The Tribune in trouble?

For most newspapers the loss of a comic strip or “funnies” writer would be inconsequential to its operations. However when said feature has been described by the newspaper’s editor as the reason why most people buy the paper it’s a different story.

As smugly recounted in The Irish Independent recently, Ross O’Carroll Kelly writer Paul Howard has called it quits with the perpetually-struggling Sunday Tribune newspaper. Given that just a year ago the newspaper made Howard’s creation the single focal point of a massive advertising campaign should imply just how prized a possession the weekly column was for it and how damaging its loss will be.

This negative development is just one of man problems facing the Tribune at the moment. The newspaper has been propped up by INM loans since its 1992 takeover bid was blocked – the cost of which are in the tens of millions – but the media landscape in Ireland has changed dramatically since then, as has the situation for INM.

The reason for INM’s involvement in the Tribune is largely because of Rupert Murdoch‘s Sunday Times, which was in the process of setting up an Irish edition in the early ’90s – around the same time that The Sunday Tribune hit financial difficulty. The impending arrival of an Irish Sunday Times threatened to eat into the Sunday Independent’s readership and give Murdoch a foothold in the Irish broadsheet market for the first time. Had the Sunday Tribune been allowed to collapse it would have created a large gap in the market for Murdoch to exploit and so INM salvaged it and have since then used it as a buffer to try and stifle the Sunday Times’ growth.

But despite so much INM capital spent to secure the Sunday market via the Tribune, successive circulation figures suggest that the tactic has been a failure. At present the Tribune has a 5.6% share of the circulation market; The Sunday Times has long overtaken this and is currently at 8.5%. But despite this INM’s fears of losing much of its Sunday market seem to have gone unfounded and The Sunday Times has failed to get close to The Sunday Independent’s massive readership.

Combining its three other Sunday newspapers – The Sunday Independent, Sunday World and Star on Sunday – the company controls around half of country’s Sunday circulation. In fact The Star on Sunday, which was launched in 2003, is only 14,000 copies shy of the Tribune and the gap is quickly closing.

The fact that the Tribune seems to have failed in its supposed raison d’etre may explain why fresh rumours had been doing the rounds, claiming that INM was ready to cut the paper unless it started paying its way. With recent developments in INM it’s clear that at least one significant shareholder agrees with that approach to doing business.

Denis O’Brien has been building his interests in INM since January 2006 and with 8.36% of the company under his control he has made it clear that he plans to be anything but a silent partner.

In his recent assault on the INM board one of O’Brien’s main targets was INM’s ownership of The Independent in Britain, which has always been a loss-leader for the company since it invested in it in the 1990s. O’Brien wants INM to ditch what he sees as a vanity project and focus on its profitable operations instead – logic would dictate that he would also feel the same about their investment in the Tribune.

While O’Brien is unlikely to launch a takeover bid of the company any time soon his vocal nature is sure to draw sharp focus on some of INM’s operations. O’Brien could slowly chip away at shareholder confidence in Tony O’Reilly if he can show that his investments are not what’s best for the company. More importantly if INM believes a hostile takeover is on the way it will be forced to tighten its belt and get its house in order – expensive stragglers with no purpose will not be welcome under such circumstances.

But all is not lost for the Tribune; far from it. The reality is that while O’Brien is putting pressure on INM he’s not expected to make a serious move for the company any time soon, if ever. As long as INM itself is willing to continue financing the newspaper for another few years it still has plenty of time to get itself in shape and into profit.

At present The Sunday Independent is moving further and further away from news, The Sunday Business Post is focusing on business and economics and The Sunday Times is still held back by its amount of British content. For that matter there is a huge opening for up-market quality Irish news coverage with an investigative and agenda-setting slant.

Assuming the publication wants to target this niché, the only concern it will have is how much time it’s got to make the change.

TV3 Reporter Vs. Idiot

This happened on the 13th of July on TV3 News, but a youtube clip of it has only come online in the last few days.

Jerome Hughes was doing a live report for the station after an inquest had ruled that Terence Wheelock had committed suicide; a verdict his family rejected.

