Journalists bid for Scottish licence

A small radio consortium fronted by Scottish journalists Andrew Neil and Sheena McDonald is pitting itself against the largest UK radio broadcasters including GWR, Virgin, Guardian Media Group and Scottish Radio Holdings, in a bid for the FM licence for Edinburgh.

Castle FM, which was set up five years ago, has the backing of Emap as its strategic partner. Andrew Neil, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Scotsman Publications and broadcaster Sheena McDonald are directors of Edinburgh Radio, Castle FM’s holding company. Other members of the consortium include Kwik-Fit founder Sir Tom Farmer, banker Sir Angus Grossart and former Lord Provost Eric Milligan.

Ofcom formally advertised the licences for the Scottish capital and for Blackburn last week. The Edinburgh licence for the 107 FM frequency, said to be worth £15m, will cover the city and the area surrounding the Firth of Forth, which contains an adult population of around 940,000.

Ofcom said the measured coverage area of the new service was likely to be “broadly similar to that achieved by the existing FM Edinburgh service provided by Forth One”.

The Blackburn licence will cover Darwen, Accrington, Clayton-leMoors, and Great Harwood, with an estimated coverage of around 150,000.

The deadline for both bids is 23 September, with Ofcom’s decision on the winner expected by the end of the year.

The successful bidders will have to prove they can set up a popular station providing something new and keep it running for at least 12 years, Ofcom said.

By Wale Azeez

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