We wish to commence our submission by briefly outlining eight key reasons why our group is best placed to satisfy the IRTC's desire for an alternative radio service comprehensively serving the Cork market:


1. The Right Blend of Radio & Business Experience

Not only are we an all-Irish team with a proven track record, but we are one with roots firmly in the Cork consumer and business markets. We have the drive and, most importantly, relevant and current experience to achieve the ambitions that are outlined in this proposal – a station playing a unique style of music which engages and satisfies our target listener base – Cork's 12 - 30 year old population. We want the opportunity to bring Sonic FM to life and the IRTC can be confident that we will succeed in this highly competitive media market.


2. An Identifiable, Attractive Market Opportunity

We have employed MRBI and Behaviour & Attitudes, two of the leading consumer research companies, to gauge the requirements of Cork listeners, and Peter McPartlin of Irish International Group, one of Ireland's leading media experts, to analyse the radio market both present and future. Our research and close analysis of the JNLR has confirmed the existence of one truly viable gap in the Cork radio market and that is for a station aimed at the younger listener. We are also confident of the attractiveness of our proposed station to this community with a common interest in contemporary music.


3. Distinctive Programming

We have developed a comprehensive and complete programme schedule that we will implement in full. It achieves all the objectives set out in the IRTC remit, by providing a large and commercially-viable segment of the Cork audience with a station which they clearly desire, but do not currently receive. Our programming is distinctive, in terms of its style and presentation, throughout its music, news, information and entertainment elements.


4. A Practical & Workable Transmission Plan

Having the best programme mix will come to nought if a broadcaster cannot deliver wide and acceptable signal quality. We know from experience that this is particularly difficult to achieve across the wide and varied terrain of Cork. However, from day one Sonic FM will have access to a state-of-the-art broadcasting network. We have also made financial provision for the utilisation of the best and the most advanced technology in every aspect of the station's operations, including studios, offices and sales.


5. A Robust Financial Base

Our plan has been fully costed and a highly prudent view has been taken of the revenues which Sonic FM can achieve. The necessary finance is in place, confirmed and available, and the overall business plan is designed to achieve success.


6. A Dynamic Marketing Plan

We have prepared a complete marketing plan involving heavy and consistent investment in advertising and promotion. Our plan will build a clear identity for the new service, attracting a substantial share of listeners amongst our target audience. The reputation of the promoters and their strong business relationships will be greatly beneficial to the new station, particularly in its start-up phase, and our marketing plan will help convince potential advertisers of the intent and commitment of those behind the station.


7. Promoting A Local Identity

As people with an innate understanding of Cork and its people, we are in a better position than most to guarantee a station whose output will be in keeping with local identity and culture. It would be easy to replicate "formulaic radio" which exists in other urban markets. What we will do at Sonic FM is take the best of what exists elsewhere and blend it with a sense of Cork and Cork talent to deliver a service that the 130,000 young people of the city and county can call their own.


8. Readiness

We are ready to begin work on this project the day the licence is awarded. Our technical, programming and marketing plans are fully developed. Our key staff and advisors are also in place, many of whom have been involved in the successful launch of similar stations in the recent past.







1. Application Index

2. Introduction To The Applicant

3. Membership & Description of The Applicant Group

4. Ownership, Control & Staffing of The Applicant

5. The Programme Service

6. Market Analysis

7. Financial & Business Plan

8. Transmission Proposals

9. Studios & Operations

10. Proposed Commencement of Broadcasting

11. Appendices







A. The "Sonic FM Group"

The "Sonic FM Group" hereby apply for a sound broadcasting contract for the provision of a local sound broadcasting service on the FM band, in Cork City and County, for a period of 10 years. The legal status of the applicant is that of a consortium. The promoters outlined in Section 3 are in the process of setting up a company known as Sonic Broadcasting Limited and will subscribe for shares and loan capital therein.

Sonic FM will be an innovative and original radio station designed specifically for the 12 - 30 year old Cork audience, with a primary focus on 15 - 24's, whose music and information requirements are not being specifically catered for by any current radio station. Its programming will be distinctive and relevant to its audience in terms of style and presentation, throughout its music, news, information and entertainment elements. The station's programming output and business plan have been developed by professionals with proven ability and relevant experience and will be implemented through robust financial plans and dynamic marketing support.

The cornerstone, however, of the Sonic Broadcasting consortium's proposal is that we are the group best placed to fill the IRTC remit of providing diversity of listener choice over a long-term, commercial and sustainable basis.


B. Main Contact

T. Niall Welch, Tel: (021) 4319844

6 South Bank, Fax: (021) 4319711

Crosses Green,



C. Proposed Station Name

Sonic FM – identified following an exhaustive research programme among the 12 - 30 year old Cork City and County audience as a brand name that is young and contemporary, facilitating the establishment of a clear identity and assisting in distinctive and memorable on / off-air marketing and promotion. Once the broadcast frequencies have been allocated these will be incorporated into the station name.


D. Brief Description of Programming Service

Sonic FM will be a music-driven service catering for the specific and unique tastes of the 12 - 30 year old Cork audience, with the music featured being an eclectic mix of contemporary hits, dance and a number of niche musical genres. The station will win the ears of its audience by reflecting youth tastes, attitude and culture through all of its programming elements. These will be delivered in a professional and responsible manner.

Sonic FM will provide a clear alternative to existing services in the Cork market and will be identifiably different in the music it plays and in its approach to, and presentation of, news, current affairs, information and feature-based programming.



E. Advisers

(i) Market Research

MRBI – the recognised authority in Ireland for consumer and political opinion polling, who have also carried out the JNLR research since the inception of independent radio.

Behaviour and Attitudes – acknowledged as the leading practitioners of consumer-based qualitative research in Ireland.

Media / Market Analysis

Irish International Group, Peter McPartlin, Media Director – one of Ireland's leading specialists in marketing communications and consumer trend analysis. The agency was voted "Agency of the Year" in 1996, 1998 and 1999.

(ii) Auditors Ernst & Young,

Stapleton House,

89 South Mall,


(iii) Solicitors Ronan Daly Jermyn,


12 South Mall,


(iv) Bankers Allied Irish Bank,

Bridge Street,








A. The Sonic FM consortium is composed of the following members:


Niall Welch

Niall is founder and senior partner of Cork-based chartered accountants, Welch & Co. A native of Cork, he is also currently Chairman of NET, Marlborough International plc and IFI. He was also a board director of IDA Ireland, Irish Steel and now also sits on the board of Irish Ispat. Niall became the youngest Irish partner in Deloitte & Touche in 1970.

His major strength is in strategic planning, including merger / acquisitions, joint ventures and MBO's. He has particular expertise of developing the correct financial structure for projects and in conducting negotiation with financial institutions for project finance.


Eugene Carey

Eugene is founder and partner of Eugene Carey & Co., a Mallow-based solicitor's practice. He is heavily involved in a number of sports and community organisations in North Cork and will act as a strong link for the station with relevant local communities within the county area. He is a member of a consortium which owns a large hotel in the West of Ireland.


Ray Doherty

Ray is Managing Director of McDonald's Irish Burger Systems, the McDonald's restaurants franchise-holder within Cork City. He has extensive business and marketing experience, particularly in the area of young consumer behaviour. Ray is a graduate member of the Marketing Institute of Ireland, a member of the Irish Management Institute and holds a City & Guilds in Marine Radio Engineering. He holds a number of directorships and has been Chairman of the Cork Business Association. He was born and resides in Cork.


Freda Hayes

Freda is one of the country's best-known and highly regarded business people. She is Chief Executive of the Blarney Group incorporating Meadows & Byrne and Blarney Woollen Mills. The Blarney Group has six stores, three hotels and a manufacturing facility. Freda will bring invaluable business 'know-how' to the consortium, given her experience of developing the commercial potential of new start-up ventures.


David McKenna

David is Group Managing Director of Marlborough International plc, the largest executive recruitment group in Ireland, employing over 150 people across nine nationwide offices. He will bring strategic management abilities to the board of Sonic FM as well as assisting in recruitment and remuneration policies. 

Gerry Wycherley

Gerry is one of Cork's leading entrepreneurs, having successfully launched a number of high profile business ventures in recent years and having previously worked for 14 years with IDA Ireland. His Marina Commercial Park now houses 120 companies and provides employment for over 1,500 people. More recently, Gerry has developed the Cork Airport Business Park aimed at attracting mobile overseas high-tech companies and new campus companies to the Cork area. The Park is due for completion in 2001 and will provide employment for over 3,000 people. Gerry also has significant interests in the tourism industry in West Cork.


County Media Limited

County Media Limited is the holding company for Radio County Sound Limited, which operates the highly successful Cork's 96 / 103FM. The company's shareholders are Delta Partners, Colm O'Conaill, Alex McCarthy and Jim O'Mahony – each who have extensive business experience and knowledge of the Cork, Irish and international radio industries. Cork's 96 / 103FM is now firmly established as Ireland's No. 1 local independent radio station with an average quarter-hour audience of approximately 50,000 adults. This success in listenership terms has been achieved through catering for the specific needs of the Cork audience, providing a strong local identity and ensuring that all output is broadcast in a professional manner. In 1999 County Media Limited was awarded the Cork Company of the Year by the Cork Chamber of Commerce in recognition of both its success and its positive contribution to Cork over the past decade.

With the exception of County Media Ltd., none of the consortium members have other media interests or involvements.


B. The Sonic FM group was formed in November 2000 for the purpose of making this application and currently has no bank borrowings. The legal status of the applicant is currently that of a consortium. However a company titled Sonic Broadcasting Ltd. is currently being incorporated and each member of the consortium has undertaken to subscribe for shares and loan capital in the event of the application being successful.







A. Board of Directors

Sonic FM's proposed board of directors is as follows:

T. Niall Welch (Chairman)

Siobhan Shanahan (Chief Executive)

Colm O'Conaill

Eugene Carey

Gerry Wycherley

David McKenna

Freda Hayes

Ray Doherty

Detailed CV's for all board members are included in the Appendices.

The Chief Executive will be a member of the board from commencement. The promoters will also consider the subsequent appointment of internal or external members to add expertise and experience, while at all times ensuring that the board is sufficiently compact so that decisions can be quickly and decisively made. Such appointments will be subject to IRTC approval.



B. Shareholding Structure

The proposed shareholding structure for Sonic FM is as follows:


County Media Ltd.



Eugene Carey



Gerry Wycherley



David McKenna



Freda Hayes



Ray Doherty



Other Investors / Key Staff


The promoters will subscribe £1 million for one million ordinary shares in the company, if successful in our application. As all shareholders are committed to the project on a long-term basis, no specific exit mechanism has been put in place. All shares will rank pari passu and none of the consortium has an interest in advertising, public relations or advertising contractors. Any overseas interests of the promoters are outlined in the detailed CV's and there are no other media or newspaper interests apart from the shareholding of County Media Limited, the holding company of Cork's 96 / 103 FM.


C. Management Structure



The day to day running of the station, including the implementation of its business plan, the realisation of our programming philosophy and the adherence to regulatory obligations will be vested in the Chief Executive and an experienced management team. The Chief Executive will be given share options in the company. We will also consider extending the share option scheme to attract key staff which, together with bonuses and other incentives, will encourage a strongly performance-based culture.


(i) Chief Executive – Siobhan Shanahan

In Siobhan Shanahan Sonic FM has an experienced Chief Executive who has both recognised radio and business experience.

Siobhan is a native of East Cork and has worked in a number of positions in the radio industry both in Cork and abroad. She is currently living and working in Prague where she has been responsible for the launch and development of four new stations in the Czech Republic for Radio Kiss. Before that, Siobhan worked as part of the 96 / 103FM management team with responsibility for the station's sales and revenue streams in both Cork City and County. Siobhan returns to Cork in early 2001 and will join Sonic FM on the success of this application. Siobhan's detailed knowledge and experience in the Cork market and, in particular, her recent involvement in successfully launching stations similar to Sonic FM in the hugely competitive Prague market, will prove invaluable. She is a graduate of UCD and the Smurfit School of Business.


(ii) Programme / Music Director – Martin Mullen

Martin's experience as a Music Director in independent radio is unrivalled, having programmed the music output on the 96 & 103FM network since its inception until late 1998 when he emigrated to Greece. During his time in radio, he successfully identified music trends and implemented research projects which ensured that the station's music output was in line with listener expectations. Martin, a native of Macroom, has now returned to Cork and wishes to continue his career in Irish radio. He is fully committed to Sonic FM's proposal and his experience and knowledge will be invaluable in its implementation.


(iii) Financial Controller

The current competitiveness of the recruitment sector for senior financial executives and the initial stage at which this licence application is at, has meant that identifying a Financial Controller for Sonic FM is impractical at this point.

However, our recruitment advisors have advised us of the necessary experience and education which would be required for such a position. We have requested them to source such an individual and they are currently carrying out this brief.


A sub-committee of the board will be responsible for recruiting suitable individuals for other key management positions – a number of whom have already been identified by the company and who have indicated their desire to join, should our application be successful. With an experienced management team in place, we will recruit, develop and train talented staff for all other positions. While some may have experience in the industry, many will be new and fresh talent who have not been afforded a suitable opportunity by independent radio to date. In this regard, we have already established links with the broadcasting course at Colaiste Stiofáin Naofa to develop and provide employment for emerging broadcasting talent.


D. Management / Staffing Matters

Staffing Structure & Salary Estimates

The ultimate success of Sonic FM will be largely dependent on the quality of the staff we attract and their desire to succeed. We will, therefore, offer remuneration packages at least in line with industry norms and provide additional incentives through bonus schemes related to the success of the station. The work environment which we will provide, our commitment to the training and development of staff and the reputation of the promoters and the vision which they have developed will also help in attracting the required calibre of staff.

Sonic FM's staffing and proposed remuneration packages, each of which include a performance-related portion, are summarised as follows:


No. of Staff









News / Features








Sales / Marketing








Engineering / IT











The station will employ 12 part-timers on a regular basis and overall staffing is expected to increase in accordance with the development of the station. All staff will be subject to an annual performance and salary review, with all increases being at least in line with those per the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness.


Sonic FM will establish a performance culture at all levels within the organisation – an environment that our young and dynamic staff will thrive on and find challenging. We will reward success and all staff will receive bonuses as part of their remuneration packages for achieving the company's goals. For example, finance staff will be rewarded on the achievement of cost budgets and the timely production of financial information, sales staff will receive additional remuneration for reaching revenue targets and on-air personnel will receive bonuses on the achievement of listenership ratings per the JNLR. All goals will be agreed, in advance, in consultation with each staff member.

To ensure stability during the station's launch and development, all staff will enter into contracts of at least three years in duration.

The company will look favourably at implementing pension schemes, health insurance, travel pass schemes, etc., as part of remuneration packages, as appropriate.


Industrial Relations Policy

Sonic FM will create an environment where creativity, hard work and harmony are the norm. Working in partnership with staff, management will encourage open communication and will deal with grievances, should they arise, in a professional and prompt manner. We will encourage staff to be creative and self-motivated by providing a place of work that is enjoyable, challenging and fulfilling.

All staff will be issued with a written statement of the terms and conditions of their employment and all obligations under employment legislation will be implemented in full. The company will meet and negotiate with any relevant trade union as required by staff members.


Training & Development Strategy

We view training as being critical to the station's ultimate success, particularly as many of our staff will either have limited experience or be new to the industry. Staff will be trained and kept up to date with industry advancements through both internal and external courses and seminars. Prior to the station's launch, each head of department will carry out intensive training with staff in their area and subsequently carry out weekly reviews, pointing out possible improvements and assisting in their implementation. Such reviews will be the cornerstone of our quality control.







A. Broadcasting Philosophy


(i) Station Philosophy & Vision

On the surface, the Cork radio market would currently seem well serviced by local independent stations, together with national alternatives – all, however, have output aimed at a broadly based audience with no one station catering for the specific needs of the younger Cork listener. Sonic FM's extensive research shows there is a clear need for an innovative radio service dedicated to broadcasting music and speech content of interest to the 12 - 30 year old Cork audience.

The station of choice for this young audience in Cork is primarily 2FM. In contrast, Cork's 96 / 103FM's core audience strengths are amongst the older 25 - 55 age group. Neither station is in a position to fully service the requirements of the 12 - 30 audience, with 2FM playing some of the desired music content and Cork's 96 / 103FM containing more music, news and information of greatest relevance to an older audience. This is the market opportunity for Sonic FM.

Sonic FM will extend and enhance listener choice by launching a radical new music-led radio service which is distinctive in both its content and style. The station will feature the best in contemporary music and include relevant and stimulating talk elements of interest to Cork's youth. Sonic FM will, in essence, be the new sound and voice of the region's young.



(ii) Programming Strategies

The station's strategy will involve the development of feature / information-based segments with a distinctive youth flavour. These will be rotated throughout the daily schedule supported with the latest mix of contemporary music from a variety of genres.

Sonic FM's specially-commissioned research identifies that the young audience have a voracious appetite for broadly based contemporary music and are not overly biased towards any one particular genre. It highlights diverse and eclectic music tastes within the 12 - 30 age group, with major differences arising, in particular, between males and females and also between its younger and older members of this age group. While their music tastes range from dance, indie and hip hop to R 'n' B, pop and even country, the young audience are in agreement on one thing – music is the primary, and in some cases, the only, motivator in selecting their favourite radio station.

While both our MRBI and B & A research identified wide-ranging views on music amongst the Cork youth market, interestingly both reached similar conclusions.

B&A: "It would prove most fruitful to concentrate on a relatively mainstream chart music format for any new radio station in the Cork area. However, there is a need to account for slightly more radical music tastes than are currently catered for by mainstream radio stations. Dance music, in particular, but also indie / alternative, hip hop and R 'n' B should also be included in the mix. Their inclusion would not only appeal to a young audience on a purely musical level, but would also serve to actively provide a point of difference from other stations".

MRBI: "Music is the key positioning determinator for younger age group. Contemporary music is an essential hygiene factor". 


Sonic FM's research further identifies our target audience's relative dissatisfaction with the radio options currently available, with the majority stating that no one is sufficiently playing their preferred music selections. In fact, a large number are currently having to listen to CD's to hear their music of choice. The stations currently rated are, in effect, being listened to by default.


Programme Research

Ongoing research will give the Sonic FM audience a voice in the creation of the station's music, news and information output.

The station's launch schedule will be guided by some of the research already undertaken, as well as further programme and music testing which will be carried out prior to Sonic FM's launch. This will ensure that the station's output is both clearly focused on its core audience and also provides a clear alternative to other stations.

Contemporary music, by its very nature, involves rapidly changing tastes and 'call-out research' will be carried out to ensure that new music played is in line with that which the audience requires. Larger auditorium tests will be carried out on a less frequent basis to gain information on how the station's entire music output reflects their needs.

We have met with a number of youth representative bodies (e.g. Ogra Corcaigh, Colaiste Stiofáin Naofa) who have agreed to liaise with us on an ongoing basis to ensure that our information and speech programming is relevant and topical. We will also engage the third level student union bodies and representatives from secondary school levels before the station is launched.


Programme Production

The bulk of the station's output will be developed and produced in-house.

We are currently investigating links with production houses and other radio stations for the purchase of syndicated shows and live sessions, which will allow us bring the world's biggest acts to the Cork audience.

The station's news output will be produced by Sonic FM's news team from news items received from INN, together with locally-sourced Cork news. Sonic FM's information output will also be researched and produced internally.

The station will also look favourably at utilising the output of independent producers and, in particular, broadcasting courses like Colaiste Stiofáin Naofa and community stations, particularly in the production of our information programming.


Quality Control

Our programme plan, as outlined in this application, has been extensively researched and we will establish quality control guidelines to ensure that the expected standards in work practices, operational procedures and programming output are achieved.

Sonic FM's experienced management team will establish the standards required and all staff will undergo an internal training and development course to ensure that the required standards are fully understood and that each member has the relevant knowledge to achieve them. Such training will continue on an ongoing basis.

The Programme Controller will be responsible for the station's broadcasts and will carry out weekly critiques of:


(a) the station's music output;

(b) the presentation style and content of presenter links;

(c) the quality of advertising and promotional production;

(d) the quality of the content and presentation of news and information output;

(e) adherence of the station's output to established broadcasting standards and regulatory obligations.

Ongoing research will be carried out to ensure that our programming initiatives are being well received. Any deficiencies identified will be rectified to ensure the improved quality of our broadcasts.

Prior to the station's launch all on-air staff will receive briefings on libel laws, etc., and a system established whereby any contentious output is cleared with the station's solicitors and the IRTC, prior to being aired.


(iii) Criteria For Success

The ultimate success of the company will depend on the quantity and quality of the listenership which we attract and the commercial revenues which result from it. In order to reach our ultimate goals, the following will be our arbiters of success:

• Distinctive programming to all other stations, which is seen by our target audience as fresh, innovative and professional.

• Listenership levels amongst the 12 - 30 year old audience in line with those projected.

• Creating and maintaining a challenging, fulfilling and rewarding work environment.

• Maintaining full broadcast coverage through our unique transmission network.

• Creating a brand and identity that is synonymous with Cork youth culture.



B. Programme Schedule

The following is a 7-day programme schedule grid which outlines Sonic FM's proposed launch schedule. The station intends to broadcast across 24 hours each day from the outset:


Sonic FM Launch Programme Schedule












The Morning Madhouse

Sonic Tonic




The Workday Groove


The Clubbers



Stuck In The Middle With You




Great Vibrations


The Sonic Drive




The Sonic Interactive Zone

(* Friday night will feature the Sonic Nursery from 9 - 10 p.m.)








Sonic Phones Live







The Sonic All-Nighter



The Sonic All-Nighter






The Sonic FM daily schedule will be music-driven (reflecting the sample playlist which is shown later in this section and in the appendices). News will run at quarter-past and quarter-to each hour and the station's feature / information programming will rotate throughout the entire schedule.



A description of each of the station's main shows follows. These will also include a range of daily information features (details provided later in this section).


• 'The Morning Madhouse' (7 a.m. to 10 a.m. – Monday to Friday)

A dynamic and energetic start to the day with our young and fresh morning team. The team will relate to the audience by discussing topical items of interest to them, including the hot issues on TV, current trends in music, film, fashion, the web, etc. Comprehensive entertainment news will be added through our IRN feed and will include many exclusive interviews. The show will be lighthearted and will be brimful with fun and comedy from the Sonic team, pre-packaged features and regular guest presenters.

Our traffic information will be novel, as it will be based on on-the-spot reports from our "traffic wardens" – a panel of Sonic listeners who will report daily from throughout Cork City and County.


• 'The Workday Groove' (10 a.m. to 12 midday – Monday to Friday)

While other stations are talking, we will provide non-stop upbeat contemporary music, to provide a musical backdrop to those at work or at home. The show will have no presenters and no commercials and the only breaks will be for our scheduled news and information programming.