Towards the end of the clip you can hear someone off camera shout something like “you fucking bastard”, the same person then walks into view with his hood covering head only for him to push it back down because he can’t see where he’s going.

He proceeds to come up to Hughes, point his fingers so they look nothing like a gun and tell the reporter he’s going to “blow your fucking head off”.

Hughes gives him a look only an idiot deserves, then raises his eyes to camera, as if to say “well, that’s idiots for you”, before getting his feed cut off.

The funniest thing of all is the very clear view the guy gives us of his face when he decides to take his hood down right in front of the camera. Hardly a clever move but then again he’s hardly a clever person.

What’s the point of facebook?

I tend to avoid using most “2.0″ web applications because I fail to see an advantage in doing so. Don’t get me wrong, some applications have been used particularly well by some people but that doesn’t mean that I can do much with them myself.

I knew very little about Facebook and was equally apathetic but I decided to set up an account anyway; just to see what all the fuss was about. To date I am extremely underwhelmed.

All it seems to do is 1) list my friends, details, hobbies and interests; 2) allow me to chat to friends (because I couldn’t do that through “traditional” methods like email and IM); and 3) list my contact details to friends (the same contact details that are available here).

From my experience so far I feel that Facebook is really just a convergence of Bebo’s chatty, friendly, social aspect and LinkedIn’s more professional, online CV-type approach.

I purposely avoid Bebo because I see it as a blog for people who don’t blog – I also feel that using it to its fullest involves collating a lot of personal information in one place, which I’m not too keen on. I do use LinkedIn but it doesn’t seem like enough other people in Ireland do to make it worthwhile (to that degree there has been some worth in signing up to Facebook as I can connect with more Irish journalists etc.).

I have a distinct fear that, as a result of my decision to only use “2.0″ websites that actually offer me something new, I’ll soon be a kind of dinosaur of the internet age. Sure look at me, sitting here with my wordpress blog, MSN client and email account. I’m such a has-been.

That doesn’t bother me too much – I just can’t bring myself to sign up to and regularly use websites that have absolutely nothing to offer me. It seems to me that for the most part Facebook fits into that category.

A modern media fable

Not so long ago, in a place not too far from here there lived a conservative and very opinionated man named Master Osborn Stockdale.

Stockdale loved his country very much; so much so that he would regularly warn of its slow demise and impending destruction to anyone who cared to listen. “Society is coming to an end,” he would say. “We must resist the influence of foreign powers and the influx of foreign people,” he would cry.

Many did listen as they saw him as wise and knowledgeable, although many more just ignored him and said he was an out of touch fear monger.

Some time ago, growing from the concern he felt towards the way his beloved country was going, Stockdale decided to hold a weekly public meeting at which he would discuss the issues of the day and invite his like-minded friends and associates to join him in doing the same. Despite being somewhat controversial, Stockdale’s meetings quickly built up a large following with millions making their way to them every week.

However Stockdale, forever the patriot, knew he had to spread his message to more and more people. “The millions that already listen to me are not enough – everyone must hear my message if we’re to do anything to save ourselves,” he realised. Deep down, he also realised that the number of people who were coming to hear him speak was also declining and he secretly feared that in the future none would show up to his meetings.

He knew that it was not his oration skills that kept these potential followers away as they were perfect. He knew too that his opinions were flawless, so they weren’t the culprit for the lack of public interest.

Then it hit him – it was not that people didn’t believe his message to be true, it was that they just hadn’t heard it yet. So Stockdale set about finding a way to attract the millions who had missed out on his wisdom and he decided to call in a few favours from friends in high places to do this.

You see, Stockdale was extremely good friends with his beloved country’s King and had been for many years. He had remembered how his good friend the King was always talking about his son, who was an accomplished and apparently popular musician and figured he could use this to his advantage. “He is working on a new composition, my dear Osborn, that will amaze and delight in equal measures,” said the King at every chance he could find.

