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Ofcom – the ability to suprise

COMMENT: Whoever said that Ofcom was becoming predicable needs to take back their words. Here at RadioToday.co.uk, we already had the recent licence award stories written, all we needed to do was press the big red publish button. But, like the Manchester Evening News on awarding the Super-Casino licence who tried to predict the outcome, we had to re-write the headlines.

First up – Manchester. We, like the rest of the industry worked out that to [i]fully[/i] broaden listener choice in the city, it would have to be a talk format which won. Emap recently won an all-talk licence in Liverpool and proposed a similar format for Manchester. But with the company cutting back on staff in the northwest, our attention turned to the only other 100% talk bid, proposed by Chrysalis.

Chrysalis really wanted this licence. So much so, they applied three times. Once with a talk format, and twice with a classic rock format (Feb 2005 and October 2006). We thought GMBC (the Chrysalis talk bid) ticked the right boxes – broadening listener choice, co-location with another station available, experience in the same field (LBC). With recent expansion of GMG Radio in Manchester we didn't expect them to win another licence in the city. But they did. John Myers told The Radio Magazine this week they are hoping for a bit of good luck, having never been awarded a licence by Ofcom. Looks like Myers got the luck he was looking for.

On news of the award by Ofcom, Chrysalis Radio chief executive, Phil Riley, told Media Guardian he was "bemused" by Ofcom's decision: "I am bitterly disappointed. I have to be honest and say I think the format that has won is bizarre. Speech during the day and rock music at night – I cannot get my head round why anyone would want to listen to that," Mr Riley said.

"I am bemused. Having put in bids for a rock music station and a talk station, they have gone for a format that does both. With two stations and a newspaper in the north-west, GMG undoubtedly has the resources, but we have the resources and so does Emap."

So, to say he was a little upset wouldn't quite cut it.

Talking of upset, the second shock of the day goes to Jason Bryant and his team at Town and Country. From watching the radio forums and listening to some industry professionals you would believe the licence for Herefordshire & Monmouthshire was safely in the hands of Town and Country. Two applications – one from the most successful and biggest commercial radio operator in Wales, and the other from a group who, for one reason or another, have never been awarded a licence by Ofcom, despite applying for over half a dozen within the last three years. Both applicants ran stations near-by, but one can't helping wondering if Laser only bought stations to help them win upcoming licenses in the same area.

The licence awards on Thursday certainly keep the industry we know and love talking, and forever unpredictable. Good luck to both Laser and GMG in setting up their new stations.

On a personal note, as our office is based at Salford Quays, we had our fingers crossed for JACK fm winning the Manchester licence. We like JACK, and think Manchester would like JACK too. I guess we'll have to keep listening to a foreign JACK for now.

Interesting trivia of the day – as Xfm (winners of the previous Manchester licence win) get ready to exit Laser House after the building was bought by GMG, the new radio station will move in and, who knows, may even occupy the same studio!

Till next time, this is Radio Rabbit.

You can read this report and more from Radio Rabbit at http://www.radiorabbit.co.uk

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