• 'Stuck In The Middle With You' (12 midday to 4 p.m. – Monday to Friday)

A music-driven show which will include our "Rebel with a Cause" feature each hour, where the unique views from the rebel county will be aired on topical issues. On a selected lunchtime during the week, we will visit a business premises and provide music, entertainment and food in our "Company Takeover" feature. Other features will include "Sonic on the Move", where listeners will be asked to inform us of the unique things they can do while still listening to Sonic FM and our "Famous Five" feature, where five legendary tracks will be played consecutively.


• 'The Sonic Drive' (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. – Monday to Friday)

A music-driven show incorporating regular updates from our traffic wardens. "Sonic Rewind" will add a touch of nostalgia featuring our listeners' first music memories, tracks from their first album purchased, etc., and will recount related memories. "The Afterthought" will feature outstanding comment from the previous night's Sonic Phones Live and will start soliciting comment for the forthcoming show. Between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. the show will feature "The Sonic Countdown", where the US, UK, Cork, Euro and Dance Charts will be played from Monday to Friday respectively.


• 'The Sonic Interactive Zone' (7 p.m. to 10 p.m. – Monday to Friday)

A request-driven show where listener choices will be made by phone, fax or e-mail. The show will be truly interactive and will be presented in full by the listener through pre-recorded introductions from our interactive hotline. A sample playlist will be published nightly on our website for reference purposes only, as the music played will not be restricted to a list, but will include listener favourites as well as allowing us to feature recent releases. Our nightly feature "Pump It or Dump It" will let the listener decide via an on-line poll whether a new release should receive more air-play or be confined to the bin. Nightly at 8 p.m. "The Sonic Fourplay" will feature four songs in a row as chosen by a listener.


• 'The Sonic Nursery' (9 p.m. to 10 p.m. – Friday)

This show will feature the best in emerging Irish talent, in particular that from local artists. There will be a strong emphasis on indie / rock music, but no musical genre will be excluded. Bands will be afforded live interview and we will also record acoustic sessions in our production studios to be aired during the show. Sonic Nursery will be presented by Colm O'Sullivan who has championed Irish and local talent through his Orbit 13 show on Campus Radio for the past two years.


• 'Sonic Phones Live' (10 p.m. to 1 a.m. – Monday to Friday)

This show will provide a platform for young opinions on wide-ranging topics of interest to the younger Cork audience. It will be presented in an upfront, yet responsible, manner and will not resort to "shock jock" irresponsibility. The younger generation in Cork lead exciting lives, have uncluttered minds and, most importantly, have strong views. They are prepared to tell it as it is. The listener will set the agenda through their calls and e-mails and pre-packaged vox pops will be used to stimulate interest. Qualified experts will be invited onto the show to impart advice and counselling in a credible and responsible manner.

The show, however, will not just deal with problems, but will also incorporate regular celebrity interviews and will also be interspersed with music from our mainstream schedule.

The show will result in exciting and informative radio to be enjoyed by all, stimulating interesting debate and leading to a greater understanding and acknowledgement of what Cork's young citizens have to offer and the issues that concern them.


• 'The Sonic All-Nighter' (1 a.m. to 7 a.m. – Monday to Friday / 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. – Saturday & Sunday)

This will be a largely music-driven show targeted at the over-night worker during the week and the returning clubber at the weekend.


• 'Sonic Tonic' (7 a.m. to 11 a.m. – Saturday & Sunday)

This show will include "About Last Night", where the happenings from the night before will be investigated. Listeners will update us on events, in particular the best and worst chat-up lines encountered. The "Floor Fillers" feature will highlight the favourite tracks heard the previous night and our "The Big Match" feature will preview the day's sporting events in a satirical and fanzine fashion.


• 'The Clubbers Breakfast' (11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Saturday & Sunday)

A largely music-driven show incorporating extended sports coverage during news bulletins. The first two hours of the show will feature "A Time To Chill", where the music tempo will be lowered with a strong emphasis on R 'n' B and soul tracks.


• 'Great Vibrations' (3 p.m. to 7 p.m. – Saturday & Sunday)

The show will incorporate a mix of the best contemporary music and regular sport updates and will regularly broadcast live from various locations throughout Cork City and County. We will use the show to highlight emerging presenter talent and our "Hall Of Fame" feature will feature the greatest hits of the past two decades.


• 'Clubversive' (7 p.m. to 3 a.m. – Saturday)

This show will be a clubbers paradise featuring the best in dance music of all its genres from both international and local DJ's. The highlight of the show will be a live broadcast from a dance venue or venues locally, or a virtual live show from a major dance venue in the UK, Ibiza or further afield.


• 'Na Popamhrain is Mo Eilimh Chorcai / Cork's Biggest Hits!'(7 p.m. to 11 p.m. – Sunday)

Sonic will compile the official Cork chart from listener requests and CD purchases locally and the show will be presented in a bilingual fashion.


• 'Full Frequency' (11 p.m. to 3 a.m. – Sunday)

A programme which will feature in particular non-commercial dance music with a strong emphasis on hip-hop, garage, house, etc.


Speech / Programming Elements

Sonic FM will also go further to 'super-serve' the 12 - 30 year old Cork audience by ensuring that the speech elements of our programming will also be innovative, exciting and specifically focused on their interests. We will satisfy young listeners' appetite for news and information by accentuating issues which reflect their culture, age and identity. We will speak the same language as our listeners and will present items of interest in a more informal, but yet informative, style compared to established stations while at all times ensuring credibility. Our presenters will be knowledgeable and passionate about the music we will play and will deliver our links in a polished, informative and authoritative manner.

Our feature programming will follow a magazine style which research identified as helping to "establish the station as being vibrant and energetic", covering topics of interest to the audience, such as music, entertainment, social issues, technology and the internet. The programming will be delivered within one to two minute information slots that the core audience prefer, mixing seamlessly with the music selection. The content of our feature programming will reflect local pride in Cork culture and confidence in the future that is particularly evident amongst the younger population. A positive perspective will be taken wherever possible and social issues will be dealt with in an understanding and helpful manner. Our aim will be to produce compelling and informative programming slots as well as providing a valuable public service.

Specific programming features will include the following:

(a) Whasssup!!!!!!!!!! – A daily guide to social events in both Cork City and County. The feature will incorporate concert, cinema and comedy listings as well as promoting events across the broad spectrum of the arts.


(b) Rebel With A Cause – The inhabitants of the rebel county have never been shy when it comes to airing their views, particularly on matters affecting "The Real Capital"!!! This daily vox-pop feature will visit homes, streets, workplaces and colleges throughout the city and county and seek unique Cork views on topical Cork issues.

(c) Let's Get Digital – This will feature previews and reviews of the latest music, video and gaming technology. The feature will be interactive with guest reviews by listeners as well as experts, which will be accessed by phone and via the internet.

(d) Back Slash – A regular look at the internet, with station and guest reviews of sites, advice on how best the 'net' can be used for research / work purposes and a look at which sites offer the best information on entertainment, student issues, technology, etc. Again, the internet will be used extensively to solicit opinion.

(e) Art Attack – Previews, reviews and promotion of events across the broad spectrum of the arts, including theatre, literature, art exhibitions, comedy, etc. The feature will include activities throughout the city and county and actual snippets of performances will be aired where available.

(f) Young, Gifted & Broke – Our business / finance feature will offer useful and practical information on all items financial, but will have a particular emphasis on personal finance. We will offer useable advice on issues such as interest rates and mortgages, share transactions, how to finance student / car loans, etc. Taxation issues and information on obtaining student or 'start-up' grants will also be dealt with.

(g) Prime Cuts – Our movie / video / show / book review will look at the latest releases and will again regularly include guests / listener reviews. Activity will increase to coincide with the launch of major films and events like the Cork Film Festival, etc.

(h) Campus Forum – We will link up with students in UCC, CIT and other third level colleges in Cork to look at all aspects of student life. Information will be provided on student activities and societies, advice will be provided on preparing for exams, finding suitable accommodation, etc., and many social issues which affect students, such as on-campus safety for females, will also be dealt with. A proactive approach will be taken with publicity given to the support structures in place.

(i) Green Days – A candid look at environmental issues, promoting public awareness of all issues green such as litter, pollution, recycling, conservation, etc., and offering practical advice on how listeners can play their role in making Cork more environmentally friendly.

(j) Social Action – A proactive feature on issues which impact on everyday life in the Cork community, particularly amongst its young population. We will not sweep problems under the carpet, but will provide helpful advice and solutions to recurring problems, as well as raising public awareness and understanding on issues such as homelessness, rape, drug addiction, etc. We will liaise with representative bodies and support groups throughout the region to deal with issues in an accurate, professional and understanding fashion.

(k) Fashion Police – We will investigate the latest street and club fashions and will provide advice on achieving the designer look without paying designer prices. Issues such as fashion tips for debs / grads will also be included.

(l) Exam Focus – This feature will provide curriculum information and exam tips throughout the year, but particularly at exam times for both second and third level colleges. We will employ qualified teachers to provide practical advice on revision techniques, exam formats, time management, etc.

(m) Career Fast-Track – While many of our information features deal with student issues, we will also cater for those who have left full-time education. The feature is aimed at those who have left education and those completing courses, and will provide useful information on items such as preparing a CV and interview techniques. Job opportunities will be announced, information given of apprenticeships and training schemes, and details provided on starting your own business. The rights of young people starting in employment will also be dealt with, as will the grants, etc., available for some of the items outlined above. Information on the CAO application process will also be dealt with at appropriate times.

(n) Irish / Bilingual Information Programming – All of the above programme slots will lend themselves to having an Irish language element. In contrast to having distinct 'programme ghettos' where Irish might seem to be dominant, but yet avoidable from a young listeners point of view, this type of approach enables the language to be woven in seamlessly.


Music Playlist

Sonic FM's programme schedule will appeal to all constituents within the 12 - 30 target audience – one which is based on mainstream contemporary music, but including other musical styles identified to provide a wider appeal and a distinctive image for the station which will reflect the music "sub-culture" in Cork. All music tracks will be fresh, fashionable and have a cutting-edge.

The following chart from the Behaviour & Attitudes qualitative research summarises the balance of musical styles which Sonic FM will adopt:

Cork's 12 - 30's Musical Tastes


More + Less -

• Indie / Rock • 'Saccharine' Pop

– Oasis, Blur, Travis – S Club 7, Steps

– David Gray, Placebo, etc. – Not necessarily all boy /girl bands

• Hip Hop

– Important 'youth' edge • 'Golden Oldies'

– Especially for men – Boney M

– Eminem, Dr. Dre, etc. – Steely Dan

• Dance Music • 'Cruise to Snooze'

– Both chart dance – Celine Dion

– And more club / techno – Mariah Carey

(Paul Van Dyk, Johnny Moy,

Groove Armada)

– Club link (e.g. Sir Henry's)

• R 'n' B

– Particularly popular with girls

– Craig David, Lauryn Hill, etc.

All existing stations play some elements of contemporary music. However, Sonic FM's point of difference is that it will play this music on a more consistent and cohesive basis.

Our research showed that particular classic tracks / artists from previous decades retain relevance amongst the young Cork audience (e.g. The Beatles, Hendrix, Nirvana, etc.). We will include legendary tracks (as opposed to the overused 'classic hits' approach), in our mainstream output and also highlight them in a regular "Famous Five" and "Hall of Fame" features.

