Radio merger plan wasn’t fully appraised

Ron Berry

Ron Berry

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It had not been appropriate for government to give a thorough appraisal of an ‘unsolicited’ proposal by 3FM boss Ron Berry for a radical overhaul of public broadcasting, a Tynwald select committee heard.

The committee which was set up to consider the future of Manx Radio and public service broadcasting, took evidence from Chris Corlett, chief executive of the Department of Economic Development and Clive McGreal, financial controller for the Treasury.

A Tynwald debate on the issue was adjourned last October following a proposal submitted by Ron Berry to merge the island’s three radio stations, Manx Radio, 3FM and Energy FM as a Manx Broadcasting Corporation.

Under the proposals, each station would share premises at Broadcasting House, the transmission infrastructure and staffing.

Since the summer of 2012, Energy FM has shared premises with Three FM, with shared costs leading to an overall saving of 30 per cent.

Mr Berry believes the MBC’s combined income would total around £1.2 million and could deliver a profit of £250,000. Manx Radio’s annual government subvention fell to around £850,000 for 2012/13.

Giving evidence, Mr Corlett described the Berry document as a ‘quite unusual proposal’. He said it was considered by a cross-department group of officers but was not given a full appraisal as Treasury deemed it would be ‘not appropriate to give consideration to unsolicited approaches’.

‘How was it not appropriate?’ asked committee member Steve Rodan MHK.

Mr McGreal replied: ‘It would be more appropriate if government considered options for public service delivery rather than receive an isolated and unsolicited report.’

Mr McGreal said a full appraisal would have needed a range of other matters to be taken into consideration including financial regulation of public-private sector partnerships, use of public assets, government support and legal opinion.

With government having not carried out a full evaluation of the Berry proposal, the matter was brought to the select committee for consideration.

Committee chairman Richard Ronan pointed out that it wasn’t Tynwald’s job to make policy on public service broadcasting.

Mr Corlett confirmed that Mr Berry had been engaged by Treasury, and subsequently DED, but that contract had ended one or two years ago.

Later, the committee heard evidence from Caroline Convery and Chris Tunley, chairman and trustee respectively of the Radio Manx Limited Purpose Trust.

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