Bonus Post: should we require 20% Irish music on Irish radio?

A few short weeks ago, you might remember us covering a story where Dave Fanning and Louis Walsh called for more Irish music to be played on Irish radio. That exact same week, 98FM canceled their long running Irish music show. This move was heavily criticised by some in the Irish Music industry, with some feeling the radio industry pays little more than lip service to Irish Artists..

The calls for change have only gotten louder since then, as over 100 people have now signed a petition calling for stations to play more Irish music. More on that in a moment.

not everyone is 100% on board with this call however. A number of months back, a poll on the Radio Land Instagram found that 60% of people said they didn’t think the BAI should enforce a 20% rule. While our sample size was admittedly tiny, it shows that there are people on that side as well.

So should we play 20% Irish music on licensed stations? In this post we’ll take a look at that and examine the view on both sides.

Let’s start with the Play More Irish campaign

Play More Irish Logo, with the hashtag PlayMoreIrish

Introducing Rory from Dublin. Rory is a 38 year old music fan, but he doesn’t work in the industry. Rory created the Play More Irish petition to try and get Irish stations to Play More Irish music on air.

This petition (to be sent to the minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media) has received over 100 signatures so far, and continues to gain more quickly. The petition page makes a number of points on why Irish Music should be played more.

  • Radio plays an important role in introducing listeners to new music and artists, Each licensed station should be required to devote a minimum 20% of its weekly music broadcasting to Irish artists
  • Both Canada & France have policies in place to ensure their homegrown talent is given their fair share of airplay. (more on that in a minute)
  • They also quote Dave and Louis, worth noting that Dave Fanning actually called for 25% while the petition Is only calling for a 20% minimum

So a general argument there is that it would benefit our artists, and if other countries can do it, why can’t we?

It’s an interesting point of view for sure. So, what are the rules like in other countries?

I’m going to focus on Canada specifically here as ireland and Canada would probably have more musically in common, considering the American influence. Also, these are rules for commercial stations, just know the public service broadcaster has stricter guidelines.

In Canada, a commercial station playing pop music is required to play 35% Canadian music. It’s also a requirement that 35% of the music played between 6AM and 6 PM is Canadian. This rule applies Monday to Friday.

For special interest stations, that number is 10%, with a higher percentage for certain sub categories of music. The 6am-6pm rule doesn’t apply, however, stations are required to ensure that Canadian tracks “are scheduled in a reasonable manner throughout the broadcast day”

So, the question is, should something similar be done here in Ireland? Well, let’s take a look at the other side.

The other side of the coin

We posted a story on Instagram asking for people to share their opinion. We specifically asked for people who disagreed with the 20% rule as we wanted to try provide as much balance as possible. we also gave people the option to remain Anonymous so they didn’t need to worry about upsetting employers, interestingly, everyone we spoke to requested anonymity.

So, how did that go? Well it was interesting. Most people who contacted us actually supported a quota, with some having quite strong words on the subject.

There’s no way you can cover someone who wants to deny Irish artists fair airplay in a way that comes off well. It’s a hilariously dated opinion. an Uplift petition isn’t going to change anyone’s minds. Music is the pesky thing inbetween ads for the commercial broadcasters. Radio is meant to document what’s happening, not tell people what to like

From a former podcast producer for a station in the south of the country

One presenter on a Dublin commercial station said that they felt that artists needed more support to make their music radio ready. We asked this podcaster if they agreed, but they argued that radio shouldn’t try to be so polished.

I think radio needs to drop a dated format and play all kinds of music, not just shiny pop. Stop talking down to your audience and play the raw hip-hop, the eight-minute post-rock track. People want authenticity, not polish

From podcaster in south of the country

It was hard to argue with this, it’s true that most stations in Ireland do have a very polished CHR sound.. But, this leads to an interesting question, what is Irish music anyway?

When people are requesting more Irish artists to be played are they actually looking for more formats of music to be played? Do people want more Irish artists, more variety, or possibly both? It’s hard to say. The presenter on the Dublin station made an interesting point in this regard.

Picture This, Gavin James and Hozier all sound Irish, but when you’ve got the likes of Moncrieff, Marty Guilfoyle, John Gibbons, Soule and even JC Stewart (from Northern Ireland I believe), you don’t think they’re Irish. They have a sound that they could be from anywhere, so it could leave some people thinking there’s not much Irish music being played on the radio

A presenter from a Dublin commercial station

This is an interesting point, is more Irish music being played then we realise?

I’ve just had a look and I’ve got four Irish songs in my first hour. I feel like that’s a decent amount, I’ll play probably 16-18 songs? Like it’s not an awful ratio

Presenter from Dublin

This is interesting as even if they’re were 20 songs in that hour (unlikely on a commercial station), that still hits the 20% requested in the Play More Irish petition. So are we just hitting the quota already without even noticing?

While I can’t back it up with statistics, I doubt it unfortunately. We did ask IMRO if they could provide a breakdown on percentages of Irish music played, but unfortunately we haven’t got a response as of publication.

Even though the presenter from Dublin thought that Irish artist‘s needed support to make their music radio ready, they also said that they felt the idea of a quota was fair enough. They also pointed out that there is a quota already in place for individual stations, even if it isn’t universal.

All this made it difficult to get a clear picture around why some people don’t think there should be a BAI enforced quota.I know these views are out there however so let’s play devils advocate for a minute. Here are some reasons people may be against it.

