Regional press bid for radio station blocked

Parker: ‘surprised and disappointed’ at Radio Authority’s ruling

The Midland News Association is “considering its position” after its application for a radio station in Telford was rejected by the regulator on the grounds it it was likely to “operate against the public interest”.

The MNA, which owns the Express & Star, Wolverhampton, and the Shropshire Star – which covers the Telford area – sought to acquire a controlling interest in Telford Radio and its station 107.4 Telford FM. But the Radio Authority blocked the move after carrying out a cross-media public interest test.

“Taking account of the market shares obtained by both the MNA and Telford FM and the coherent and credible objections raised by respondents”, the authority decided it would be against the public interest. Under the terms of the 1996 Broadcasting Act, a local newspaper cannot hold a local radio licence unless the authority deems ownership is not likely to operate against the public interest.

Keith Parker, managing director of the Express & Star and a director of Telford FM, said he was “surprised and disappointed” with the decision, given that the MNA had offered a number of guarantees for the station’s continued editorial independence.

“We’re going to have to consider our position on this. We had indicated to the Radio Authority that nothing would change as far as the independence of the station’s newsgathering operations were concerned. Similarly, there would be no compulsory selling on into the radio station,” Parker said.

He would not be drawn on the possibility of lodging an appeal.

“The complication is that the Radio Authority is going out of existence at the end of the year and Ofcom takes over, so we don’t know yet what the situation would be,” Parker added.

“We though we had made all the safeguards necessary for Telford FM to be run independently.”

MNA also has a minority interest in Ace FM in Kidderminster, which will be considered for a local licence by Ofcom from next year.

 

By Wale Azeez

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