Bunhill: Tangled web at the radio auction

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THERE is nothing like a broadcasting franchise battle to bring out the industry's great and good and the most unlikely of wannabe media moguls.

Applications for North West, the largest of the new regional commercial radio licences, closed last week. And the 11 contenders for the combined airwaves of Manchester, Merseyside and parts of Lancashire and Cheshire have done their ITV counterparts proud.

At least seven of the 11 seem to be offering the same safe, advertiser-friendly, easy- listening format. Only one, North West Voice FM, is brave enough to opt for the spoken word. Voice is headed by David Plowright, the former Granada Television chairman. Plowright is a busy man these days: a visiting university professor, deputy chairman of Channel 4 and boss of ENS, a soon to be launched TV news agency. Plowright's partner in Voice is Julian Allitt, ex-chief of Piccadilly Radio in Manchester.

If Plowright and Allitt are to win, they must defeat North West Live. Headed by Owen Oyston, the socialist multi- millionaire, Live promises 'easy-listening quality music from the 1950s onwards'.

In a nice twist, Allitt used to work for Oyston at Piccadilly, while Oyston has drafted Bill Roache, Coronation Street's Ken Barlow, on to his board . . . and Roache used to work for Plowright at Granada.

Perhaps Heart FM, with its 'distinctive romantic mood and personality listening', is the answer. Its shareholders are the distinctly unromantic-sounding Chrysalis media group, Iceland Frozen Foods stores and Greenalls brewery.

Anyone wanting to know the difference between the likes of 'contemporary easy-listening' (Fortune FM) and 'soft adult contemporary' (Heart FM) can study the bids at libraries in Manchester, Liverpool and Preston. I am all ears.

(Photograph omitted)

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