Sir Bob lets off a small Atomic bomb

Bob Geldof doesn't think much of MTV, so he has decided to launch his own music channel, Atomic TV. It's been welcomed across Europe - but not, so far in his native land, says Michael Foley

Bob Geldof once wrote a song, "Banana Republic", about his native Ireland complete with the description "septic isle", so it's hardly surprising that he has had problems getting a cable music channel on air there.

Geldof's Planet 24 media company is in the process of launching Atomic TV, a pop music channel. Unlike MTV, which is global and makes a virtue of selling the same pop culture to North America and North Africa, Atomic celebrates the local.

It is already up and running in Poland and will begin broadcasting in Romania shortly, with talks taking place in other European countries. Ireland is next on the list to receive the channel.

In a letter to the Irish broadcasting regulator, the Independent Radio and Television Commission (IRTC), Geldof outlined what he meant by an Irish local music channel. The content of Atomic TV in Ireland would be 40 per cent Irish and 60 per cent international music. It would offer link ups with local media, cover both the large and the smaller gigs and be a major boost for the local music industry (a format that could be changed for any market, be it England, Scotland, Italy or France). In another letter to the Irish Minister responsible for Broadcasting, Sheila de Valera, Geldof said: "We are proposing Irish voices, Irish boys and girls, English and Irish language, Irish bands, an Irish company using Irish cable (not in a Rupert Murdoch stranglehold), Irish investment and inward investment, Irish management, ownership and staff."

MTV, says Geldof, was predicated on the "false notion that there exists a global youth uni-culture largely articulated through pop music. However, whenever a unique culture has been offered an alternative in which that culture is reflected back to it, then that service has succeeded. Examples include VIVA in Germany and Atomic in Poland."

Geldof maintains that MTV's figures are "hopelessly bad" and reflect a narrow playlist, doing nothing for smaller groups, with no national input from any of its broadcast countries. Planet 24 cites the experience of new entrants into the music television market which are beating MTV, including TMS in Holland, Much Music in Canada, Channel V in India and South East Asia and VIVA in Germany. In the past week it has been reported that MTV has been taken off the Hague cable system in Holland.

MTV, he maintains, was founded on the "ill-founded logic that someone, for example in Sweden, will be happy to watch a young Swedish person speaking bad English and showing videos. They also believe that an English audience would be happy to view the same. What, in fact, the Swedes are wondering is why isn't this person speaking Swedish, while the English are puzzled as to why they have to watch a Swede speaking incomprehensible nonsense."

Ireland offers a wonderful opportunity for Geldof. Not only is he one of Ireland's most famous people but, more importantly, in terms of business Ireland is one of Europe's most heavily cabled countries. Cablelink, the company Geldof has been talking and which has expressed an interest, reaches 330,000 homes and is one of the ten biggest cable operations in Europe.

Notwithstanding the proposition that Atomic would be broadcast in both English and Irish, Atomic could be relayed elsewhere, possibly piggybacking on existing cable services in Britain where there are large young Irish communities, or even in the US or Australia.

The irony for Geldof is that the response to his attempts to invest in Ireland has been less than wholehearted. He was given an unofficial nod of approval from the Government Department that deals with broadcasting last May. Since then there has been a change of Government. He wrote to the new Minister in August and has had no response at all. Cablelink has also heard nothing since it applied for a change in the terms of its licence last May, to enable it to broadcast Atomic.

In his attempt to launch a television channel in his own country, Geldof faces broadcasting legislation that is in a mess and hopelessly outdated. Its definition of broadcasting does not include mention of cable or satellite, as it goes back to 1960. Recent legislation was designed for specific tasks, such as the establishment of local radio eight years ago and the licensing of one commercial television company.

The outgoing Government had planned to update the legislation and published the heads of a Bill, but its plans for broadcasting died when it failed to be re-elected earlier this year. The feeling seems to be: why cannot Geldof just go away and come back some other time when the Government actually gets around to updating the legislation?

The regulator, the IRTC, has no role in cable television, but it voiced an opinion, privately, to Geldof, telling him it opposed Atomic because it feared it would take revenue from the advertising pot while it was in talks with a consortium that has been granted a national commercial television fanchise. This was not a principled objection, it was just that the timing was all wrong, according to one source.

Geldof, not one to sit around patiently, is now proposing circumventing Irish legislation. Atomic can be made in Ireland but beamed from London via satellite. Planet 24 is confident it will get the permission of the ITC. It can then be relayed by cable in Ireland without the permission of the Irish Government under the terms of the EU Television directive, as anything that is broadcast legally in one EU member state can be received in another.

The story broke in The Irish Times and has been followed up in other media. One of the major Internet providers, Indigo, has launched a "Support Atomic TV" Website, Geldof has argued with the chief executive of the IRTC on local radio and last week he met Ms de Valera. As a result she has agreed to discuss the matter with the IRTC.

As for Geldof himself, he says he wished there were such a channel when the Boomtown Rats started 20 years ago, "we might not have had to leave Ireland." Even with all the changes over the past two decades, "has anything changed?" he asks.

Michael Foley is Media Correspondent with The Irish Times.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Account Executive / Account Manager

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive / Account Manager is ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones