‘We’ll pull the plug,’ station warns

A RADIO station, which has been given a two-month extension to its licence, said it will go off the air in just over a week, rather than comply with some of the conditions set out by the Broadcast Commission of Ireland (BCI).

The stand-off puts the future of Radio Kilkenny’s 30-strong staff at risk. They now face the threat of being out of work for months from September 30, until the replacement station, Kilkenny Carlow Local Radio (KCLR), which has been granted the new franchise licence for the region, gets up and running.

Within the past fortnight, the BCI gave Radio Kilkenny an 11th hour reprieve. It allowed the highly popular, community- based station to continue to broadcast until the end of November, under strict conditions.

The station was asked to give an undertaking that it will present any argument or discussion about the new broadcast franchise in a fair and balanced way while it continues on the air. It did not agree with the manner in which the station was addressing the issue.

The station was also asked to do what it can to ensure its appeal to the Supreme Court to save its licence is heard as soon as is possible.

Station board chairman, Joe Reidy, confirmed yesterday that the board has sent a letter to the Broadcast Commission, indicating it was not happy with the conditions set down. The Broadcast Commission would only confirm that it had received the letter.

“Some of those conditions are not acceptable. I am not in a position to discuss which ones were not acceptable. We are awaiting a BCI reply,” Mr Reidy said. “We will go off the air rather than comply with the conditions as set down by the BCI. If we don’t have an agreement on conditions by September 30, our initial date for going off the air, then we will wind up this enterprise,” he said yesterday.

When it emerged that the station board was not willing to comply with the conditions, its 30 NUJ staff sent a letter to the board, urging it to comply for the sake of the employees, shareholders and the station in general. It said that staff was prepared to comply with the BCI terms.

The letter from the NUJ urged the board to reconsider its position and that it believed an extension of the licence would be in the interest of everyone. It would also allow outstanding staff issues to be resolved, including redundancies which is currently the subject of ongoing negotiations.

But the board chairman said yesterday that a two month extension was “ludicrous” in the first place.

“The two month extension makes life very difficult for us.

“The BCI criticised us for the way we addressed the new franchise licence. I believe we dealt with it very fairly. We even found it difficult to get our own message across. The BCI seems to have a difficulty with criticism.”

A spokesman for the new KCLR consortium said they do not know when they will be in a position to begin broadcasting.

That start date can not be confirmed because it is not yet clear when the Supreme Court hearing will take place.

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