Mowlam to head Emap bid for Belfast rock station

Mo Mowlam, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is heading Emap's bid to start a new "classic rock" station in Belfast.

Having previously brokered the Good Friday Peace agreement, Ms Mowlam now hopes to preside over a station providing a diet of Queen, U2, Rolling Stones, The Who and Genesis, plus more contemporary acts such as Coldplay and Stereophonics.

She will chair Emap's bid for a Belfast FM licence, which is being auctioned off via a "beauty parade" by the media regulator Ofcom. If successful, Ms Mowlam will stay on as chairman of the station, which will operate under Emap's Kerrang! brand.

Ms Mowlam said: "Belfast is on the move. It's an exciting time and the city is changing every day. We have to encourage investment and new enterprises to continue the momentum of this new age of optimism. A new commercial radio station can be a valuable part of this."

The Emap role is the first directorship Ms Mowlam has accepted since leaving politics in 2001. The Emap bid also includes the Belfast-born Barry McIlheney as executive director. Mr McIlheney used to be a member of the Belfast punk act Shock Treatment, who released two singles and supported bands including U2 and the Undertones.

The new regime for awarding FM licences is so far untested since the creation of Ofcom. Radio groups are still waiting to see which approach the regulator adopts. Under its predecessor body the Radio Authority, the major radio groups tended to miss out on such licence awards. Emap is the second largest radio group, after Capital Radio and GWR, assuming their planned merger is allowed by the competition authorities.

The nature of the Ofcom regime will start to become apparent later this month, with the award of an FM licence for Edinburgh. The Belfast licence should be decided in February.

Last month, Wireless Group announced that it will use John Stalker, the former high-flying Manchester policeman, to head its bid for a FM licence for the city. The Manchester franchise promises to be the most hotly contested of the licences currently up for grabs.

Comments