Media Notes (16-05-08)

This week’s media notes:

The BCI held a public meeting on Monday (12th May) to allow the three bidders for the three commercial DTT multiplexes to state their case and explain their plans. Each bid hinges on the condition that the winner takes all, so there’s no scope for each company taking one mux each or two bidders sharing the spoils between them. The three bidders are Easy TV (owned by RTÉ and Liberty Global International, parent company of UPC Ireland), Boxer TV (owned by Swedish DTT company Boxer and Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp) and OneVision (backed by eircom, Setanta, TV3 and Arquiva). The mux licence is expected to be awarded by June 21st but DTT rollout is unlikely to begin until next year.

The Government published its Broadcasting Bill (pdf file) on Wednesday (14th May), which will pave the way for a new broadcasting authority (the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) to replace the current Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. Unlike the BCI, the proposed BAI will have authority over all broadcasters, including RTÉ, and will have a role in both licensing and compliance/enforcement. The Government’s bill also sets down the formal tracks for a national DTT system, as well as an Oireachtas TV Channel and a public service-based Irish film channel. One interesting aside is that the bill appears to enhance the proposed BAI’s scope in relation to mergers and acquisitions in broadcasting – not only will it have tighter criteria for deciding on allowing one media player to buy out another, it will also be able to consider any bid in the context of overall media ownership and not just ownership in the broadcasting sphere. Could be bad news for Denis O’Brien who already owns Ireland’s two national commercial stations (Today FM and Newstalk) and is some way to owning Ireland’s biggest newspaper.

The Irish Times today reports (subs required) that TV3 is in talks to buy fledgling Irish commercial station Channel 6 for €10m. As part of its DTT proposals TV3 already plans to create two new channels – 3Today, a news/information-based service and 3Xposé, an entertainment/fashion based service – and it is not clear if C6 would become one of these two channels or would compliment two entirely new services. Channel 6 has reportedly been talking to Liberty Global (which effectively owns City Channel and NTL/Chorus), UTV and ITV too but it seems as though the TV3 negotiation is the only one at any kind of advanced stage.

The JNLR figures have been released (subs required) and RTÉ programming continues to dominate. The only non-RTÉ programme in the top ten most listened to shows is Today FM’s The Last Word, which picked up listeners but was still bested by its timeslot rival Drivetime. Newstalk’s The Right Hook, also in the battle for the early-evening audience, picked up 3,000 new listeners but even a doubling in listenership would leave it third in the race. Other notable movers are Gerry Ryan, who picked up 14,000 new listeners to bring him to 342,000; Marian Finucane, who picked up 7,000 new listeners on her Saturday show to rise to 309,000 in total and Ryan Tubridy, who dropped listeners for the third time in a row (4,000 this time around). Some interesting figures but some notable absences too – for example no word on how Newstalk’s Breakfast show is doing; apparently that has performed quite poorly since the station went national.

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