First Appearance For Phantom Of The Airwaves

After a long and bloody legal battle that’s haunted them for more than a year, Irish promoter Denis Desmond and U2 manager Paul McGuinness are about to witness the manifestation of their Phantom FM radio station on the airwaves.

An April 6th victory in Dublin’s Supreme Court, when two of three judges ruled that their bid for the city’s new radio licence was a fair winner, Desmond, McGuinness and the consortium behind the Phantom bid, which also includes their business partner Trevor Bowen, are now clear to launch the new station at the beginning of September.

It originally won the licence in November 2004 but a rival syndicate called Zed FM, which included Peter Aiken – Desmond’s main opposition in the Irish live music market – Bob Geldof, Niall Stokes of Hot Press magazine and former Dublin FM 104 chief Dermot Hanrahan, won a judicial review into how the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) came down on the side of its rival.

Although Aiken said the legal fight that followed wasn’t of his choosing and he’d been happy to accept the original verdict, it has clearly left the Phantom FM consortium disappointed that the to-ing and fro-ing in court has stalled the launch of its station by at least 12 months.

Desmond said he could never understand why Zed didn’t make its legal challenge, which was based on the fact that Phantom was operating as a pirate station between 1998 and 2003 and the BCI didn’t strictly follow its own licence procedures, until the final decision had been made.

The new station, which is expected to concentrate on indie-bred acts, already has media analysts making upbeat noises about its prospects.

“Radio is ridiculously buoyant at the moment,” Paul McCabe of Irish ad agency MCM told the country’s Unison news site.

He said media planners would welcome the fact that a new station would provide more ad space for campaigns currently finding it difficult to get on air.

He also said he welcomed what he called “niche stations,” which allow advertisers to target precise audiences rather than running ads that hit a blanket audience.

He predicted that listeners will be under 35 and at the younger end of this age group, and that male listeners will outnumber females. He also said that the audience was likely to be in the ABC1 category, which means the group will appeal to advertisers.

Phantom manager Simon Maher told Unison the station would be dominated by music. But, like most Irish radio stations, it’s likely to devote about 20 percent of its air time to news and current affairs.

Unison said the station aims to get a 4 percent market share in three years and about euro 1 million a year in advertising revenues.

– John Gammon