Celador faces rival bid for renewal of Town 102 FM commercial radio licence in Ipswich

The Ipswich FM commercial radio licence, currently operated by Celador as Town 102, is up for renewa

The Ipswich FM commercial radio licence, currently operated by Celador as Town 102, is up for renewal. - Credit: Archant

Broadcasting group Celador faces a rival bidder for the renewal of the Ipswich commercial radio licence which it acquired last year.

The station currently operates as Town 102 although it now shares the same schedule as four other sister stations ‒ Dream 100 (in north Essex), The Beach (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth), Radio Norwich and North Norfolk Radio ‒ with all programming, apart from news, now being produced in Norwich.

Celador acquired all five stations last January as part of Anglian Broadcasting Company (Holdings) and was given permission by regulator Ofcom in July to merge the previously separate Suffolk and Norfolk programming departments.

However, the group now faces competition for the renewal of the Ipswich FM licence, applications for which closed yesterday, from a newly-formed company, MuxCo Suffolk Radio.

It is a three-way joint venture between Lincs FM Group, Nation Broadcasting and MuxCo which already have broadcasting interests across much of England and Wales including the multiplex which supports DAB (digital) radio broadcasts in Suffolk by stations including BBC Radio Suffolk and Heart.

In its submission to Ofcom, MuxCo Suffolk Radio says its strategy is to provide a “locally focused radio station for Ipswich” which would broadcast on both FM and DAB and that it is “confident” it can reach 15% of its potential audience in year one, rising to 19% in year three.

“Whilst this is significantly ahead of Town 102’s current performance, when that station was a true local radio station, serving the town from the town, it achieved reach of over 20% for four consecutive years from 2011,” it adds.

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“Our projections take account of today’s more competitive environment for listeners and also reflect the clear appeal of a local station for Ipswich, based in a programmed exclusively for the town.”

Supporters named in the MuxCo Suffolk Radio bid document include Ipswich MP Sandy Martin and the chairman of the Ipswich Central business improvement district, Terry Baxter.

Mr Martin is quoted as saying: “Having spoken to you and various other people, including representatives of Celador, I feel I now know enough to be able to give you a very strong message of support.

“As MP for Ipswich I am convinced of the need for a viable commercial local radio station to complement the service from the local BBC Radio Suffolk.

“It is essential that this should be a genuinely local station, based among its audience, and broadcasting content which is determined by and sensitive to the needs of Ipswich people.”

A spokeswoman for Celador confirmed that the group has submitted its own application for renewal of the Ipswich FM licence, adding that the document would be made public by Ofcom “in due course”.