MEDIA SPOTLIGHT ON: EMAP RADIO - Emap needs to set the record straight about radio business. Why is the radio chief now reporting to the magazine boss, asks Alasdair Reid?

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.

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,

not exactly.



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

he?’



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

programming.



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

medium.’



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.’



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