Border TV set to bid for Sunderland Radio

Border Television, the tiny ITV company for the English-Scottish border regions, yesterday revealed it was in talks to buy Sunderland Radio, the Tyne Tees local radio station.

The talks, which are believed to be at an advanced stage, could see Border take 100 per cent of Sunderland City, which broadasts a mix of popular music from the 1960s, 70s and 80s, as well as local news and community information.

Border already operates Century Radio, the regional radio franchise for the North-east of England, which covers the same broadcast area as Sunderland City. As a consequence, the Radio Authority would review the transaction under its public-interest powers.

Sunderland is owned by Minster Radio, one of country's smaller radio groups, which also controls the York-based Minster FM service. GWR, one of the UK's leading commercial radio companies, has a 27 per cent holding in Minster Radio. Radio Investments, another small commercial radio group, owns a 28 per cent stake.

The Radio Authority, the sector watchdog, said yesterday a takeover of the station would be acceptable only if the public interest test was met and provided the new owners respected the "promise of performance" agreed when the eight-year licence was awarded in 1995.