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High hopes for all-Inishowen radio  26.09.08

Inishowen Community Radio (ICRfm) is hoping it can soon achieve its dream of expanding coverage to the entire peninsula.
The Carn-based station has welcomed the announcement by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) that it is seeking expressions of interest nationally from parties interested in securing community radio broadcasting contracts. ICRfm, whose franchise currently covers only north Inishowen, will be staking a claim for a licence to cover all of Inishowen.
The station was initially awarded a licence in 1999 but the group behind the project were dismayed to discover it was limited to north Inishowen only. Station manager Jim Doherty explained that, despite their best efforts over the years to extend the franchise area, they were repeatedly told this would not be possible. He said they were advised that the only way south Inishowen could have a community service was if the community there set up its own station. As a result, the South Inishowen Community Radio (SICR) group was established in 2003 and was awarded a licence in 2005.
Jim, who is SICR chairperson, admits it has been "a very frustrating time" but that he understands the reasoning behind it.
“Minister Eamon O Cuiv told us that he couldn’t fund two separate stations in Inishowen and that he simply couldn’t understand why we needed to have two stations here anyway.
"He queried this also with the BCI and advised us to discuss the
matter with them again. He also stated that if the BCI awarded an all-Inishowen licence then his department would seriously consider allocating extra funding to ICR to operate the expanded service,” said Jim.
SICR and ICR discussed their options with the BCI in January and pressed the case again for one licence for the whole peninsula. This time the BCI agreed it might be considered in the next round of licence applications. Since the last meeting with the BCI, SICR has handed back the licence for south Inishowen and has amalgamated with ICR.
“Since then we have had ongoing discussions with the BCI to advance the case for an all-Inishowen service and thankfully this comes a lot closer with this week's announcement. The deadline is October 23 and if our expression of interest is deemed to be of merit then we will be invited to make a full application. I suppose this is a case of us coming full circle and finally completing some unfinished business,” added Jim.
A new all-Inishowen service will not come cheap and will require two new transmission sites, probably on Scalp mountain and Porthaw with studios in Tullyarvan Mill in Buncrana, explained the ICRfm manager.
The station will also need to employ extra staff to operate the new studios and will also require considerable voluntary input from the community, he said.
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