Sonic FM will also stretch the boundaries of the music played in various parts of the schedule. For example, our night-time weekend shows will concentrate on dance, which is less mainstream than that played during normal programming.

If the station had been on air in November 2000, the following would be a sample of the music played. The rotation of the songs would be based on their music style, current chart positions and listener reaction.

Sample Playlist

Pop / Chart


ALL SAINTS – Black Coffee


ANASTACIA – I'm Outta Love

MADISON AVENUE – Who The Hell Are You?

SPILLER – Groovejet

A1 – Take On Me


B*WITCHED – C'est le Vie


BACKSTREET BOYS – Show Me The Shape Of Your Heart

'N SYNC – This I Promise You


MODJO – Lady (Hear Me Tonight)




THE CORRS – Irresistible

RONAN KEATING – Life Is A Rollercoaster


THE 4 OF US – Change


THE COX CREW – The Fields of Athenry

KERNKRAFT 400 – Zombie Nation


DARUDE – Sandstorm

BOMBFUNK MCs – Freestyler

SONIQUE – It Feels So Good

FRAGMA – Toca's Miracle

MARK McCABE – Maniac 2000

DA FORCE – Reach For The Sky

Hip Hop

BAHA MEN – Who Let The Dogs Out

EMINEM – The Way I Am

MOBY – Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad

FATBOY SLIM – Sunset (Bird Of Prey)

DESTINY'S CHILD – Jumpin' Jumpin'

BOMBFUNK MCs – Freestyler


R 'n' B

R KELLY – I Wish

METISSE – Boom Boom Ba

PINK – Most Girls

HONEYZ – Not Even Gonna Trip




WYCLEF JEAN – It Doesn't Matter

TONI BRAXTON – He Wasn't Man Enough


COLDPLAY – Trouble

U2 – Beautiful Day

DAVID GREY – Please Forgive Me

BLUR – Music Is My Radar

BLINK 182 – All the Small Things

RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS – Californication

RELISH – Let It Fly

GRAND – If We Had Brains





'N SYNC – Give Me Just One More Night (Uno Noche)



C. Programme Policy Statement

Sonic FM's programme policy is to win the hearts, minds and ears of the 12 - 30 year old city and county audience through distinctive music-based output and programming features which focus on their specific and unique tastes.


Music To Speech Ratio

To appeal to the 12 - 30 year old Cork listener it is essential that Sonic FM's programming output includes news and information segments that are relevant and tailored to this age group and in a style that reflects their lifestyle. In satisfying these requirements we will fully comply with the statutory obligations included in the Radio and Television Act 1988, in that news and current affairs output will constitute at least 20% of our output.


Speech Output

As with our music output, Sonic FM sees it as imperative to be different and to offer a genuine alternative choice in both the style and timing of our speech output.

The MRBI research highlights a clear pattern of any station's speech elements becoming more relevant as listeners move up the age scale, even within the relatively narrow 12 - 30 age band. The younger group elements in this are generally apathetic to anything which interferes with a station's music output while the older ones see a combination of music and relevant speech as being ideal. A compromise which we believe will appeal to both is to ensure that all speech output is focused on youth issues and is presented in an upbeat fashion. Any concerns regarding the attractiveness of speech programming among younger listeners is further allayed by the B & A research, which found that it is

 "possible to engage the young audience in more weighty topics, provided they are conducted in a lively, witty and intelligent manner" and that "there is room for a chat show which would reflect the lives and interests of a younger audience – possibly a late night talk show".

The cornerstone of Sonic FM's speech / current affairs output will therefore be our nightly talk show "Sonic Phones Live", which will debate issues of interest to our target audience in a constructive and non-aggressive manner, providing a platform to debate the issues of most concern. The agenda for the nightly show will be, to a large extent, set by the listeners calls. However, issues such as drugs, relationships, crime, etc., will be covered on a regular basis. We will also liaise regularly with youth representative bodies to develop topical issues and to stimulate debate.

We have scheduled our current affairs output for our night-time schedule as it offers a new and distinctive programming element to the marketplace. All other stations broadcast their speech programming during their morning schedules, a time when most younger people are either at work, school or college. The scheduling of a late night phone-in show places the programme at a time which best suits the availability of the audience.


News Coverage

The news output of Sonic FM will deviate from the conventional and will be distinctive in terms of its content, presentation and timing.

News output will include all major local, national and international stories, which the younger audience have a general acceptance of and interest in anyway, but will place a lower emphasis on them than existing stations. Additional focus will be afforded to the alternative younger implications of stories broadcast and greater attention will also be placed on entertainment, technology, human-interest Cork stories, etc., which the young Cork audience have indicated they want. Our news output will celebrate local success stories as well as dealing with the related problems of the 'Tiger economy' which directly affect the younger population, e.g. housing, employment, etc.

Local stories, including live location reports (using a 'rapid-response' mobile unit), will be developed by Sonic's own news team and will be mixed with news from INN and an international news provider, to provide the reliable and distinctive news service overall. The internet will also be extensively used to provide accurate and wide-ranging information on a timely basis.

All other stations provide news on the hour. We, however, plan to broadcast a more concise bulletin style format, with bulletins of 3 to 4 minutes in duration at quarter past and quarter to each hour. This approach has been identified by research as one which interests the younger audience and also one that adds to the station's credibility, as it will be seen as "shaking up" conventional formats.

The number of news bulletins and their duration will naturally be increased to cover major news events of relevance.


Sports Coverage

Sports coverage received little spontaneous mention by young Cork people as a key reason for choosing a radio station. However, this was balanced by the qualitative research finding, which identified that "the ubiquity of sport has made it an expected part of radio programming and while coverage need not be exhaustive, short sports updates are expected as an important element of programming".

Sonic FM's approach to sport will therefore be to incorporate brief, but detailed, sports results, news and information during our news output at quarter to and past the hour.

Other media already provide specialist output for sports enthusiasts, but we will try to satisfy our audience with a unique mix of music and news which incorporates sports. Our sports coverage will place particular emphasis on local sports, especially those which have a large youth involvement. Our coverage will increase to reflect the success of the Cork hurling and football teams, the Cork City soccer team and the city and county's rugby teams in particular.

During weekend output we will develop a sport's personality who will preview and review relevant sporting events with a fanzine approach. Such an approach to sport has proved successful with a younger audience on television with programmes such as 'Après Match', 'Soccer AM' and 'Breaking Ball' and we see no reason why this same success cannot be emulated on radio.



Comedy, while never quite fulfilling its billing as "the rock and roll of the 90's", has been identified as a vital ingredient of any station aimed at the younger audience. Our research shows that the inclusion of comedy will "identify the station with youthful and energetic values" and also provide "a signal of intent by the new station".

Comedy will feature throughout our schedule in our "Laugh Out Loud" insert, which will broadcast comedy from both established artists and listeners throughout the day's schedule. We have liaised with local comedy clubs and will endeavour to give airtime to indigenous and international comedy talent and explore the possibility of broadcasting live from comedy venues in the future.


Irish Language

Sonic FM will endeavour to promote the Irish language in a manner which our target audience will find useful and acceptable. Our information features will include output on Irish and, in particular, Cork culture and tradition. These will be presented either bilingually or totally in the Irish language.

Sonic FM will also broadcast a weekly Top 40 ('Cork's Biggest Hits') programme through the Irish language each Sunday evening from 7 - 10 p.m.


New Opportunities for Irish Talent

Sonic FM's programming output will be unashamedly aimed at the young Cork market and will employ individuals who are in tune with their lifestyles, interests and music needs.

To date, much of the talent which we have identified have been unable to find suitable employment in legal radio, due to limited opportunities, but also the fact that the majority of existing stations produce programming which has little relevance to the younger audience and thereby not compatible with the style and interests of younger presenters. We will also employ new talent to produce our news and current affairs output. The talent which we have identified have undoubted potential but are lacking in experience. This, however, will be provided by our management team who will help ensure that the potential of our new employees is realised at the earliest possible opportunity.

Sonic FM will tap into the excellent broadcasting talent being produced by colleges such as Colaiste Stiofáin Naofa in Cork, other broadcasting courses in Dublin and Waterford and the local community stations. We envisage that some of our information programming will also be made in conjunction with these bodies. Our producers will liaise with the colleges to help train students, ensuring good professional output.

Many Irish and Cork artists have received limited exposure on Irish radio, as the style of their output is inappropriate to the more "adult contemporary" style of existing stations. Interestingly, the inclusion of music by Irish artists in our audio research was noted and appreciated by the younger audience. Sonic FM will not only give exposure to these artists, but will also assist their development by making our production facilities available, as well as highlighting new local talent through 'spotlight' features and the 'Sonic Nursery' music programme on Monday nights.

New talent in the area of drama and comedy will also be encouraged to develop programming features of interest to our target audience for broadcast.


Presentation Style

The MRBI research identified a low spontaneous response to presenters or DJ's being a primary motivator for listening to a radio station. However, the research further highlights the key role played by well-known personalities in establishing and maintaining a station's image and credibility, particularly if they are perceived as being amusing, well-informed and in touch with the target audience.

Sonic FM's presentation style will, therefore, be consistent with our contemporary music content and presenters will be both professional and personable. Presenter links will display both a knowledge and understanding of the interests of our target audience throughout the city and county. We will utilise younger presenters to present a contemporary image for the station and develop them as personalities in their own right, two elements which the B & A research identified as being critical to the development of strong brand loyalty among listeners. Our news and information content will also differ from other stations and our presentation style, while being less formal, will be nonetheless authoritative.

Because of the importance we place on the personality created by the station and our desire to impart up-to-date information, live presentation will be used at all times.


New Forms of Radio Broadcasting

The implementation of our programme schedule will ensure that the Cork market will have a new form of radio broadcasting – one that reflects the music, news and information needs of the younger Cork audience and is presented in a style which they find appealing.

Our approach to the use of the internet to improve our radio broadcasts will be innovative and progressive with simultaneous web-casting of all output. Our 'Interactive Zone' will be a request-driven show which will use internet-based polls to determine preferred songs. Much of the comment solicited for our talk shows will also be from the 'net', as will regular internet / e-mail polls designed to stimulate debate.

Our unique transmission proposals (see Sections 8 / 9) will also afford us the opportunity to broadcast live from a number of venues county-wide simultaneously.





A. Analysis of Existing Marketplace

What is Cork's youth population listening to?

After Dublin, the Cork radio market is arguably the most competitive one within the country as a whole. On any one day, a listener, if so inclined, could choose from up to nine indigenous stations (including the 4 RTE national services, Today FM, Cork's 96FM, 103FM County Sound, as well as at least 2 major pirate stations).

Given the relatively specialist output of some of these stations, however, most adult listenership is, not surprisingly, done to the five main stations – RTE Radio 1, 2FM, Today FM, 96FM and 103FM. As the main national broadcaster, Radio 1's output has been designed to cater for "most of the population, most of the time", with a programming mix of news, analysis and opinion, interspersed with an eclectic range of music. With few programming exceptions, 2FM and Today FM, together with the local independent operator, have endeavoured to provide a service for Cork's large youth population of 12 - 30 year olds, in competition with the illegal operators and imported stations like Atlantic 252.

Attempting to cater for such a broad age-span naturally presents its own difficulties, as the music tastes of a 13 year old Junior Cert student, for example, are quite different from that of, say, a 28 year old married worker. As a consequence of this, it would appear, from consistent JNLR surveys, that if any local gap exists within the Cork radio market it does so amongst a core of 15 - 24's.