“Well if this boy is so popular and talented, perhaps he could draw in the crowds for my next public meeting!” thought Stockdale in a flash of brilliance, ingeniousness and wisdom all rolled into one.

And so he approached the King about this idea and while the King’s son had planned on debuting his new composition at the local theater, it was agreed that for the right price he could do it elsewhere.

Stockdale, being a wealthy man, saw money as no obstacle and he happily paid a sizable fee for the services of the Prince.

With his plan coming along swimmingly, Stockdale began to spread the word about his upcoming public meeting. He posted signs on walls and trees, he employed town’s criers and he printed the news in many pamphlets which were distributed across the land. No expense was spared, of course, as Stockdale saw it all as a worthy investment.

“Let it be known,” he said. “That anyone who comes to my next public meeting will be treated to the latest wonderful composition by the great Prince for free!”

The anticipation was huge. Not even the most reclusive of town’s folk could ignore the impending event. Most people were delighted too, indeed the only complaint came from the local theater owner who cried afoul of the entire event; “this is a disgrace,” he said. “Music is for theaters and nowhere else; the Prince is only interested in money!”. Few listened, even fewer cared.

When Sunday finally came around, Stockdale was delighted to see that his plan had worked – hundreds of thousands more people than usual were all there, waiting for the public meeting to begin.

Knowing that people had come far and wide to see him, Stockdale put the Prince at the very front of the event’s program so everyone could see him straight away; the Prince proceeded to debut his latest work and it was very well received by all. Stockdale instantly decried his latest public meeting as a success and began to brag about the hundreds of thousands of new followers he had attracted in his fight to save his country from moral bankruptcy.

The very next week Stockdale prepared the public meeting as normal but made sure to make room for the hundreds of thousands of new followers he had gained from the week before. When the crowds did arrive, however, he was dismayed and upset to find that they were no bigger than they had been before the previous week’s musical showcase.

His success turned out to be little more than an illusion, you see. While Stockdale was quick to note the number who turned out to see the Prince play, he was so smitten with himself he failed to notice those who left once the music was finished. It turned out that none of the new attendees were interested in what he had to say and left once they got what they wanted – which was a free music show. Had he paid any attention, he would have seen that it was just the same old faces that stuck around for the discussions that followed; the same ones that had come the week before and the same ones that would come the week after.

The moral of the story? Never assume that those who don’t listen to you just haven’t realised what they’re missing yet.

On Newstalk tonight (Culture Shock newspaper preview)

I’ll be on Newstalk’s Culture Shock again tonight at around 8:45PM to preview the Sunday newspapers.

Be sure to tune in if you get the chance; It’s available on FM across most of Ireland (106-108FM), DAB on the East Coast of the country, online at newstalk.ie, on channel 210 on Sky Digital in Ireland or the UK or 932 on NTL/Chorus Digital in Ireland. (It’s also available under the radio section of the very limited DTT trial.)

The Roma at the Roundabout

The endless immigration debate has taken a unique twist in Ireland lately with the bizarre developments on the M50 in Ballymun.

For the last few months a group of over 50 (32 adults, 22 children) Roma have been camping on the roundabout of an extremely busy motorway and numerous NGOs are calling for the Government to take action.

These Romani are citizens of Romania and as such are in a legal blackhole in terms of their rights in Ireland.

Ever since their country’s accession to the EU, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria have been subject to certain restrictions in Ireland. Unlike other EU citizens, a work permit is required for those looking to join the Irish labour market. At the same time, however, Romanian and Bulgarians can travel to Ireland as either tourists or as self-employed workers meaning that those without work permits can still come to the country and stay indefinitely.

However, because these countries are now in the EU their citizens can no longer apply for asylum and the existing restrictions on labour mean that they do not qualify for any kind of state welfare.

What this means is that this Romani family, which doesn’t have a single work permit amongst it, is free to come and live here even though none of them can work here, seek asylum or claim welfare. Irish law does say that they can be sent home after three months if they cannot support themselves but due to them being citizens of the EU there is nothing to stop them making their way back here straight away.

