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Vision to merge three Manx radio stations

COMBINE FACILITIES: Ron Berry

COMBINE FACILITIES: Ron Berry

BOSS of radio station 3FM Ron Berry has outlined his vision of the future of public service broadcasting, including the proposal to merge the island’s radio stations.

Addressing a meeting of the Positive Action Group in Douglas last month, Mr Berry detailed how a ‘Manx Broadcasting Corporation’ – with three centrally-operated stations – could be structured.

It comes at a time of government review into how Manx Radio is funded.

He said that while the annual government subvention the station receives fell to around £850,000 for 2012/13, funding is actually closer to £1.2 million when factoring in government picking up the station’s annual £67,000 transmission costs, and around £250,000 of capital programmes.

Mr Berry also weighed up Manx Radio’s projected income (£1.9 million) and expenditure (£14,998 higher than that figure), concluding: ‘Clearly, government money is vital to Manx Radio.’

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 said the proposal to further consolidate staff would help secure the future of public service broadcasting in the island.

‘I’ve put forward the consideration that the three radio stations combine facilities and resources to deliver what I’ve called the Manx Broadcasting Corporation,’ he said.

‘The government has already made a substantial investment in the Manx Radio building and infrastructure. It’s easy to put two other radio stations up there. The most radical changes however, would be to the levels of staffing required.’

The MBC board would be made up of public and private sector representatives, and would preside over the three stations, each overhauled to appeal to separate demographics, in a move likened to the BBC’s and Radio One, Two and Four.

Energy FM would target 15 to 25-year-old listeners, with chart music and tabloid style news.

Three FM would be for the 25-50 market, with adult contemporary music and tabloid news with a ‘more mature presentation style.’

Manx Radio would cater for the 50 plus audience, with a more easy-listening music format, more upmarket news coverage and a bigger emphasis on current affairs, Saturday sport, features, specialist music and Manx language programming.

‘Voice tracking’ would keep costs down: pre-recorded presenter links between music that sound live, which would take over on weekday evenings on each station from around 6pm.

Mr Berry Suggested the entire structure could be run by a staff of around 30 people, less than half the staff currently employed by Manx Radio alone.

Further savings would come from shared rents, transmission costs and membership to music licensing organisations.

He estimated the MBC’s running cost would be in the region of £438,000, which would come from public money.

‘You take away the subvention, and replace it with cost of actually running the structure,’ he explained.

The MBC’s combined income, said Mr Berry, through advertising revenue and from the engineering support currently carried out by Manx Radio staff, would total around £1.2 million.

Measured against a total running cost of around £950,000 when factoring in staff and operational costs, Mr Berry said the MBC could deliver a profit of £250,000.

He said this was a better proposition to the public than the current public service broadcasting spending levels.

‘The total cost to the government would be half a million, but with potential returns from a £250,000 profit share.’

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