Table 1

Cork Radio Listening Profiles By Age


15 - 24

25 - 34

35 - 44








Cork's 96 / 103FM






RTE Radio 1












Lyric FM






Today FM






Source: JNLR / MRBI 2000

As Table 1 shows, Radio 1 and Lyric FM both have an audience profile that is very much skewed towards those in their late forties and fifties. In contrast, 2FM's age profile is rooted firmly within the 15 - 30 age bracket, although one in three of its listeners are aged over 35, as a consequence of presenters like Gerry Ryan and Larry Gogan. Today FM also leans towards the younger end of the age spectrum, with two-thirds of its Cork audience under 35 attracted more to the station by high-profile personalities like Eamon Dunphy, Ian Dempsey and Ray Darcy, rather than its music content, which tends to have an older feel.

The age profile of Cork's 96 / 103FM's audience almost exactly mirrors that of the region as a whole. The station's unique appeal is both a reflection of its broadly-appealing programme schedule and its tailored regional approach to both city and county audiences. However, the station faces a constant challenge in again trying to satisfy the music tastes, in particular, of such a broadly spread audience.



Because the JNLR does not provide a fully-comprehensive picture of listening in Cork (for example, the tastes of 12 - 14 year olds and the audience to the local pirates remain unquantified), the Sonic FM consortium commissioned both MRBI and Behaviour & Attitudes to provide a more complete analysis.

According to the B & A qualitative research amongst groups of young Cork adults:

"Reactions are mixed to the quality of stations in the area, with a clear distinction drawn on gender lines. For most females the radio options serve their needs well, providing a good mix of news, information, chat and music. However, male reaction is generally quite negative. The feeling is that, in orientation, all of the main stations are targeting an older and female constituency, both in their tone and particularly in their music selection."

Both sets of research showed that 2FM is the primary station of choice amongst this audience.

Table 2

Listenership Summary* : 12 - 30's


Yesterday (%)

Favourite Station





Cork's 96 FM



Today FM



103FM County Sound



Atlantic 252



Kiss FM



RTE Radio 1



Lyric FM



Radio Friendly



Average No. of Stations




* Data not comparable with JNLR.

Source: MRBI / Oct 2000.



The MRBI listenership analysis (Table 2) shows that 2FM has an average daily reach of 64%, with particular strengths in the county area and amongst 12 - 17's (68%). On the surface, there would appear to be only a marginal difference in audience levels between it and Cork's 96FM. However, when asked to nominate their 'favourite station' overall, 2FM emerges as the clear leader at 31% (vs. 24% for 96FM).

As the B & A research highlighted:

"2FM is seen as the national youth station, an antidote to the overtly serious Radio 1. It is felt to have the biggest brand presence in the market, which is enhanced by the link with RTE and its presenters overlapping with TV."

The city-based 96FM enjoys a strong following right across the Cork region (e.g. in the county it still has a reach of 51% amongst younger audiences, according to MRBI). The fact that it originates within Cork itself is seen as an important aspect of its brand identity and as the qualitative research reveals:

"Its strong listener loyalty is heightened by the extent to which the station is seen to be integrated into the community, particularly through its local news, weather and traffic."

96FM's sister station, 103FM, performs well with a 26% reach within its franchise area, given that much of its output has an older appeal. The choice of listening alternatives though is much more limited in the county of Cork and it is evident that 12 - 30 year olds there, are relatively more under-served than their city-based counterparts.

Today FM reaches 42% of 12 - 30's on an average day and according to Behaviour & Attitudes "the station is now emerging as a genuine competitor to 2FM and 96FM for this young audience". The focus group research shows though, that the station is regarded more for its personality-based shows rather than its music content.

The MRBI data shows that a reasonably substantial youth audience is attracted by the pirate stations and Atlantic 252. This ranges between 18 - 24% and appears stronger in Cork City, possibly because of the limitations of their signal reach. The local pirate stations, Kiss FM and Radio Friendly, are seen as appealing directly to a younger male audience with a strong diet of dance and chart hits.

By catering for the specific music and information needs of a young Cork audience and offering a dedicated local alternative to 2FM, it is Sonic FM's aim to become a more attractive replacement for these imported and illegal stations.

What is Cork's youth population listening to radio for?

It is not surprising that music is the main motivator amongst Cork's 12 - 30's for tuning to the radio in the same way as it is for people of a similar age in every other part of the country. The specially-commissioned MRBI research asked young respondents to spontaneously outline their reasons for selecting their favourite station.

Table 3

Spontaneous Reasons For Listening To Favourite Station



12 - 17

18 - 24

25 - 30







Plays my kind of music






Variety of music / less talk






Local station / local content






Amusing DJ's






Good presenters






Strong morning show






Good competitions / prizes






Topical discussions






Source: MRBI / Oct 2000

Table 3 endorses the strong position of music and the level at which it overshadows all other criteria. Given the level of music output that already exists on the airwaves, one could be forgiven for thinking that Cork youth already have sufficient choice in this regard. However, the MRBI survey revealed that:

• 65% are listening to CD's as the music they want is not always played on the radio, while

• 54% said that there are not enough stations playing the music they prefer.

Given that the musical output of all potential applicants for a youth radio licence is likely to converge around a mainstream offering, it is Sonic FM's belief that a new station needs to really differentiate itself both through its tone and its talk-based programming.

This presents its own challenges, because if a station is to succeed, the way in which it integrates its talk and music elements will be essential. Further probing by MRBI revealed, for example, that:

• 55% of Cork youth agree that there is too much talk on radio, with .....

• 79% preferring stations with less talk, and .....

• 64% say that long news breaks interfere with their enjoyment of music.

It is also noteworthy that 'localness' was spontaneously identified as the next most important criteria for Cork youth in their selection of a preferred station. It is clear from the MRBI analysis that not only does some dissonance exist between this young population and the national broadcasters, but also if a station is to really build a strong affinity with its audience it must have an innate sense of 'Cork' about it:

• 69% said that the national stations are largely aimed at Dublin.

• 77% would prefer to listen to a Cork station playing their kind of music.

The B & A qualitative research found that chat shows such as Neil Prendiville's on 96FM and Gerry Ryan's on 2FM are popular amongst this audience, but they are felt to focus largely on an older, mid 30's audience.

• 52% believe that radio talk shows don't cover topics of relevance to them.

Sonic FM believes that there is a gap for a youth talk show that will reflect the concerns, issues and lives of those in the 15 - 24 age bracket, and plans to include one in its daily schedule, at a time when they are most available to listen.

Similarly, feature-based slots covering topics such as technology, entertainment reviews, careers advice and money will be used to set out the new station's stall as vibrant and energetic as well as adding an 'on the ground' feel to its output.

In summary, Sonic FM is confident that its combination of radio experience and local market understanding equips it best to deliver a programme mix which will both satisfy the Cork youth audience and complement existing services.

Does the advertising potential exist for a new station aimed at Cork's youth population?

Radio occupies a unique position within the Irish media sector, thanks to a combination of its audience delivery levels and its relative cost-efficiency versus other outlets. Its earning potential has grown strongly through the efforts of professional independent radio operators and a buoyant economy.

The Sonic FM consortium believes that it has both the programming formula and business nous to carve out a sustainable and profitable segment of the Cork advertising market. As we will illustrate later in this section, Sonic FM is projected to grow the overall Cork radio market without damaging existing independent radio operators and will aim to achieve a modest 7% revenue share (i.e. £1m) within its first broadcasting year.


B. Demand & Potential For The Type of Service Proposed

The opportunity facing a youth-oriented station with the right mix of music and speech and proper marketing / promotional support can be summarised as follows:

• The Cork 12 - 30 year old population is substantial.

• They are the least well served audience grouping by existing stations.

• Music is the key criteria in their preferred station choice.

• The advertising is there to sustain a new alternative


(i) The Audience Potential

The 1996 census of Cork shows that 132,000 individuals fall within Sonic FM's broad audience span of 12 - 30 year olds. As Table 4 shows, this represents roughly 1 in 3 of the region's population – the most significant single demographic and all united by a common interest in music. What is particularly noteworthy is the significant base of 12 - 30's in Cork county – outnumbering the city population by a factor of two. It is amongst this constituency, in particular, that Sonic FM expects to score well.


Table 4

In Context – Cork City & County Population







Under 12






12 - 17






18 - 24






25 - 30






31 - 39






40 - 59























Source: CSO 1996


Both the qualitative and quantitative research, carried out especially for Sonic FM by Behaviour & Attitudes and MRBI, indicates the strong potential for a station serving this audience. Growing up in an era of expanded choice, Cork youth are increasingly likely to choose radio over television, as media such as the internet erode viewing levels. The greater accessibility and choice that will be available through radio, added to the increased mobility of young people and the portability of radio sets, means that radio listening is likely to continue growing. The overall message is that individualism is here to stay and young Cork people will expect more choice as times goes on.


(ii) An Under-Served Audience

It is somewhat ironic that, given the interest and willingness of Cork youth to listen to radio and the ideal way in which the medium complements their busy lifestyles, that they are currently the least likely age group to listen to the existing range of stations.

The JNLR shows that Cork adults devote, on average, 5.4 hrs. to radio listening each day. However, amongst Sonic FM's core target group of 15 - 24's this falls to a low of 4.5 hrs. approx. – a 17% difference (Chart 5).

Chart 5

Time Spent Listening To Radio

Cork Adults By Age






15 - 24's 25 - 34's 35 - 44's 45's+ All Adults

Source: JNLR / MRBI


On the one hand, this reduced level of listening could be attributed to the limited access which young Cork people (e.g. students) might have to radio during the day. However, it is our view that it is more likely to be a reflection of their current disillusionment with what's currently on offer. Again, there is some support for this argument from the latest JNLR results, which show that 27% of Cork's 15 - 24's rarely, if ever, listen to Today FM, for instance, and around 11% rarely listen to 2FM and 96 / 103FM.


(iii) An Audience With Demands

It is very clear from both sets of specially-commissioned research, that Cork's young population are eager to have a dedicated music-based channel catering for their specific interests and music requirements.

Through audio-testing six different music styles, MRBI found that a 'Chart / Top 40' mix received the highest overall rating at 69% amongst the broad 12 - 30 age group (Chart 6). This was consistently highest across all age breaks and also within the city and county areas (at 67% and 71% respectively).


Chart 6

Frequency of Listening To Music Types

Chart / Best of Easy

Top 40 Today's Rock Dance Combination Listening









Often Once In A While Never

Age % Listen Often

12-17 80 46 45 58 25 11

18-24 68 47 51 42 39 20

25-30 58 54 45 26 59 32

Source: MRBI

Furthermore, 52% of them said that they would be most likely to select a radio station playing 'Chart / Top 40' music as their favourite one ahead of all others (Chart 7).


Chart 7

If A Station Played That Style, Which Would Be Your Favourite

Chart / Best of Easy

Top 40 Dance Rock Combination Today's Listening




Favourite 2nd / 3rd Less

Age % Favourite

12-17 69 38 27 12 13 5

18-24 48 25 31 16 20 15

25-30 35 15 19 43 31 20

Source: MRBI

This was particularly so amongst 12 - 17's (69%), females (63%) and in Cork county (57%). The MRBI research also showed that no more than 1 in 3 listeners were able to nominate an existing station doing "a good job of playing this mix of music.

60% of Cork's 12 - 30's disagree that radio stations play too much chart music



(iv) An Audience With Great Advertising Potential

Although demographic estimates for the Irish population show that their numbers will decrease in the next decade as a proportion of the overall population, teenagers and young adults remain a particularly important market for many commercial goods and services.