Reaction to the family’s situation has been mixed. Some, especially in NGOs like Pavee Point, want the Government to step in and provide support for what they deem to be a “humanitarian crisis”. Others want the family deported “back to their own country”. The problem is that, at the moment, neither option is open to the Government.

Due to the route it chose to take before the accession of Romania and Bulgaria it cannot now allow this family to work or claim any kind of welfare. At the same time it cannot stop them coming and staying here and as they have not committed any crime there is no justification in their deportation (at least not until they pass the three-month mark). In other words, it has tied its own hands and can be neither compassionate nor hardline.

As a result of the extremely aggressive Romani beggars, which have become a fact of Irish towns and cities, many here now believe the whole community to be worthy of nothing but their suspicion. Many have stories of Roma children stealing from shops while their parents look on, often encouraging. Many have seen them trying to steal money being withdrawn from an ATM too and there’s no doubt that this happens.

The Irish Times says (subs required) that one of the Rom infants which was taken into care was removed for its mother whilst she was begging in town with it. Apparently she cries every day about this. She can continue to cry all she wants, to be frank, as taking a child out in the lashing of rain to use as currency to extract sympathy (and as a result, cash) is probably one of the most disgusting and irresponsible things a parent can do.

What is confusing, however, is the growing consensus that these scam artists and scumbags are somehow representative of the entire Romani culture and community. There is undoubtedly an increasingly-popular perception is that these people as lazy and good for nothing, plain and simple.

Do people jump to the same conclusions when they see Irish people pulling similar tricks?

The question should be posed – what if these people could work legally; would or could they? While there are unquestionably many lazy people in the Roma community who are willing to live off welfare they don’t deserve, one only has to look at any dole queue in Ireland to realise that this is not a unique attribute of any one culture or ethnicity.

That said, only each individual Rom can know whether they are indeed willing to work for a living, so there’s no point in trying to answer that part of the question here. Assume that they are, however, and you begin to see the real issue at play here that the bi-tonal debate overlooks.

As Pavee Point’s involvement in this case suggests, Roma have much in common with the Traveler community in Ireland, but it’s safe to say that they’re even more isolated and disconnected from the wider community than travelers are here.

A standard trait of any census where Roma are involved is confusion over their population size – this is largely because they have births outside of hospitals and do not register the fact with the authorities. This disconnect with the State continues through life and even the best of cases across the continent show a desperate lack of education amongst the community.

As a result, getting formal employment is difficult at best. If you cannot read, write or do other simple tasks you are at an instant disadvantage. If you don’t have access to basic amenities it’s difficult to make yourself presentable enough to work in many places too. Couple these facts and more with the reality of the suspicion your ethnicity endures and an uphill battle becomes a vertical climb.

Ireland should not change its rules and give handouts to this family, because it would solve nothing. That said, deportation in this situation is simply a national equivalent of the attitude seen towards prisons, landfills and wind turbines – the attitude of “we have no problem with them, but just not in our backyard”.

What is required is a national and international strategy to break the cycle for those who want out of it. You cannot condemn someone to a live of begging just because the trades of their ancestors are now defunct. You cannot condemn someone to live in squalor just because they were never able to go to school. Just ask yourself how you would feel if you started life with absolutely nothing, not even the ability to read, and what you would do if there was no-one willing to help you resolve that fact.

If that was done you can bet that their culture would be seen as no lazier than our own. Of course, some of them would decide that a life of begging and scamming, educational ignorance and squalid living conditions, is what they want, and they can have it, along with our mistrust. Maybe by then people would realise that as is already the case, they’re only representative of themselves, not their culture, family or ethnicity.

How Kevin Myers is the Bill O’Reilly of the Irish media

I don’t read Kevin Myers’ columns; not anymore anyway. The simple reason is that they generally provoke a deep-rooted rage in me due to their ignorance, simplicity and disconnect with reality or rationality. To my mind, this reaction is exactly what Myers aims for and as such I increasingly suspect that not even he agrees with most of what he says.

