MacKenzie bounces back after High Court setback

Kelvin MacKenzie’s Wireless Group is to launch a station in Edinburgh

Kelvin MacKenzie’s The Wireless Group has won the new FM licence for Edinburgh-just a day after losing its long-running battle to sue Rajar for wrongly delaying the introduction of new audience-measuring technology.

His Dunedin FM all-speech station saw off 11 other applications whose backers included GWR, Virgin, Guardian Media Group and Scottish Radio Holdings.

MacKenzie, chairman and chief executive of The Wireless Group (TWG), said: “To be truthful I was shocked to hear the news. We have never been awarded a licence in the history of The Wireless Group and despite being confident in our application we were up against some seriously heavyweight competition.

“It’s good news for speech radio – the old IBA and Radio Authority were in error in allowing BBC radio to dominate speech radio in such a monopolistic position. It’s partly thanks to Talksport and to a lighter touch regulation saying: ‘We don’t know if this will be commercially successful but let’s see.’ “Ofcom has been, for most of us in radio, a suprise package. It’s doing a good job. After a rather large kick in the balls on Thursday morning it was a great Christmas present less than six and a half hours later to be awarded the Edinburgh licence.”

The new station will prominently feature local news alongside national and international news, together with information for Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth, which have an adult population of nearly a million.

The good news for TWG came swiftly after the blow delivered by Mr Justice Lloyd in the High Court.

After TWG tried to sue Rajar, alleging that its decision in June 2003 not to introduce audiometers amounted to an abuse of market power, Rajar countered with a legal application to have the case annulled – and it was this that the judge backed.

Mr Justice Lloyd described the delay, which Rajar said was to carry out further research, as a “rational commercial approach” and said in his conclusion: “The allegations simply do not correspond with the facts.”

Rajar is owned by the BBC and the Commercial Radio Companies Association (CRCA). In a joint statement, Jenny Abramsky, the BBC’s director of radio and music, and Paul Brown, the CRCA’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted this case has been rejected.

“Rajar represents, skilfully and honestly, the interests of more than 300 UK radio stations. That their time and resources have been sidetracked by a legal challenge in this way has been unfair to other subscribers. The whole industry must now move forward without delay in order to meet the timetable to a new research contract published by Rajar in September 2004.”

Rajar has produced a “roadmap” to enhanced radio audience measurement and says it is optimistic of introducing an audiometer-based methodology by 2007 which measures analogue, digital, digital TV and internet listening.

MacKenzie said: “We note with interest the joint statement from Jenny Abramsky and Paul Brown that the whole industry must now move forward without delay to meet the timetable to a new research contract published by Rajar in September 2004.

I agree, but I should point out that there is as much chance of Rajar sticking to its timetable as there is of bin Laden being found in Deptford”,

By Caitlin Pike

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