According to recent research undertaken by MRBI, young adults have an average of £84 per week to spend on themselves after bills, etc. This means that 15 - 24's, in particular, are an essential source of recruitment for advertisers, as diverse as mobile phones to convenience stores and soft drinks to financial services companies. Young adults in major population centres like Cork have largely grown up in wealthier households, have much more free time and are far less rigidly disciplined in their lifestyles than their parents were at the same age.

From a media viewpoint, this makes them a difficult and relatively expensive group to reach through most media, except radio.

In order to gain a better understanding of how advertising agencies and their clients would react to a new station targeting 12 - 30's in Cork, Sonic FM undertook specific research. The agencies contacted ranged across most of the large purchasers of radio airtime in the country, including Mindshare, Irish International, McCann Erickson and CDP.

Most, it has to be said, believed that the Cork market was already well served in overall terms by a strong independent operator, in the form of 96 / 103FM. However, there was also an acceptance that, based on their experience of Dublin, young audiences might feel slightly alienated by the absence of an alternative with a particular focus on their listening preferences. Many buyers were of the view that, while there might be 'a gap in the market', making money from 'the market in the gap' would require very deft management of set-up and transmission costs, as well as ongoing overheads.



The strong patronage of Cork people towards their own media (e.g. the Examiner and 96FM) was also a frequently expressed comment and, for many media planners, confirmed a belief that for any new station to thrive it was essential that it had to have local expertise on board.

In overall terms, media buyers said that their decision to support a new local station would be based on a combination of credible and experienced radio professionals, offering an alternative service to an attractive market niche, at an affordable price for their clients.

In summary, we can deduce from this research that a properly managed station which satisfies the aspirations and tastes of a demanding young Cork audience, and which remembers its roots, has a bright future.


C. Anticipated Performance of The New Station

The Sonic FM consortium has undertaken a considerable amount of market analysis and research to arrive at its projections of the likely audience levels, advertising revenue and overall market impact of the station.


(i) Target Audience

Our programming strategy and music selection has been created to satisfy the identifiable listening gap amongst the broad age group of 12 - 30 year olds. Like all radio stations, however, we fully expect to attract different levels of loyalty across the day and, therefore, across different ages and social class backgrounds.



The following chart provides an indication of the intended composition of our first year audience:

Chart 8

Sonic FM – Audience Profile / Year 1


Station Population

% %

Gender: Males 49 52

Females 51 48

Age: 12 - 14 14 7

15 - 24 44 21

25 - 34 32 21

35 - 44 6 18

45+ 4 33

Social Class: ABC1 39 37

C2DE 44 51

F 17 12

Region: Cork City 42 44

Cork County 58 56

Source: JNLR / IIG Projections



Every station attracts some people from outside its core demographics and, to be realistic, we also expect to have some listeners over 30 years of age who will, at times, be attracted by the more contemporary mix of music. However, Sonic FM's main audience will be mainly derived from individuals in the 18 - 24 age bracket, with a particular bias towards the disproportionately higher population base in Cork County.


(ii) Projected Listenership Ratings / Market Share

Given the performance of previous entrants to the Irish radio market, our market share ambitions for Sonic FM are focused and achievable. The following outlines our listening share targets amongst Cork's 15 - 34's (as measured by JNLR) for the period 2001 / 2 - 2003 / 4:

Chart 9

Sonic FM

Market Share / Listenership Projections – Adults 15 - 34

7 a.m. - Midnight


2001 / 2

2002 / 3

2003 / 4







Market Share





Source: IIG Projections

As can be seen, we are fully confident that between a combination of targeted programming and our planned investment in marketing the station to prospective listeners, we can effectively grow our market share from 24% to 37% within the three-year period.


This share is likely to be mainly at the expense of the national music stations, the pirate operators, with 96 / 103FM, to a lesser extent, also losing some listeners in this age group.

Chart 10

Cork Radio Market Share Projections

Adults 15 - 34 Yrs.

7 a.m. - Midnight



2001 / 2

2002 / 3

2003 / 4







Cork's 96 / 103FM












Today FM






RTE 1 / Lyric FM






Sonic FM






Source: JNLR / IIG Estimates


(iii) Advertising Revenue Potential

We have again approached the financial projections for Sonic FM in a cautious but prudent manner. Advertising revenue will represent the bulk of commercial income and we have undertaken a process of close consultation with agency media planners to both assess the likely growth of Cork-related advertising spending overall and the share likely to be achieved by Sonic FM based on its projected listening performance.

In our research, Irish media planners have projected average growth rates for advertising of circa 12% per annum over the next 3 years. While this may be likely, we have adopted a more cautious figure of 8 - 10% growth for the Cork advertising market.

Within the Cork advertising market we expect Sonic FM to take a 7% share of spending, or £1.0m, within its first year on air. This chart illustrates how this is likely to impact on other media who are also active within the region:

Chart 11

Cork Advertising Revenue Estimates


2000 / 1

2001 / 2

2002 / 3

2003 / 4







RTE / Today FM*






Cork's 96 / 103FM






Sonic FM











Radio Total























Grand Total






Annual Increase






* Indicates estimated share of national revenue that is Cork-related.



Our expectation is that the market will grow by an additional £4.4m in 2001 / 2, with Sonic FM gaining just under a quarter of this, including the likely defection of some local advertiser budgets away from the national stations. The existing Cork station should continue to enjoy revenue growth, albeit at a slower pace than during the mid - late 1990's.


D. Strategies For Achieving Proposed Listenership & Revenue Targets

With its experienced management team and the support of board members with many years of successful commercial radio experience, the Sonic FM consortium is well-equipped to deliver a professional approach, both to the important aspect of revenue generation and the marketing of the new station.

Sales Representation

Sonic FM will engage the services of the well established Dublin-based sales house, Broadcast Media Sales, to take control and responsibility for all the station's national advertising, sponsorship and promotions requirements.

The sales house currently has responsibility for all aspects of national revenue for three major city stations outside the Dublin area. The BMS operation is highly respected within the advertising agency sector both in Ireland, Northern Ireland and UK markets. The personnel have a combined wealth of experience and industry knowledge unmatched by any other sales house, achieving overseas experience in multi-station selling both in the UK and the Czech Republic.

The sales house, since its inception in 1996, has a proven successful growth track record in revenue year-on-year for the stations it currently represents.

The normal commercial rates of commission, within the industry, will be paid by Sonic FM to the sales house.

It is proposed that BMS will also handle all business to business marketing to advertising on behalf of Sonic FM, including:

• Media Pack

• Multi-Media Presentations to Agencies

• Advertising in Trade Magazines

• Quarterly Newsletters

• JNLR Flyers

The sales house will keep the advertising agencies and client base informed on all relevant developments on a regular basis, as required.

In addition, Sonic FM will have a local sales team of three sales professionals, one of which will be the local Sales Manager who will oversee the smooth running of the department. While the majority of the station's revenue will be derived through advertising agencies, we will also target many smaller Cork businesses who prefer to deal directly with media providers. All local sales staff will have drive, enthusiasm and good communication and negotiation skills and the team will pride itself on its professional service and attention to customer care.

Rate Card Structure

We have developed an advertising rate structure for Sonic FM which, we believe, will provide a cost-competitive route for new and existing clients to target the youth audience, and one which crucially will enable the station to survive and prosper.


During the initial start-up period a discount of 20%, in the form of bonus airtime, will be offered to clients who run advertising campaigns in the first half-year of the station being on air.

The average 30-second spot rate of £40 will thereby be reduced to £32, delivering even better value for money to prospective advertisers. This will obviously be reviewed and revised upwards as the station's audience grows.

Chart 12



Spot Rate


Today FM



Cork's 96 / 103FM



Sonic FM


(£32 start up)



Based on projected listenership figures, these rates should make Sonic FM the most cost-efficient station in the Cork market for reaching young adults.

The average spot rate compares favourably with the established stations and is priced to reflect Sonic FM's more targeted appeal towards a younger audience demographic.

Chart 13

Cork Audience Costs – Adults 15 - 34

Av. 30 Secs











Today FM





Cork's 96 / 103FM





Sonic FM





* Costs based on 14-spot prime-time package average at Oct 2000.



Marketing and Promoting Sonic FM

Regular investment in advertising and promotion is an essential part of establishing and maintaining audiences throughout the media market. This will be particularly important for Sonic FM, given its ambitions and goals in what is a highly competitive radio market.

Our planned investment in marketing will, in the short-term, seek to:

(i) Build an identity for Sonic FM that will attract a substantial share of listeners in the 12 - 30 year old age group, and

(ii) Convince an intermediary audience of advertisers, agencies and business partners of the intent and commitment of those behind the station.

Experience has shown that both of these objectives are on-going and that listeners and advertisers need constant reassurance of their station choice. In the medium to long-term though, the communications emphasis will endeavour to establish listener loyalty and give occasional listeners compelling reasons to tune to the service.

In seeking to build a strong audience base, Sonic FM will not only face competition from the national services, but also from the established Cork station. For that reason, it is our intention to promote the new station in a distinctive manner, both nationally and regionally. We will promote programmes, music styles and the station as an entity, using targeted local options and 'street media' to address listeners directly. Our communications strategy will be inventive, involving and creative.

Based on a provisional marketing budget for the station's launch and first 12 months of £250,000, the following is a broad outline of our planned approach:

• Television – Using the locally-based Cork Multi-Channel service with appropriately-branded communication around its sports coverage. We will also consider carefully-targeted spots around relevant programmes on TV3.

• Outdoor – Important for bringing the Sonic FM message onto the streets, this medium will also help to build awareness amongst the more mobile youth population and, in particular, at various shopping centres.

• Press – Newspapers like the Irish Examiner and Evening Echo will be used for the promotion of the programming timing, content and major giveaways, particularly to 18 - 30 year old listeners, and the announcement of audience trends to the marketing / advertising sectors.

• Merchandising – Sonic FM merchandising will be designed to create a distinct Cork feel and character for the station. Branded merchandise will be used to highlight the station's identity at major music, cinema or sports events. Another area of particular focus for this activity will be schools and colleges, particularly locations like UCC, CIT, etc., with their c. 18,000 students.

• Sponsorship – Sonic FM will heighten its presence and youth credentials 'on the ground' in Cork by sponsoring relevant concerts, music, dance and comedy events. Through our existing and well-established relationships with event promoters we will also aim to stage an annual mid-Summer 'Sonic Boom' event in the region. This will be a free open-air event featuring a mix of Irish and international acts, with carnival / funfair elements to it.

• The Internet – In keeping with the progressive image of the station, it is our intention that Sonic FM would have its own constantly-updated web-site. This would enable it to not only communicate its identity and content to an increasing on-line and older population, but also enable regular dialogue to take place with listeners and special interest groups.

We have also budgeted within our financial projections for an advertising spend of circa £250,000 within Sonic's first year and a further £450,000 across years 2 and 3.





Financial and Business Plan

A realistic financial strategy and business plan has been developed by Sonic FM's promoters who have an intimate and unique knowledge of the Cork radio market. The plan, as presented, will act as a realistic benchmark on which to measure the station's performance on an ongoing basis and is based on three key underlying principles.

1. The project is correctly resourced with an appropriate funding mix, from the outset.

The promoters are committed to ensuring that the correct levels of permanent and medium term finance are available to fund the establishment and expansion of the station's operations. The promoters will subscribe for an initial investment of £1 million with a further £100,000, £200,000 and £100,000 committed for years one to three of the project.

