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

 

the licence
 
This information is largely lifted from the Radio Authority press release.
 
At the beginning of April 1998 the Radio Authority advertised a new Independent Local Radio (ILR) licence for the 3 main population areas of Central Scotland including Edinburgh and Glasgow.The adult population of the receprion area is estimated at 2.3 milion.This is the second licence for this area - the previous one was won by ScotFM which came on air in September 1994.
 
When the authority cines to assess the applications it receives it will be taking into consideration applicants' proposals to cater for the tastes and interests of listeners in this region, and to broaden the range of audience choice in relation to existing ILR services which are available. The Authority would there fore welcome publis comments and opinions about the local radio eneds of the region, which should be sent to the Radio Authority's Head of Development, Holbrook House, 14 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5DG
 
The licence will be for a period of 8 years.
 
The stations had to be serious as a fee (non-returnable!) of £5900 had to be paid.
 
The closing date for applications was 28th July and the decision will be made on the 14th december
 
 

the contenders

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

Target audience: 15-34 year olds
Musc policy: New music and dance
News & sport: Promises to become "Scotland's foremost source of listing information"
 

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

Target audience: 15-24 year olds
Music policy: Dance and indie
News and sport: n/a
 

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

Target audience: Over 30's
Music policy: Chart hits and classic tracks
News & Sport: n/a
 

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

Target audience: Under 30s
Music policy: Dance music
News & sport: n/a
 

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.

Target audience: 15-34 year olds
Music policy: Alternative rock and dance music
News & sport: Yes
 

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

Target audience: 25-44 year
Music policy: Modern Adult and Celtic Popular Music
News & sport: n/a
 

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)

Target audience: 15-34 year olds
Musk policy: Dance and alternative music
News & sport n/a
 

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

Target audience: 35-45 year olds, mainly men (Abs)
Music policy: None
News & sport: Prime time rolling news with travel, city news, sport and weather. In-depth newstalk, interviews, debate and discussion.

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:

ASIAN SOUND FM - Manchester-based group have made this bid, they already operate terrestrial and satellite services for the ethnic Asian community.
 
 
THE EDGE - Billy Connolly's 40% brings indie/new music to the masses. Also involved - Sunday Mail,/Daily Record (20%), Crysallis Radio (40%). Chryssalis bought out Choice radio in Birmingham recently.
 
 
FUN RADIO (children's programming, Capital Radio Holdings) - 4-14 year old age group. Richard Park (director at Capital), Lady Elinor Arbuthnot, Campbell Christie (STUC general secretary) and Phil Crane of Deep Sea World are those culpable.
 
 
JAZZ FM - Nice. London-based bid about whom little is know, at least by ourselves.
 
 
 
REVIVAL RADIO (Christian Broadcasting)
Backed by Logos Broadcasting and supported by Bill McCall, of Singer and Friedlander.

 

After the presentations, there was a discussion regarding radio in Scotland, following which there was be an opportunity for questions from the audience.


the debate:

 

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...

 

A Clyde 1 dj asked if recruiting quality presenters would be a problem in Scotland?
FM8 described some local dj's as as talented by Wetherall, Judge Jules etc, which was heavily disputed by a member of the audience (citing Julse's commmitent to his genre through pirate radio, etc).
Chris Parry from The Hub reckoned there would be enough talent.
Stuart Clumpas (Beat FM) said "music, not dj's, is the most important thing" (though he used the phrase "quality threshold" again)

 

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.

 

Jim Galletly (NorthSound) - "what do you do if you fail - if you don't get the licence then you're a failure, do you give up?"
EZ - "Try again for the next one" (though there is really no major licence coming up after this)
SNR - involved with national digital news network
Beat FM - "it's too important to give up, must try to promote new music in some other way"

 

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".

The final question was on women in radio and what ratios there might be.
The Hub was concerned, confessing that only 3 dj's in their other stations are women. Beat FM were also concerned, but saying that if someone was good enough sex shouldn't matter. SNR is already 50-50.
 
 
 
 
So, the final action as to take a vote on who the audience would vote for, if they had a choice. The results were surprising - none of the stations who didn't show were voted for,perhaps unsurpisingly. Also, the vote was rather low, with a lot of the industry people in the audience keeping their cards close to their chests in this show of hands. Anyway:
 
BeatFM : 12
The Edge: 1
EZFM: 1
FM8: 2
The Hub: 2
KickFM: 4
SNR: 12
Of course, the vote above doesn't count of course, we will have to wait until December 14th till we know what the REAL jury think...
 
 
the radio authority
 
 
The Radio Authority is responsible for licencing and regulating Independent Radio in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996. It plans frequencies, awards licences, regulates programming and advertises and plays an active role in the discussion and formulation and policies which affect the Independent Radio industry and its listeners. The 1996 Broadcasting Act laid the framework for the intrioduction of digital radio.
 
The following people will make the decision on what kind of radio is best for the people of Central Scotland.
 
The Radio Authority committee:
 
Sir Peter Gibbings: Chairman. 69-year-old ex-director of The Economist, Reuters and Anglia TV Chairman. Lists his relaxation preferences as 'tennis and music' - though what type of music isn't defined.
Michael Moriarty: retired Home Office civil servant.
Andrew Reid: Mayfair solicitor, farmer and horse breeder
Lady Brenda Sheil: barrister on Police Complaints Comission and Consumer Concil
Michael Reupke: former Reuters editor-in-chief and director of Visnews (television agency)
Lena Tennent: primary teachers' lecturer at St. Andrews College (server on ITC for 5 years till 1994) - the only Scot on the panel.
 
To show support for any of the bidders or make your opinion heard, contact the Radio Authority, Holbrook House, 14 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5DG. tel: 0171 430 2724 Fax: 0171 405 7864. I would strongly recommend that you do.
 
 
 
 
 

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