Seamus White


1988 marked a new era in Irish broadcasting history. Up until then independent broadcasting services consisted of unlicenced and unregulated pirate radio stations. The 1988 Radio and Television Act created the Independent Radio and Television Commission, giving It powers to establish and supervise legal and independent local radio. By the end of 1991, twenty one such local stations were In operation. In deciding who would be awarded local radio franchises, the 1988 Act Instructed the IRTC to take Into consideration a range of criteria. Judging from the guide which the IRTC provided for applicants and the nature of the questioning at the hearings which preceded final selection of franchise holders, It would appear that the criterion relating to 'good economic principles' was regarded as most significant. Indeed most of the questions at the hearings related to the market analysis which prospective candidates were expected to provide. The IRTC's guide was much less concerned with production plans and actual programming. The main stipulation regarding programming in the 1988 Act itself was that twenty per cent of programming be given over to news and current affairs. Regulations regarding Impartiality and censorship were to be similar to those covering RTE. While the contracts between the lRTC and the licence-holders allow the former to set out certain rules regarding the quality, range and type of programmes broadcast no such rules have been issued to date. The 1988 Act does mention the desirability of having a diversity of programming, catering for minority and local Interests. However such considerations are mentioned as criteria for selecting llcencees, but not as regulations to which successful applicants must adhere.

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