The Quest for the Holy Grail of Scottish Commercial Radio - the Central Scotland licence - "broadening the range of audience choice"
the licence | the contenders | the debate | the radio authority
On the 29th July 1998 at the Gilmorehill Theatre in Glasgow, the awarding of a radio licence for Central Scotland came under debate. This attracted a great deal of attention as this is the last truly 'large', 'lucrative' or whatever, licence up for grabs in the UK. Also, with many commercial 'pop' stations already in existence in the area (Clyde, Forth, ScotFM) the time is thought to be ripe for some specialist station to get a waveband. This was reflected in the stations bidding, as detailed below.
Panel chairman Ken Garner pointed out that this is the first time that public discussions have been held before an licence awarding. 14th December is the date. What follows are the 'manifestos' of the 6 radio stations who decided to attend the debate and argue their case, and a report of the questions asked of them and their responses. Plus my unbiased opinions, naturally. Each panel member gave a short presentation about their bid (the reasons behind it, what they can offer the listener etc.).
what follows is the bumf from their press releases, followed by what they actually said onstage. Italicised comments are supposed to be a summary of what they said, while my opinionated comments are marked <thus - sm>
BEAT FM represented by Stuart Clumpas
The names behind the bid: Ron McCulloch (entrepreneur & founder of the Big Beat Group), Stuart Clumpas (music promoter with DF Concerts), Graeme Arnott (property developer & leisure operator}, Robin Hodge (publisher of The List). Rory M Soutar (Kiss 100, a London radio station). Alan Montgomery (ex-STV) Carol Smillie (broadcaster) Ally McCoist (footballer), Ewan McLeod (TV presenter & journalist)
Stuart Clumpas displayed a liking for the phrase "quality threshold", pointed out that his board were all-Scottish, and defended his celebrities- Carol Smilie being an ex-Radio Clyde dj, Ally McCoist frequently being on the guest list at the likes of Mansun and Shed 7.
<Clumpas probably came out on top of his spats with David Faulds, though he had moral support from 3 other indie-oriented stations - sm>
egFM represented by Julian Martin
The names behind the bid: Peter Irvine, Kirsty Wark (journalist & broadcaster), Karen Koren, Wiliiam Buredn-Coutts, Mike Gray (ex-program director of Kiss 102 in Manchester and Kiss 105 in Yorkshire, launched Crash 102 in Liverpool)
Committed to Scottish bands etc, planning an 'unplugged' slot. Evenings - dance/indie, an eclectc specialist mix. Promise a "lifestyle link", also want to become a "major youth brand", linking with sport facilities etc (possibly via sponsorship, though this wasn't defined). The holding group are already involved with Livingston Youth FC. There's only one non-Scot on their main team. "Making or breaking bands, not just stocking to the playlist", they want to become an intrinsic part of the lifestyle of 15-24's in Scotland. Would rather play great US track than a crap Scottish one.
<I felt that there were a lot of slogans, a lot of marketing thought gone into the presentation. Who am I to say whether it was too much or not? - sm>
EZFM represented by Bryan Burnett
The names behind the bid: John Boyle (Chairman of Direct Holidays), Bryan Burnett (broadcaster and journnalist), , Roberta Doyle (PR and marketing at Scottish Opera), John McKimmie (director of Motionsound & Telstar), Sir Tom Farmer (Chairman & CE of Kwik-Fit Holdings), and Pat Nevin (the first post-rock footballer, obviously leaving behind his Cocteau Twins and Joy Division collection)
lots of stats to back up the claim that they are whet the public want. 30 years broadcasting experience is cited, + Telstar Records are involved. Their research says public want 9% talk, 8% rap, 82% easy (what about indie, I asked myself - sm). They aim to play 85% music, less waffle, NO phone-ins, no "what dj did at the weekend" - variety not same old stuff. "EZ's not Andy Williams and Val Doonican - more Toni Braxton than Toni Bennet" (hmm, give me Tony Bennet any day - sm)
<Generally, considering the unsurprisingly searching nature of the questions from the largely student/indie audience, Bryan Burnett handled things pretty well. - sm>
FM8 represented by David Faulds
The names behind the bid: Independent Radio Group (local commercial radio station holding company), MSL (publishers of M8 magazine), Liz Burns (Director of Volunteer Development Scotland), Jim Faulds, Jim Gibb, Sandy Alexander (joint MD of Schuh), Mary Kiani (pop singer), Mark Goldinger (music promoter and manaager, also founder of Archaos & Henry Afrikas nightclubs, Howie B. (musician, DJ & producer), Marion Menzies, Norman Quirk
FM8 - Say they're the only one to have done RSL (T in the Park Radio aka BeatFM were denied the chance this time, though they have done it in the past. Also, I'm sure that Asian Sound have done a RSL as Radio Ramadan - sm). When David Faulds claimed that the Dance Tent was more popular at T in the Park than the indie stages, Stuart Clumpas retorted "I don't tell you how to run your magazine". (This was as heated as the debate got, sadly - sm). Involved in Scotland Against Drugs.
