Can Emap really be bored of radio? Unlikely, you would think, given
its track record. In recent years, Tim Schoonmaker, the chief executive
of the company’s radio division, has completed the purchase of the
London dance station, Kiss FM, taken all of its AM stations and
rebranded them as the Magic network, and bought Melody Radio.
This last initiative wasn’t exactly an impulse purchase - the pounds 40
million asking price was pretty steep to start with and, because of
concentration of ownership regulations, it had to offload Red Dragon FM
to complete the deal.
Schoonmaker also masterminded the launch of the group’s own radio sales
house, Emap On Air.
Last week, he had his reward. Apparently, Schoonmaker is to move down
one in the pecking order. Previously, he reported directly to Kevin
Hand, chief executive of the whole Emap group. Now he will report to Tom
Moloney, chief executive of the consumer magazines division.
Consumer magazines? Let’s get that straight. So that’s a mature,
low-growth medium, where you have to invest increasing amounts merely to
protect your market share, taking charge of the medium that has been
going like a train recently and faces one of the most exciting
challenges in decades with the introduction of digital?
Strange, if true. In this case, ’if’ is a very large concept indeed.
There were some confused signals emerging from Emap last week. Callers
to Kevin Hand’s office were bounced a couple of times and eventually
found themselves speaking to a rather vague spokes-woman. She implied
that you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the papers. Was she
then denying the reports? Was a corrective statement to be released? No,
In fact she admitted that no-one really knew what the facts of the
matter were. ’But Kevin Hand should know what he’s doing, shouldn’t
Many theories rushed in to fill the vacuum. Is this empire building by
Moloney? Almost certainly. But why? Conclusion number one is that radio
is now out of favour - despite Schoonmaker’s best efforts, it isn’t an
attractive enough long-term proposition. Alternatively, there’s the
masthead programming argument.
In contrast to its magazine market rivals, for whom the masthead concept
is inexorably wedded to television, Emap is known to have been looking
to use its consumer magazine brands as source material for radio
Could a restructure facilitate this?
One advertising industry source cautioned against reading too much into
this: ’The only conclusion that is impossible to escape is that Tom
Moloney’s star is in the ascendancy - and his fingerprints are all over
some of the leaks we’ve seen. Don’t bet on the company downgrading radio
though - it might just be that Moloney is now regarded better at
handling mainstream consumer media.’
Jonathan Gillespie, head of radio at BMP Optimum, has another angle: ’I
sincerely hope it’s not a cooling on radio. It’s making money, it’s got
some good stations. It is an attractive proposition for anyone using the
Insiders at Emap have hinted that any alteration to Schoonmaker’s
reporting line may have something to do with Hand’s workload, which is
not all UK-based. Schoonmaker himself would only be drawn as far as
saying in a statement: ’Emap’s commitment to radio has never been
stronger.’ But the unanimous message from the market is that Emap should
formally put the record straight.
Debbie Goodman, head of radio at CIA Medianetwork, comments: ’Emap has
spent a lot on programming and has done an excellent job of rebranding
its stations. To downweight radio at this stage without seeing it come
to fruition would be extremely wasteful.’