The management of Manx Radio has been criticised by a select committee into the island’s public service broadcasting.
The interim report of the committee, chaired by Dr Alex Allinson MHK, concluded that the radio station’s request for a 38% increase in its public subvention showed ’an astonishing disregard for the constraints which exists at present on all public finances’.
The request came in the station’s budget bid for 2018/19.
In it, the station asked for an increase in its annual public subvention from £875,000 to £1,210,000.
The request followed failed attempts at increasing income and restructuring the way the station operates.
The report says: ’Manx Radio’s strategy was to carry on increasing its services and seek to fund this by increasing its commercial income.
’The strategy failed. The hoped-for increase in commercial income did not materialise and the company reported losses of £48,713 in 2015/16 and £82,406 in 2016/17.’
The committee stated that as Manx Radio operates at arm’s length from Treasury, it is not sufficiently ’accountable to the public’.
To rectify this, the committee suggested that the station should be required to budget for a surplus each year.
If it is expected to actually make a loss, it should be obligatory for Tynwald be to asked to approve supplementary finance.
The committee has also concluded that the station has changed little in its approach to broadcasting in the last 10 years.
The report said: ’We consider that opportunities have been missed to show creativity within the station format laid down by the Communications Commission and to negotiate changes to that format when the licence has been renewed’.
A further criticism of the station was the way in which it ’distorts’ the advertising market in the island.
The report says: ’We conclude that the provision of radio advertising capability is not in itself a public service.
’If Manx Radio were to stop carrying advertisements, businesses in the Isle of Man would not be significant inconvenienced.’
The committee concluded that the station’s ’over-reliance’ on commercial income could undermine their ability to delivery a public service media and this distorted the market for other media organisations, such as 3FM or Energy FM.
Dr Alinson explained that this would not remove all advertising from Manx Radio.
Rather, the idea is to end the station’s reliance on advertising which, while it could require extra funds from either the BBC or government, would reduce expenditure.