<It would be easy for me to slate FM8 as I don't believe that a dance-only show is what is required for the people of Central Scotland. I don't believe that they came across too well, being on the defensive all the time with little provocation. Though that won't be of much concern to the granters of the licence... - sm>
THE HUB represented by Chris Parry.
The names behind the bid: Alan McGee (owner of Creation Records), Chris Parry (MD of XFM & owner of Fiction Records), Kirsty Young (broadcaster), David Murray (industrialist & Chairman of Glasgow Rangers), Noble Grossart (merchant bank), XFM Ltd (London radio station)
"Research says the Scottish scene is healthy". (Hmm, does it take 'research' to spot that? - sm) XFm connection is involved with Crash FM in Liverpool (fronted by Janice Long, and, oddly, promoted by Pat Nevin). He and Robert Smith (yes, that Robert Smith) are the only original people left with shares in XFm. Chis Parry did give example artists who would get airplay, the only person to use such specifics - Propellerheads, Bob Mould were listed - so, dance/indie.
<The fact that Chris Parry is a New Zealander shouldn't matter too much, but maybe Alan McGee or someone else might have been a batter representative simply because he would have known the scene here a bit better. And appearances count for a lot - he doesn't have a Scottish accent, and that counts, perhaps more than it should! - sm>
KICK FM represented by Pat Geary
The names behind the bid: Elaine C. Smith, Dougie Donnelly, Jonathan Watson (comedian & writer), Ca Va Sound Workshops, Brendan McLaughlan, Scottish Radio Holdings. And Peter Capaldi, ex-singer with Glasgow proto-Goths the Dreamboys.
"The Adult Music Mix that Kicks". Pat Geary has a Lloyd Grossman accent. He runs a West End record shop, and was challenged by the clash between his shop's sales/window display and the Celtic nature of Kick. He claims that he likes this genre of music and it sells well.Also states that the music is liked by 16-65 year olds, by children, parents and grandparents. 16.8% of their shares are with Scottish Radio Holdings (Radio Clyde) but they won't sell out to Clyde! Scottish-based infectious mix of music which addresses adult concerns. Pop-country like Shania Twain (?)
<Pat Geary came across as being very personable and committed despite being challenged as to his personal tastes in music. Not the station for us here at jockrock, mind you. - sm>
POINT FM represented by Steven Sleepman (didn't show)
The names behind the bid: Planet 24 (Bob Geldof's production company), The Precious Organisstion (Wet Wet Wet's management), Brian Aitken. Merk Story, David Urquhart, Zander Williamson, Brian Dempsey (businessmen tipped for next Celtic FC Chairmanship), Tessa Hartman, Bill Furness
SCOTTISH NEWS RADIO: represented by Chris Mann
The names behind the bid: Nigel Reeve IMD of London News Radio). Chris Mann (Editor of News Direct 97.3FM, M.J. Olaore (Company Secretary of London News Radio, shareholders include ITN, Reuters, GWR, Daily Mail Radio Group. 'Celeb' is Sheena Macdonald.
The time is right with the new parliament for a committed voice in Radio in Scotland - that's the rationale for Scottish News Radio. Mornings and afternoons - to and from work - will broadcast news, at other times, chat, what's on, etc. Tackling issues and crusading are their key strategies, plus exploiting a commercial gap in the market, SNR will give access to the ABC1 market. Offices in Glasgow Edinburgh & Stirling plus the new Parliament. Also, drama & radio promotion , offering student placements (as in their other 'branches' in England).
<Again, it was the non-indie music stations that came across best, to the extent that everyone else on the panel agreed that there should be another licence for news (well, another 4...), really because Chris Mann patiently showed up against the music stations and politely stated his case. He probably has the best business proposition, though the worst music policy... also, though news on the new parliament will be welcome in terms of generating interest in politics, as far as crusading goes, won't the only people they will be broadcasting to be Scots i.e. those already convinced?- sm>
5 other stations tendered bids but were unable to attend the discussion session and did not have any details available on themselves:
After the presentations, there was a discussion regarding radio in Scotland, following which there was be an opportunity for questions from the audience.
Mark Percival (Radio Scotland dj)- Which station would you have win apart from yourself? <good question, Mark! - sm>
Chris Mann (SNR)- "A music station!"
Others went for similar stations to themselves.
West Nile records rep asked if new Scottish records would be played. Answer was unsurprisingly (from music stations) unanimous in the affirmative...
EZ was accused of being just like Clyde 1 in terms of playlists. "It's not what we play it's how we play it" as their maxim was challenged. Bryan Burnett pointed out that they would be playing 85% music and only 15% speeech, that was the difference.
Dave Marshall (Clyde 2) queried how SNR would make money (cited example of LBC 30 years ago failing). Response SNR have 31 journos, rest (12 or so) are sales people. Also, LBC was relaunched and is now making money.
Ewan Macleod (Big John out of the Exploited lookalike and BeatFM presenter) asked why there was to be100% dance on FM8? Compared FM8 to Galaxy. David Faulds didn't answer, saying "when BeatFM lose they can get their footballers to say how sick as a parrot they are".
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