Ultimately, the promoters expect that the service will provide sufficient profit to retire debt burdens and give them an adequate return on their investment, having firstly ensured the future viability of the station through the investment and re-investment of funds.

2. Prudent revenue targets are met on an ongoing basis from advertising, programme sponsorships and promotions.

The Sonic FM consortium is confident that much of the revenue aimed at the young Cork market is currently being spent on other media options or on unfocused national radio, due to the lack of a targeted local service. Our analysis and estimates of media spending also creates a clear expectation that the local radio market will grow with the launch of a new station by creating a new sector and further promoting the medium of local radio.

Despite the level of caution expressed by some to our media directors survey, the desire of advertising agencies to have additional local radio options, together with the reputation of the promoters with them, will ensure confidence in the project from the outset and the allocation of revenue streams, even in the absence of JNLR figures. On our inclusion in the JNLR results, we predict growth in our advertising revenues on a consistent basis, once the quantity and quality of listenership which we have estimated, are achieved.

3. The project has the necessary costs base to succeed and that these costings are rigidly adhered to through tight cost controls.

Only a well resourced service in terms of infrastructure and personnel will attract the necessary revenue streams needed to succeed in what is already a highly competitive media market. Our plan is accurately costed to ensure sufficient finance is in place to establish a technically advanced studio and transmission network, attract and keep professional and talented staff and have a sufficient marketing budget to establish and promote a strong brand image.

The company does not expect to return an operating profit on trading until year three of operation, resulting in the initial priority being to establish a solid base on which our profit targets can be reached in year three and subsequently on an ongoing basis.

We will not be over-optimistic at the outset, but will succeed by implementing a prudent and achievable long-term plan.



Investment Proposal

(i) Funding requirements for the launch and first 3 years of operation are as follows:


Capital Expenditure 545,000

Pre-launch Expenses 215,000

Working Capital 384,000


TOTAL 1,144,000

(ii) Source method of funding:


Share Capital 1,000,000

Shareholders Loans 400,000

Leasing NIL

Bank Loans NIL

Grants & Donations NIL


TOTAL 1,400,000

The total funding less the funding required represents the company's cash balance at the end of year 3 of £256,000.

The above funding is sufficient to cover all planned expenditure up to and including year 3 of operation. Subsequently, we predict a positive cash flow from operations on an ongoing basis. Both the share capital and the loan capital will be raised pro-rata to the station's shareholding. Loan capital is interest free and repayments will only be made once the station has a minimum cash balance, as determined by the board, on an ongoing basis.



Notes To The Financial Projections


1. Advertising Revenue – Amounts invoiced for advertising, sponsorships and promotions, net of vat and advertising agency commission.

2. Sales Commissions – Agency – 15% of national revenues payable to Dublin-based sales house, BMS.

Local – commission payable to local sales team in excess of base targets which are covered by salary.

3. Royalties & Levies – Full provision for royalties and levies to IRTC, IMRO, PPIL and MCPS. The IRTC levy is calculated at 3% on gross advertising revenues as outlined in the "Guide to Submissions".

4. Salaries & Contracts – Staff payments, employees and contractors are included in full, including employer's PRSI contribution. Full provision is also included for staff benefits and bonuses due under the achievement of the underlying business plan.

5. Programming Expenses – Non-staff programming costs including cost of news service providers.

6. Market Research – Contribution to JNLR survey and cost of internal and external market and music research

7. Advertising & Promotion – Cost of using other media, merchandising and event sponsorship / donations.

 8. Depreciations – Capital items are depreciated at standard accountancy rates.

9. Start-Up Costs – Pre-launch expenditure including staff recruitment, training, research, development of the station's identity and pre-launch marketing. Such expenditure will be written off over the period of the licence. i.e. 10 years.

10. Corporation Tax – Tax has not been provided for due to the losses made during years 1 – 3.

11. Cashflows – The opening cash balance represents the cash introduced of £1m less the monies expended on pre-launch costs and initial capital outlay of £580,000.

12. VAT – VAT liabilities will be discharged in line with current VAT legislation. For the purpose of the cashflows we have excluded VAT on all receipts and payments and have also excluded the net bi-monthly VAT payment / refund. While this may result in short-term timing differences we are satisfied that the amount is immaterial in the overall context of the cashflows.

13. Advertising Revenue /

Debtors – It is assumed that invoices will be paid 50% in the month following invoice and 50% in the month thereafter.

14. Creditors – It is assumed that creditors will be paid within 45 days of invoicing.


Licence Proposal

Profit & Loss - Projected








Advertising Revenue




Sponsorship & Other Income




Advertising Revenue Total




Sales Commission - Agency




Sales Commission - Local




Royalties & Levies




Direct Costs Total




Salaries & Contractors




Programming Expenses




Directors Fees




Rent & Rates








Repairs & Maintenance




Light, Heat, Power




Telephone, Fax




Postage & Stationery




Motor & Travel




Records & Tapes




Market Research




Advertising & Promotions




Audit & Accountancy








Bank Charges




Bad Debts




Overheads Total




Operating Profit








Start-up Costs w/o




Interest on Borrowings




Profit/(loss) Before Tax




Corporation Tax




Profit After Tax




Balance at Beginning of Period




Balance at End of Period




Licence Proposal

Cash Flow Projections - Summary









Operating Profit





Movements in Working Capital

Debtors - increase





Creditors - increase








Capital Expenditure

Purchase of Fixed assets





Launch Costs






Interest on Borrowings





Free Cash-Flow





Capital/Loans introduced





Financing Cash-flow





Opening Bank Balance





Closing Bank Balance









Here we address the technical requirements of the proposed franchise in two key areas:

(i) Technical Philosophy – a brief description of the options created for the Programme Controller by the engineering plan;

(ii) Transmission Plan – how to achieve the required coverage of 98% of the city and county;

We are mindful of the IRTC technical requirements and, based on experience, these will be more than met in the Sonic FM proposal. Using the latest technology, we propose, wherever possible, to standardise equipment and thus keep capital costs to a minimum, yet allow for in-built obsolescence, especially in the transmission equipment.

Certain criteria need to be met. These include:

(a) Achieving identical, if not better, coverage to all existing operators in the Cork area.

(b) Using digital technology, where possible.

(c) Allowing for appropriately-targeted programming.

(d) Without compromise, keeping capital requirements to a minimum.

(e) Creating 'future-conscious' design in all engineering work.

(f) Specifying the proposal in a non-technical manner.

We are confident that our proposal meets all of these criteria. All of the relevant IRTC documentation requirements are either in the main body or in the appendices.


(i) Technical Philosophy

Our research shows that young people are very music-driven and as everyone appreciates, the sound quality of audio recordings has consistently and dramatically improved over the last ten years. Even in the last five years, the introduction of the portable minidisk player and now MP3 technology have had an extraordinary effect on audio quality. Young people have come to accept that portable media, home hi-fi and excellent car radios / entertainment centres can now deliver unsurpassed audio quality.

A radio station's main function is to send its audio to those same devices in a manner that surpasses their performance. To achieve this, radio technology must continue to almost reinvent itself. The present day studio and, to a lesser extent, transmission systems are moving totally to a digital domain. We propose to move in this direction, wherever possible, thus keeping the audio quality amenable to the type of audio spectrum required. Our audio chain will deliver programme content unattenuated and enhanced, where necessary. The commercial production studios will allow for an audio version of present day music videos to be created, thus providing highly entertaining and extremely well made content with an appeal to the audience.

Sonic FM will have the ability to link a number of nightclubs in geographically different locations to the main studios and, in so doing, broadcast the entire output from the club to Cork City and County. This will be done via ISDN and the location of the broadcast would not be limited to the Cork area, but it could come from anywhere with an ISDN link throughout the world.

This same ISDN technology will allow a school to be connected or a number of schools to effectively teleconference in the event of a debate, a lecture or any other educational function, such as inter-schools competitions, question time, public speaking and other areas of education deemed necessary for broadcast.

The on-air studio will provide for a level of talk and debate, with the production studios providing for a small recording studio facility to help create demo tapes for fledgling artists and groups.

Sports will be broadcast on ISDN, where possible, and where not, Sonic FM will use high speed lines and report phones to return the audio to the studio for recording or transmission.

This design, combined with original and novel programming, will deliver the best possible quality of entertainment and information to our target audience.


(ii) Transmission Plan (See Figure 1 in Appendices)

Having studied the present day coverage of Cork City and County, it is apparent that a number of possibilities exist to put a second transmission service in place. These are as follows:

(a) Use the existing Cork's 96FM / 103FM network;

(b) Use the RTE network;

(c) Use a combination of both;

(d) Use a 'greenfield' stand-alone network.

If one studies these options in an objective manner, it will become obvious that going with a greenfield option is not viable, due to the greater capital costs involved and associated planning problems.

A combination of both is a possibility, but it is very likely to pose huge engineering difficulties, not alone in co-ordinating its start-up and installation, but also in maintaining it later. (Examples include responsibility for equipment purchase, type of equipment, spares and areas of responsibility, such as maintenance, etc.)


The RTE option would not provide the coverage without using a very large number of transmitters and, even then, West Cork would not be served well by any of the RTE sites such as Mullachinish and Castletownbeare. For example, power that RTE is using on Mullachinish is 160 kwatt against the ODTR requirement of 5 kwatt. Common sense will show that this option, while acknowledging a very high reliability factor, would fail on the most vital criteria of adequate coverage from day one.

This leaves just one option, as we see it, – the present and growing 96FM / 103FM network. This system has taken ten years to achieve its present level of coverage and it's estimated that it will have roughly 98% coverage by mid 2001, due to its proposed expansion on the Dublin Road and the Kinsale Town areas. It would seem an automatic choice to go with the option that provides the best coverage.

We have obtained permission to use the 96FM / 103FM network and Sonic FM will, where possible, combine its transmitters into their existing aerial systems which we are advised will take the power.

Using the 96FM Hollyhill site, which has vast tower space, we would put two additional high power dipole aerials stacked, but fed separately from two 1 kwatt transmitters fed in phase and using two exciters on hot standby.

As this site would be the main hub of the entire network and all others will be fed from it, it has to be ultra-reliable. This is achieved by the split transmitter / aerial system proposed. In the event of transmission / power failure the other half remains on air (admittedly 3DB down), but this is acceptable in a backup scenario.

The North and West of the county will be fed from identical 2 kwatt transmitters with a combination of 250 watt and 50 watt transmitters, again all identical and from the same manufacturer.

The main link to Hollyhill will be a Moseley microwave link using a digital interface from an orban digital optimod. The stereo generator will also be digital and thus keep the chain in this domain as much as possible.

Sonic FM will purchase and install a second link system which would be normally off. It is believed that Moseley can develop a hot standby switch system to allow for instant changeover on to a second stereo generator, using its RDS to be programmed in a different way so alerting technical staff to the system being in backup mode. It also increases reliability as even the stereo generator now has backup.

We propose using our own cabins placed on the Hollyhill site. One will be used to house the transmission equipment and the other for the backup generator. This makes us fully independent of the 96FM / 103FM sound operation, as we would be, in effect, just renting tower space and ground space.

West Cork will be served from Nowen Hill using a 2 kwatt transmitter fed off-air from Hollyhill and combined into the existing aerial system there.

North Cork will be served from Mt. Hillary and, as in West Cork, it will be off-air fed from Hollyhill.

Across the remainder of Cork County the Dublin Road will be covered by the Cork North East relay, midway between Fermoy and Mitchelstown and serving both of those towns as well as all the Dublin Road.

