Memorandum submitted by Scottish Radio
Holdings (PDB 9)
Scottish Radio Holdings (SRH) began life in
the early 1970s when a consortium of local businessmen in Glasgow
came together to apply for the third commercial radio licence
to be offered in the UK (the first two were in London). The Group
obtained the Glasgow licence against fierce competition, and so
the seeds of today's successful commercial radio industry in Britain
The first two London stations were not an immediate
success and quickly hit financial problems. It was not until Radio
Clyde burst on the scene on 1 January 1974 that the picture changed.
Clyde was an instant success and revolutionised the UK broadcasting
map from what had proven to be a shaky start elsewhere. With capital
of a mere £150,000, but with high profile backers such as
Sean Connery and Jackie Stewart, along with a unique blend of
broadcast and business talent, Clyde quickly established itself
as the market leader, a position it has never relinquished in
all the years since its birth.
In Scotland, Clyde was followed by a separate
grouping, establishing Radio Forth in Edinburgh, and soon other
Scottish cities too had their own local stations. Ownership rules
though in the UK at that time were highly restrictive and all
the radio companies were private limited companies unable to expand
or easily trade their shares. In the late 1980s and early 90s
all that changed and Clyde and Forth began to expand by taking
over other stations. In 1991, the two companies saw the inevitable
logic of combining their strengths and merged to create Scottish
Radio Holdings plc, with a full quote on the London Stock Exchange.
In 1995, the company expanded into weekly press
with the purchase of the largest local publisher in Northern Ireland,
Morton Newspapers, and then grew its portfolio into Scotland and
the Republic of Ireland.
Two years ago, the Group moved into outdoor
advertising in Britain and has some 4,500 large billboards in
Scotland and England.
Today SRH owns radio stations in all the major
Scottish conurbations, in Carlisle and West Cumbria, the south
of England, Northern Ireland and has made an agreed offer for
the only independent national station in the Republic of Ireland.
The company also now has 41 weekly newspapers
in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and
a widespread outdoor poster business across Britain.
The radio stations owned by Scottish Radio Holdings
have always placed considerable emphasis on news and information.
Many of Scotland's leading broadcast journalists have passed through
the portals of one or more SRH station.
While, as a significant shareholder in Independent
Radio News, the SRH stations take much of their national and international
news from that source, it was long recognised that in Scotland
stations had to source for themselves Westminster news of particular
interest to Scotland, and, indeed, all news emanating from Scotland.
This caused, and still does cause, considerable difficulties for
some of the small and not so small stations outside SRH ownership.
For many years, for example, the SRH stations led by Radio Clyde
have employed their own Westminster correspondent in order to
supplement coverage from IRN, something smaller groupings have
been unable or unwilling to do.
With the advent of the Scottish Parliament the
group recognised an immediate need for a Political Editor based
in the Scottish Parliament Press Centre, reporting national Scottish
stories for the group as a whole, and local stories for individual
stations. Our staff are regularly first with the news from the
Scottish Parliament, something quickly recognised by senior politicians
and journalists when our Political Editor, Colin McKay, won the
inaugural Kenny MacIntyre Award for Young Parliamentary Journalist
of the Year.
There is little doubt that, due to the direct
relevance of the debates within the Scottish Parliament at key
times of the day, we are doing more parliamentary news than ever
before. This has a cost, of course, particularly if it is to be
done well. Being a collection of jointly owned stations, we are
able to share that cost, thus ensuring that our listeners are
properly served in this area. Had we been prevented from consolidating
into Scottish Radio Holdings then I have little doubt that Scotland
and its Parliament would be much less well served. That is one
of the reasons why the new media ownership regulations being considered
by Government is so important to proper coverage of news and current
affairs. Fragmentation will not best serve either the listener
or the news process.
I would be happy to enlarge on this should the
Committee so wish.
4 December 2001