO Awards in the last five years, including the title of Local Station of the Year for four consecutive years, 2019 to 2022.
Michael has actively led various WLR initiatives and has been a representative of the station at a national level, contributing to the Board of Learning Waves. Additionally, he dedicated a six-year term to the IMRO Radio Awards committee.
Des Whelan said, “I am delighted to entrust the leadership of WLR to someone of Michael’s capability. Over the last three decades, we have transformed WLR into an outstanding local radio service. WLR is thriving with a robust business and strong listenership ratings. Our exceptionally experienced and talented staff make this an opportune moment for me to step back, entrusting Michael and the accomplished management team to bring WLR forward.
“On a personal note, I am looking forward to spending more time with family and friends. Having thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my forty-five years in radio, I consider myself immensely fortunate to have made a livelihood doing what I love in a city that truly is the best place to live in Ireland.”
Michael Byrne expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “Taking over the CEO role at WLR is a source of great pride for me and my family. WLR holds a significant place in the fabric of everyday life in Waterford, and I look forward to working with the brilliant team at the station to deliver the best possible service on air and online to our valued listeners and customers.
“I’d like to thank Des and the board for their support. Des has been a great mentor to me and a great leader in our industry. I wish Des, Lucy, and family all the best in the future.”