My fear is that his provocation for the sake of provocation, whilst entertaining to him and maybe others, only encourages the easily-led to agree with his broad, misguided and vague points or to rationalise their own bigotry through his.

Put simply he writes to anger those who think and comfort those who refuse to. He is Ireland’s answer to Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and John Gibson and this article on Muslim fundamentalists is proof of such.

Let me go through the article to illustrate my point:

IT’S HARD to remember this now, but six years ago almost no one in the world could have believed it was possible to have a mass-suicide plot to bring about the death of thousands in the United States.

Innocent days: for suicide-killings are now 10 a penny in the West Bank, Afghanistan and Iraq, and even occur in Britain. The once universal taboo on self-murder, and the equally universal fear of death, are now apparently extinct across much of the Islamic world.

Not much to say about the first paragraph, I do have plenty with the second one, however.

Firstly, suicide-killings, or suicide-bombings have been a factor in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict since the early 1970s; 11th September 2001 did nothing to change that. It’s probably safe to say, also, that the only reason they are currently a factor in Afghanistan and Iraq is not because the terrorist attacks in New York encouraged terrorism there, but because poor US planning has facilitated them.

Secondly, on the issue of the taboo of death. Anyone who truly believes in their faith and truly believes themselves to be a committed practitioner of their faith would have no reason to fear death, indeed this fact is a central pillar of religions like Christianity. In other words, to say that it’s a universal fear is a complete and utter generalisation.

Thirdly, there are over 1 billion Muslim believers in the world today – Myers bases his assumption that the fear of death is extinct across the Muslim world on the fact that a tiny, tiny fraction of this population is willing to commit suicide for what they believe in.

This is the most dangerous factor of his entire article – the way in which he fails to distinguish Muslims from those who interpret Muslim texts in an extreme way.

Now most of us understand the warrior concept of almost certain death in battle. All cultures have revered those who were prepared to give their lives in a holy cause. Even when they are the enemy, we recognise and even admire those who are prepared to go to certain death fighting for what they believe in. The Waffen SS soldiers who freely sacrificed themselves for their Fuhrer were universally respected by allied soldiers; so too were the Japanese Kamikaze pilots, 2,000 of whom gave their lives in the service of their emperor. They were selfless warriors, who died attacking legitimate and purely military targets.

There are a two major generalisations in this paragraph.
For a start, it’s a complete generalisation to say that Waffen-SS soldiers and Kamikaze pilots were “universally” respected by Allied soldiers; in fact it’s not just a generalisation, it’s a baseless, unquantifiable statement which Myers has plucked from his own head. It’s also a complete generalisation to say that all of these pilots and soldiers were “selfless warriors” who attacked “legitimate and purely military targets” – many Waffen-SS soldiers, for example, are known to have been involved in rounding up innocent Jews for concentration camps, which few would describe as legitimate targets.

Study whatever fascist or totalitarian movement you like in world history. None has made a military virtue of killing children or young women; none has extolled the virtues of martyrdom in the course of such butchery. Just about every single taboo, both military and social, is violated in such operations: and only Islamicists could hail such deeds as pious. Such boastful, barbaric filth was beyond even the depravity of the Third Reich, or the wickedness of the Soviet Union: for these regimes kept their foul deeds secret, knowing that they were intrinsically shameful.

The line “only Islamicists could hail such deeds [as the murder of women and children] as pious” is especially worrying here as it again makes no qualification between those who have a fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran and those who do not.
This paragraph is also kind enough to ignore the fact that neither Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia ever made any distinction between man, woman or child when it came to the likes of the “inferior” Jew, slav or other and seems to imply that these Western animals had morals, unlike those fundamentalists in the Arab world.

Now all this would be depressing enough if it did not occur against a larger Islamic backdrop of denial and equivocation. Some 25pc of British Muslims believe that the London bombings which occurred two years ago on Saturday were the work of British intelligence; and most Islamic “condemnation” of Islamist terrorism invariably contextualises it, as if there were some logical or moral connection between holiday-makers in Glasgow airport being blown apart and events in Baghdad or the West Bank.

