National religious radio station for Ireland

July 28th, 2005 | by aobaoill |

The BCI has announced a number of decisions in relation to future commercial radio licensing in Ireland. Most are relatively unspectacular, but note the religious radio announcement at the end:

A range of regional youth-driven services will be advertised. The number of these services and the specific make-up of the franchise areas will be given further consideration at the September meeting of the board. Special emphasis will be placed on maximising population coverage in this regard.
The Commission has agreed to the advertisement of a quasi-national speech driven service.
It has also been agreed that applications will be sought for a national religious service on AM with FM low-power relays.

The religious service decision will probably not be surprising to those who’ve been following the intense lobbying of the BCI, as covered on this site over the past number of months. What’s interesting is that the service will be on both AM and FM. Readers will remember that ComReg responded to calls for allocation of an AM frequency for a religious (read Christian) station – something that had not been mentioned in its consultation document on future management of the radio spectrum, but which was raised by resondents anyway – by saying that negotiations on the frequency had already begun. So it appears that this decision has been some time in the works. Also, this will be the only AM service other than those of RTÉ, since Today FM, unlike its predecessor Century Radio, does not use an AM frequency.
Finally, note that the station is being treated under the ‘commercial’ heading rather than as a community or public service operation. One wonders what implications this might have for the regulation of the station. I should point out that Irish broadcasting law requires all broadcasters to be evenhanded in their coverage of matters of public debate. See, for instance, section 9 (1) (b) of the Radio and Television Act, 1988 which requires that:

the broadcast treatment of current affairs, including matters which are either of public controversy or the subject of current public debate, is fair to all interests concerned and that the broadcast matter is presented in an objective and impartial manner and without any expression of his own views: Provided that should it prove impracticable in relation to a single broadcast to apply this paragraph, two or more related broadcasts may be considered as a whole, if the broadcasts are transmitted within a reasonable period of each other

This prohibition is continued in the Broadcasting Act of 2001, so I wonder how a Christian station would deal with issues like abortion, gay marriage, or contraception.

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