Monday, March 10, 2008

Transmission union threatens local radio

Our ears perked up when we heard that the Commercial Radio's Radio Centre body was warning of the dangers to local radio inherent in a proposed merger - could it be that, after all this time, the commercial radio industry has noticed that consolidation in the UK radio market has eroded the concept of local radio quite dangerously?

No, as it turns out - they're not bothered by the implications of members GCap and Global turning into a single entity, but the proposed union of the National Grid and Macquarie's transmission businesses. Apparently, while having a large, dominant broadcaster is good for listeners, having a dominant transmission company is bad:

Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of the Radio Centre, says that commercial radio will be financially "squeezed" by the £2.5bn acquisition of National Grid Wireless by Macquarie Bank, which owns rival operator Arqiva.

Harrison believes that the Competition Commission this week will clear Macquarie's £2.5bn acquisition of National Grid Wireless, even though no satisfactory agreement over reducing transmission fees has been reached.

And he added that failure to reach a deal on transmission fees could "make the difference" for a profitable commercial radio sector in its competition with the BBC.

Allowing a monopoly in transmission - or, at least, a profit-maximising monopoly - does seem to be slightly reckless on the part of the government. Of course, the Radio Centre might have a stronger case if it could point a large slew of distinctive, important local programming that could be lost if small stations had trouble paying the transmission company, but we suppose it would struggle a little to do so.

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