The way in which Myers quotes this unattributed figure is classic spinning – assuming it’s genuine it should be pointed out that when 25pc of a community says one thing it means that 75pc (three quarters) says otherwise. How this amounts to “a larger Islamic backdrop of denial” is beyond me.

The generalisations continue when Myers says that “most Islamic “condemnation” of Islamist terrorism invariably contextualises it” (as if context is a bad thing).
Firstly, Myers says “most” without even the slightest hint of research or fact to back it up and secondly he seems to try to equate contextualisation to justification.
Is it wrong to say that “these people did XYZ because they’re angry about the war in Iraq”? Of course not – you’re pointing out their probable motivation, you’re not saying they were right to act as they did on the basis of it.

So, is it very surprising that there has yet to be a major rally of British or mainland European Muslims denouncing Islamicist terrorism?

What, like this one in Scotland? In fairness that took place after the article was published, but the cogs were well in motion for its occourance and Myers, if he was paying any attention, would have known that.

So what next? I have absolutely no idea of the next depravity to be dreamt up by Islamicists. None whatever. My imagination, like yours, is not up to the task. Could it be the destruction by Islamicist nurses of a maternity hospital packed with infidel infants? Or is that too moderate?

Again, the lack of distinction between extreme and moderate – as if the entire Islamic community is currently brainstorming their next attack against the rest of the world. Or indeed that only those in the Islamic community is capable of atrocities on the epic scale seen many, many times before over many, many generations.

So now you know why I don’t read Kevin Myers articles – because if I did there’d be a hell of a lot more of these disgruntled responses on the site.

This is Web 2.0

For those that don’t know, Bash.org is a site dedicated to the best and worst of online chatroom comments and conversations. It is a testament to both the quick-wit and the slow-stupidity which humanity is capable of.

This one fits into the former category and is worth remembering at all times:

[dsully] please describe web 2.0 to me in 2 sentences or less.
[jwb] you make all the content. they keep all the revenue.

Giving DAB a go

Having headed to my local Homebase outlet for a cheap landline phone I spotted a Pure One DAB radio on the shelf for €38, around half the RRP according to Pure’s website.

I’d been planning on buying a cheap DAB device for the last while and €38 was by far the best price I’d seen on a DAB device to date (even the USB dongle ones), so I gave in and made an impulse purchase.

Firstly the device itself -
It’s a neat and extremely light little player with a long telescopic aerial hidden in a recess in the top. It can run off batteries (6 ‘C’ sized ones) or a power adapter (supplied) and can be updated via USB – although the pre-installed firmware it came with is the latest available at the moment.

For anyone with the slightest bit of where-with-all in terms of tech, this should be easy to set up. It’s literally a case of plugging it in, pressing the power button twice and waiting for it to gather all the information (like the time, available stations etc.). The control interface is a bit awkward to use but it’s not very difficult either.

The Pure One is very much an entry-level device and it lacks stuff like an EPG and pause, rewind or record capabilities that high-end DAB systems might boast. Considering the fact that it cost me about as much as a run of the mill FM radio I’m not going to complain, however, and given the limited broadcast range of DAB in Ireland at the moment this might be ideal for someone who wants to check availability before handing over a tonne on something that’s top of the range but useless to them.

Now the stations:
Most of what you get on the Irish DAB trial is no different to its FM counterpart with only RTÉ offering some advert free digital-only services at the moment.
Flicking through the stations list you can find 98FM, FM104, Newstalk, Phantom FM, Q102, Today FM, RTÉ Radio 1 (and the AM simulcast), RTÉ 2FM, RTÉ RnaG, RTÉ Lyric. The unique stations are RTÉ 2XM, RTÉ Choice, RTÉ Digital News, RTÉ Gold, RTÉ Junior and a sports news station which is currently named ‘Service 10′.

There’s no need to talk about the existing stations, so a quick word on the digital-only ones.

