Joint Committee on The Draft Communications Bill Minutes of Evidence


Annex

Letter from Mr Ralph Bernard, Executive Chairman, GWR Group plc to the Chairman of the Committee

  Watching the first evidence session of your Joint Communications Bill Committee, I was most concerned to hear Tony Stoller give such a misleading account of the effects of ownership deregulation in Australia. For the past two years we have been active shareholders (with DMG Radio) in 62 radio stations in Australia, including two of the most successful station launches I have ever seen, of the Nova stations in Sydney and Melbourne. These are vibrant services which focus closely on the communities they serve, both are leading their market, and if you were to listen to the Sydney service (www.nova.com/au) I think you would agree that it distils the essence of the city very well. The fact that it is owned by a couple of "Pom" companies has no effect whatsoever on the localness of the output, and I find it sad that Tony Stoller would wish to denigrate the work of stations over there.

  I am sure you will be inviting CRCA, commercial radio's trade association, to appear before your Committee. We have also put in a request to give evidence, and if invited would make every effort to arrange for Paul Thompson, Chief Executive of DMG Radio Australia, to fly over and answer questions from the Committee. It would be a tragedy if your view of Australian radio was based solely on the views of a UK regulator. We announced today that we are selling out interests in Australia in order to concentrate on the new opportunities coming up in the UK, but we retain a strong emotional attachment to the stations there and want to see their success properly represented.

  We would also answer questions on our early experiences with the Classic FM Consumer Panel (for which we had to sift through 1,400 applications) and give details of our proposal for a cross-media local ombudsman to represent the interests of listeners, readers and viewers as cross-media ownership restrictions are relaxed.

  Our full written evidence will be with you on Friday, but I felt I had to write to put my view on Australian radio before your committee assumed that the Radio Authority's view was correct.

29 May 2002


 
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