The West of North Cork is fully served by Mt. Hillary. Mid-Cork will be served by a repeater in Macroom and fed off-air from either Hollyhill or one of the other main station sites.

Cork harbour and Carrigaline are to be served by the Carrigaline repeater and Kinsale will also have its own repeater, assuming the ODTR allow a frequency.

Youghal Town is extremely isolated from any of the main sites and it has to have its own very low power repeater. This will again be the Cork 96 / County Sound site which adequately serves the area presently.

Transmitter Choice

Capital requirements are secondary to reliability and, therefore, it is not proposed to use low cost transmitters. There are a number of different units on the market today and generally all are reliable to various degrees. However, design redundancy is a key factor and we believe that a fair compromise between capital cost and redundancy is achieved using the Eddystone series. (The details are enclosed in the appendix.) The transmitter is so designed as to be very modular even down to its power supply units and all can be changed in hot mode so that the transmitter never needs to be taken off air.

The Eddystone series is already being used here in Ireland in a number of stations and will pass, and even surpass, all the technical specifications required by the IRTC.

We have included a quotation for an entire network with a 12 weeks maximum delivery timescale. The transmitter quote will have a "guaranteed in writing" reduction of up to 15% next year due to a reduction in transmitter costs, thus saving a considerable amount of money should an order be placed after January 2001. For now we have budgeted for the full list price.

Because of the use of existing sites and infrastructure, virtually no aerial work will be required. We see this network taking no more than four months to install and commission. At a quoted cost from Eddystone for the installation, it is likely to be as little as £5,000 not including links, etc., and we would look for a 'turnkey operation' from them at this cost.


We do have a significantly cheaper option also in the appendix, using Link transmitters. It is included for comparison purposes only and to clearly show our financial commitment to the reliability of the project.

The band pass filters will comply with the IRTC requirements.

All of the 96 / 103FM site information is included in the appendix for the record.

Observations & Notes In Relation To The Transmission Proposal

It should be noted that Sonic FM believes that the ERP allowed for the Cork City site i.e., Hollyhill, is not adequate at 1 kwatt. Realistically it should be at least 4 kwatt, an increase of 6db being suggested based on practical experience of the area.

When the ODTR choose frequencies for the different sites, it would be preferable to have the highest frequency (105mh or higher) on the Hollyhill site, so as to allow for best 'separation' on the County Sound sites, which are all operating on the 103 - 104mhz band. So as to give us maximum protection we have planned for triple notch filters on the off-air receivers inputs and will use the industry standard receivers Innovonics1630's.

We will contract out all relevant transmission work to Eddystone, with the project being overseen by a local engineering project manager.







Studios (See Figures 2 - 7 in Appendices)

It is Sonic FM's aim to establish a state-of-the-art digital enabled studio complex. Our primary on-air studio will be mainly a digital facility. The audio output will come via a hard disk system from any of the following:

(a) Radiomation

(b) RCS

(c) Enco Dad

We have planned for the most expensive system based on quotes from Enco Dad and RCS, with Radiomation being a definite option also. We will decide on the most suitable one after demonstrations of all the systems to the various personnel who would be using them.

We propose a "clutter free" on-air desk with the presenter seeing only a mixer and computer screen. The system would have CD and minidisk backup, but this equipment will not be on the on-air desk but rather it will sit on a rack in the studio most likely in an unused corner. The purpose of this rack is purely to keep the station on-air, should everything, including the main mixer, go down.

The on-air studio itself will use an Alice Air 2000 analogue desk rather than a digital one. Experience has shown that the Alice desk is far more likely to survive the rigours of 'round the clock' operation and it's an accepted industry standard.


Talk facilities will be provided for discussions.

A research area will act as a producer's screening area and then double up as a show prep area.

The usual PA and monitoring both off-air and desk will be provided as will mike lights and ducking of the PA systems.

The phone system will be a Gentner Digital Hybrid which is state-of-the-art and is digital in design.

We will use a minidisk pro or CD machines to play commercials into the system, if the hard disk system failed or if, for any reason, the whole hard disk network became unstable. The production studios will be mastering to both minidisk and CD recordable medium, allowing for further backup using the rack system as play out

Talkback will be installed in all studios

UPS units fitted to all studios will protect the computers and desks from mains-borne spikes or during generator power-up.

The studios will have emergency lighting and fire control using flashing beacons.

The main on-air mike will be a Neuman TLM 193, an industry standard with Beyer M201 or M300 as guest mikes.

Inputs to the on-air studio will be:

(a) ISDN

(b) feed from news desk

(c) off-air monitoring

(d) network feed for hard disk system

Outputs will be main feed to Optimod via switcher and delay line unit and feeds to the ISDN codec.

In the event of a total studio failure, such as a fire in the studio, any one of the other studios can be instantly switched to the Optimod using the switcher located in the control room. It will be ensured that the delay line will remain in the chain in all circumstances.


Production Studio

Here we propose the use of a Yamaha 02R digital mixer. This will have Soundscape editing and be networked to the hard disk system.

The 02R will have various outboard effects units to augment its internal effects software. We will use a TC Gold Finaliser to create an industry acceptable finished product, so giving our advertisers maximum quality from the FM signal.

A sound booth will be shared between the main production studio and the backup on-air studio.

The usual monitoring, and mike lights will be installed.

The production studio will use the backup on-air / production studio coupled to the sound booth as a facility for small groups to create a professional demo recording. The booth can be used by the singer and the room by the musicians, all then re-mastered later in the production studios.


Backup On-Air / Production Studio 2

This studio will primarily be used for smaller, less time-consuming production work. It will use an 01V digital desk coupled to the hard disk system and mastering using Cool Edit Pro multi track editor.

The studio will connect to the switcher in the control room to allow for on-air maintenance on the equipment.

The Internet will be installed on the Editor PC here allowing "audio only" access to the desk but not to the internal hard disk network. This will make it impossible for the network to be virused externally and, when the system is set up, all floppy drives and unprotected CD drives will be disabled in all systems.

The Internet will be installed in the prep / producer's room.

Sonic FM will run Internet audio streaming in line with its desire to attract an increasingly Internet-literate young audience.


News Preparation Studio

Here again an 01V digital mixer desk will be used, coupled to a digital editor running basic Cool Edit.

The studio will have news feeds from INN and will also be able to take reports via ISDN.

It will have basic news-gathering equipment with the emphasis being totally on digital audio.

The studio will be fed up on a channel on the on-air desk and news read from its own studio, with the cuts being fired from the hard disk system directly into the news desk and, in so doing, arriving on the on-air news channel. Overnight news will come directly from the hard disk system as standard.


Control Room Technical Area

This area is considered to be extremely vital to the operation of a radio station. We propose using two racks to hold the various linking and switching equipment

Here will also sit the main server for the hard disk system. The room will be air-conditioned with heat loading being carefully monitored and also dust filters will be doubled in the air system in this room.

The limiting and compression will come from an Orban Digital Optimod Model 8200 with Aes / Ebu interface to the Mosley link system. The data stream will transfer up the link to the Hollyhill site, where it will be decoded and converted to Stereo MPX for the main transmitter.

An RDS generator is included in the system and, as the remaining transmitters are all MPX off-air driven, no further RDS encoders are needed, reducing costs and keeping the system within spec far easier.

With this arrangement, any adjustments to the Optimod can all be made at the control room rather than on a transmitter site and also the risk of RF breakthrough onto the audio is dramatically reduced.

The second link transmitter will be installed in the control room with the digital data split between both.

An ISDN codec with distribution amplifier will allow the audio to be fed to all studios. With an audio switcher we can feed any studio back into the codec, thus allowing us many programme possibilities and any studio output can be sent to an OB for monitoring direct off its desk.

Sentinel logging will log off-air with tape backup.

As stated, the studios can be switched to the links in this control room and the Bellar Delay Line will be placed after the switcher and can be remotely controlled from the on-air studio when it's not in a discussion programme.


Ancillary Equipment

The studios will have generator backup with auto start and interlock.

Heating will be less of a problem due to the nature of studios in general and air-conditioning / heating will be used as is the norm. Care will be taken to ensure the acoustic integrity of the air unit in the studios.

Software licences will be paid for as part of the equipment costs such as Soundscape and Cool Edit Pro.


Studio Location

We have employed Declan O'Sullivan, Architect, to identify a suitable building which will facilitate the studio and transmission plans outlined. The building identified will have line of sight to Hollyhill, have wheelchair access and satisfy all IRTC specifications on accoustic treatment. Our brief is to identify suitable office space which can be modified to incorporate our studio plan. This will hopefully assist in limiting any potential planning problems.



Hopefully it is evident from this section that Sonic FM can provide a superb radio service technically and at a very reasonable cost, due to sharing the service with the extensive transmission network run by 96 / 103FM. The listener will be treated to digital audio with unrivalled coverage. The technical thrust of the design is to primarily meet the specs required by the IRTC and then to achieve the criteria stated earlier.

We feel that all this is possible in a timescale of five to six months, due to the co-site sharing plan. The studios will be installed simultaneously to the transmission and we do not envisage any planning delays.

It is obvious that as technology improves and experience is obtained over time, what was once considered to be a major engineering task is now no longer that complex. We are approaching the era of 'radio in a box' and while this proposal does not go that far, it is, in principle, following the same lines.

John Cahill

Technical Information Services

Avondale Park


Co. Cork







Readiness Date

Based on experience of previous station launches and taking a prudent approach (especially in relation to planning permission issues), we estimate a readiness date of six months for Sonic FM after the franchise is awarded.


Critical Path Analysis

The key elements involved in bringing Sonic FM to a point of on-air readiness span the areas of transmission, studio facilities and personnel. Movement on all three fronts will happen simultaneously over a six-month period, as follows:


Transmission / Network

Month 1: Project Manager appointed and access to sites agreed with 96FM engineering team. Equipment ordered, with penalties for late delivery. Deliveries have reached 30 - 60% for transmitters. Installations have reached 30%.

Month 2: Deliveries have reached 80% for transmitters and links installation has reached 70%.



Month 3: Deliveries are completed for transmitters and links, and microwave is up and running. Transmitter installation is 99% completed.

Month 4: Transmission is completed and field strength survey has begun.

Month 5: Generator on-line and any other transmission problems are all solved.

Month 6: Transmission in place at beginning of this month and everything is on-air ready.


Studio Facilities

All assuming planning is in place:

Month 1: Builder is agreed and work immediately begins. Timescale of 3 to 4 months for total completion is agreed. Penalty structure in place.

Month 2: Block work completed. Glazing and soundproofing is almost completed. Initial electrical cabling has begun and is progressing from on-air and control room to other studios.

Month 3: Studios soundproofing completed. Builder snag list running. Studio woodwork has begun and is progressing from on-air to all other studios. Studio wiring installation completed by end of this month.

Month 4: All unforeseen studio problems must be completed. Studio backup generator on-line and tested for a week. 

Month 5: Presenter training on systems, engineering system-fail tests have been instigated and first on-air engineering link and FM tests begun. Line-up of entire system begun and completed by end of month.

Month 6: On-air ready at beginning of this month.


Other Requirements

Month 1: Sonic FM management contracts agreed and team begin final recruitment process.

Month 2 / 3: First recruits join the station and any necessary training begins.

Month 4: Music library for the station established. Further music testing undertaken with 12 - 30 year old audience. BMS / local sales team begin agency and advertiser presentations. Sonic FM select and brief its own advertising agency.

Month 5: Music and presenter research continues. Key deals concluded with long-term advertisers. Sonic FM ad campaign confirmed and booked.

Month 6: Formal station launch.