RTÉ 2XM & Gold:
Both of these stations are dedicated music channels, with the only interruption being brief station idents. With that in mind it’s likely that neither of these stations will make it to any national DAB service in their current form, not unless other stations are allowed to seriously re-negotiate their BCI contracts too.
2XM is a strictly alt/indie/rock/rock-pop station and makes no qualms about its attempted appeal with its taunting “suddenly your iPod sounds crap” ident. Were this to go national the guys in Phantom would have a serious case for upset.
Gold is a kind of “classic” station, playing songs from the 50s through to the early 90s. Very easy listening and very varied. Were this to go national the guys in Q102 would have serious case for upset (as would the eventual winner of the multi-city and county station that is currently being bid for).

RTÉ Digital News & ‘Service 10′
The concept behind these two stations is quite simple – they loop three minute News/Sport bulletins across the hour and update them on a regular basis throughout the day. In many cases the bulletin used is the audio from RTÉ One’s latest TV news broadcast.
These stations are what they are – they’re designed for people to drop in and out every other hour. The fact that some of the broadcasts are lifted from TV news means that some packages may not make as much sense, however. During a quick dip-in earlier I heard a news reader refer to something “seen here”, which was obviously of no use to radio listeners.

RTÉ Choice
This station is said to offer a mix of documentaries, international programming, comedy and archive programming and so far it seems to be doing just that.
My only fear about this station is that it doesn’t become another RTÉ Radio 1 simulcast, simply re-organising the schedule but offering the exact same programming.

(I’ve not listened to RTÉ Junior yet, by the way.)

Overall:
Overall I’m not blown away by the digital-only stations, but I never expected to be.
It’s quite clear that RTÉ are testing the waters and it’s good to see them branch out with six different stations at once, rather than just one at a time.
There is potential to be had in digital radio and hopefully these trials will prove that, but that said I don’t think potential lies in the current set up that RTÉ have chosen, and they probably realise that.
I think RTÉ Digital News, Choice and Sport could all be combined into one ‘talk-only’ station that focused on documentary, current affairs and very regular news/sport updates.
2XM could become a slightly more alternative variant of 2FM, and could dedicate more time to Irish-only music, live gigs in Ireland and some of the left-overs of Choice, specifically Comedy.
Junior isn’t a bad idea in itself, but the fact that it’s only tween and toddler-friendly music is a completely wasted opportunity; it should be the radio equivalent of Britain’s Cebeebies or CBBC TV channel with actual programming, not just “safe” music. Maybe playing kids programming until 6PM, then switching to Golden Oldies for the parents might be a good way to consolidate this service with the RTÉ Gold one too.

All in all it was a €38 well spent, if only for the fact that the FM reception in my bedroom is terrible anyway. The radio I picked up was the last on the shelves at the time, but if you’re interested in DAB in Ireland (and on the East Cost of Ireland, specifically Dublin) I’d recommend you keep an eye out next time you’re shopping in Homebase!

Communicorp buys Emap’s Irish stations

RTÉ.ie News is reporting that Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp has bought Emap’s Irish radio stations for €200m.

The three Emap stations are national station Today FM, Dublin’s FM104 and Donegal’s Highland Radio. Communicorp already owns Dublin’s Spin 103.8 and 98FM as well as quasi-national Newstalk 106-108.

With FM104 and 98FM being Dublin’s biggest local stations, it’s expected that the deal will come under intense scrutiny from competition authorities. According to the most recent JNLR figures, the existing Communicorp stations of SpinFM and 98FM (minus Newstalk) would combine with Emap’s stations (FM104 and Today FM) to take 40.2% of the Adult’s market and a massive 72% of the vital 15-34 year old market.

The fact that Communicorp already operates an increasingly popular national station could also cause friction and there’s a high probability that at least one of their stations will need to be jettisoned for the deal to get approval.

As early as this morning the Sunday newspapers in Ireland were still speculating about the bidding war for the Emap three, with The Sunday Business Post’s Samantha McGaughren saying the battle was now between O’Brien and Vienna Investments. UTV, TV3 and The Irish Times were just some of the previous bidders who dropped out of the race along the way.