Manx Radio’s PSB role affirmed, but secure funding rejected

The Isle of Man’s parliament this week voted to endorse Manx Radio as a Public Service Broadcaster, acknowledging its importance and popularity among the island’s citizens. The vote marked the end of a three-hour debate in the Tynwald, the culmination of a year-long review into PSB on the island.

However the review’s recommendation for long-term security for the broadcaster’s state funding was not wholly approved. Instead, the government agreed to fund Manx Radio to the tune of £850,000 for 2014/15, with future funding subject to applying and reporting to the Tynwald.

The Manx head of government, Chief Minister Allan Bell said: “I am not prepared in any circumstances to give Manx Radio a blank cheque and guarantee the funding in the future.”

The other rejected recommendations were: the government paying off the radio station’s overdraft, having a non-political head of the Communications Commission (which approves the station’s licence) and paying to relocate the station, which currently sits on a prime development site.

In the report by John Myers, commissioned to inform the review, he wrote: “While researching this project, I have never experienced in my thirty years within media, one station that has been subjected to as many government reviews or reports as Manx Radio.”

He added that if the Tynwald wanted a Public Service Broadcaster it should be funded for the licence term, not on a short-term basis. Isle of Man broadcast licences are currently set at ten years.

The report cited official audience data for 2013, indicating that 54 per cent of the island’s population tuned in to Manx Radio at some point every week, and when monthly listening figures were taken into account, it was listened to by over 74 per cent of the population.

Manx Radio’s balance of music and talk balance was also debated, with the Myers report observing that audience figures showed an appetite for more Manx speech content, and it could be improved in quality, however this was difficult with such a small staff and it emphasised again the importance of secure funding.

The station’s annual taxpayer funding totals around £1m, counting capital costs on top of subvention, which amounts to around £11 per head of population per year. Isle of Man residents are required to pay the BBC licence fee, which was estimated to total £4.5m in 2009.

Manx Radio is a member of the CBA, and is this year marking its 50th anniversary, having commenced broadcasting in June 1964.

The CBA’s Secretary-General, Sally-Ann Wilson, gave evidence for the review into Public Service Broadcasting on the Isle of Man last year.

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