THE ongoing battle for control of the North Donegal airwaves will move into the public arena next spring as the two applicants has been asked to prepare oral presentations for the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland in March.
Highland Radio, who have been operating the licence for the past 23 years, are being challenged by Donegal Commercial Radio Broadcasting Limited (DL) for the new 10-year licence which comes into effect in September 2014.
The BAI committee met to consider the bids on Wednesday and within hours had issued letters to the two applicants.
It emerged that a number of issues require further clarification and, as a result, the BAI will seek that information through a series of supplementary questions and a 15-minute oral presentation from the two parties in March.
The letter, which is signed by Ann O’Brien, concludes by saying that the BAI will write to the rival bidders in due course with details of the time, date, venue and schedule.
Former Highland Radio General Manager Charlie Collins is DL Commercial Radio CEO. He said that they were happy to see the process move onto the next stage.
“The only thing I can really say at this stage is that we’re looking forward to engaging with the BAI next March,” Mr Collins said
DL Commercial Radio proposes to have its headquarters and main broadcast centre in the iTek building on Business Park Road, Letterkenny with a satellite office and studios in Carndonagh.
There are nine shareholders of Donegal Commercial Radio Broadcasting Limited.
They are Paddy Simpson, Charlie Collins, Philip O’Doherty, Mary G Blake and her husband Damien Blake, Enda Nicholls, Mark McCloskey, Danny Doohan and Brian McGill.
Five of them are joined by Lisa Birkett as directors with professor Roy Greenslade and Grace Ann McGarvey named as Independent Directors.
Donegal Highland Radio Limited is owned and controlled by Orangold Limited, which in turn is owned and controlled by Gerry Rabbitt and his family.
The Oranmore man is a former major shareholder in Galway Bay fm until it was acquired by the Connacht Tribune group in 2006. Mr Rabbitt’s company purchased the station from Communicorp, which is owned by Denis O’Brien, in 2008.
Shaun Doherty is Managing Director of Highland Radio and their licence application group is made up of Gerry, Timothy, Maureen and Fionnuala Rabbitt, Shaun Doherty, Billy Patterson and Patricia McBride.
Opportunity to demonstrate
In a statement yesterday afternoon Donegal Highland Radio Ltd said it accepts the decision by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland for an oral hearing into the application for a ten-year sound broadcasting licence for the North Donegal franchise.
“We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate to the BAI Awards Committee how Highland Radio will continue to serve the people of North Donegal with the same pride, professionalism and passion that they enjoy and expect from us.
“Since change of ownership in 2008, Highland Radio has increased market share and listenership while diversifying its business model to ensure profitability through the economic recession. Highland Radio looks forward to maintaining our position as Ireland’s number one local radio station and increasing investment in the North West,” the statement read.