  • The general idea that a lot of Irish music isn’t radio ready. This goes hand in hand with the idea that radio should try maintain a more polished sound
  • The idea that the BAI shouldn’t be creating more rules. That stations should maintain more creative freedom when building their playlists.
  • The idea that playing Irish artist’s wouldn’t be viable, as it’s just not what the majority of people really want.

All those are valid arguments, it really just depends what your perspective is.

So should we play more Irish music then? And where do we go from here?

This really depends on your perspective. It’s obvious that radio airplay is important to artists, but it’s also obvious that music from many Irish artists doesn’t fit within the common CHR formats around the country.

It would seem however that it would be possible. Look at the artists mentioned earlier by our presenter from Dublin. Picture This, Gavin James, Hozier, Moncrieff, Marty Guilfoyle, John Gibbons, Soule, JC Stewart. You start adding names like Lea Heart or Stephanie Rainey to that list and it becomes easy to hit a 20% quota without sacrificing quality.

Even for more specialist stations like classic Hits, a 20% quota wouldn’t be hard to hit. But is this solving the problem?

If your argument is simply to play Irish artists, that’s something that should be very achievable. and from our experience doesn’t get any very vocal objections. But what I’ve noticed from some is that they simply want more variety in music selection, they want a break from the CHR/ shiny pop. That becomes a harder question to answer and is kind of beyond the scope of this post. it is interesting though for sure.

How likely is it that we’ll see a quota in the future?

The only person who can really answer that question is the minister responsible for all this stuff. That would be Catherine Martin TD.

We asked the minister if she thought there should be a quota for Irish music on Irish radio, and if so what that quota should be.

Following our query, we were given a statement from the department for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. The response is interesting to say the least.

There are a number of legal and other factors which must be taken into account when considering the feasibility of introducing airplay quotas. The potential benefit to music production in Ireland must be balanced with the rights of broadcasters, subject to their contractual or regulatory obligations, to determine the type of content they wish to broadcast and to ensure commercial revenue particularly in the context of the current media climate. Importantly, the introduction of airplay quotas would need to be consistent with EU law. A quota for music produced in a particular Member State would be considered to restrict free movement of services by placing music produced in other Member States at a disadvantage. Given the legal challenges arising, the Government is not currently considering airplay quotas based on production location.

Statement from the department in relation to airplay quota’s

I’m sure some people will look at this and roar the word France, but at least this answers our question.

For now at least, airplay quotas aren’t being considered. Whatever you think of the reason, that’s where we’re at. It may be a case that maybe this could be solved with a European quota, but that’s all just speculation at this point. For now it seems there’s no quota on its way in the immediate future.

In summary

Most people we spoke to are in favour of an airplay quota, but it’s not currently being considered by the department for a number of reasons.

So what’s the takeaway here? Well, just because there isn’t a quota on the horizon, doesn’t mean stations can’t step up and do it themselves. There’s some positive press to be gained by supporting Irish artists so it’s certainly worth considering for stations.

The more people want it, the more likely it becomes. Who knows what the future brings, but for now, that’s where we’re at.

Other comments

We did also get a few interesting comments that simply didn’t really fit anywhere above. We’ll share them here so you can make up your own mind, but keep in mind that it’s fairly one sided. As we explained, we didn’t really get any comments strongly against the quota despite asking for those views. So, here’s a selection of some of the comments we received.

We asked Rory from the Play More Irish Campaign what his response would be to those who argue that more quota’s limit stations a bit too much.

I would say that in this digital age where I can listen to radio stations all over the world, why would I choose an Irish radio station, unless they offer good native local content. It makes total sense to me that Irish stations should feature good Irish content. The exposure for the artists also helps to build a healthier music industry & music scene in this great little island. In relation to limiting stations a bit too much 20% is a lot lower than what’s being done in Canada & France in comparison, I don’t feel it would be too limiting, there would need to be exceptions to the rules for Special Interest shows, for example a radio show that only plays pre-1960’s Jazz might find good Irish content hard to come by, but by following the Canadian model it wouldn’t be too difficult to allow for this. If it works for them, It can work for us. Play More Irish is not about limiting or restricting stations, Its about asking them to look outside their own front door rather than over the water. We have the Talent, a 20% quota as a reminder of that won’t hurt the radio stations.

Rory from Play More Irish

And let’s close with another comment from our podcast producer. They basically summarised the issue with one comment. This seems to embody a lot of the feelings from the music industry, so will maybe give schedulers some food for thought.

98 had a good thing with Totally Irish and f***ed it. Today sacked Paul McLoone – why? The commercial sector is actively making itself irrelevant. Commercial also needs to take Irish music out of dead air time and into the playlists. But document what’s happening in the real world, not pushing more industry b******s

Podcaster from south of the country

If you want to sign the play more Irish petition you can do that here

Thanks for reading and sharing your views

Huge thanks to everyone who read this post, and thanks in particular to those of you who shared your views.

We’d love to explore more of the industry’s views at some stage in the future, but that’s only possible when we have a large enough group willing to share their perspective. if you’d be interested in sharing your view going forward, give us a follow on Twitter and Instagram so you hear our call outs for opinions😃 you can also now like us on Facebook as well if that’s your thing. 📱

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Thanks again for reading, and remember to check back each Saturday for all the latest radio industry news📻.

Quote’s in this article are those of the individuals who made them, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Radio Land or it’s writers.

John Purcell tells us about Radiocentre Ireland, here’s everything you need to know

A new partnership between the IBI and RTÉ was announced yesterday. Radiocentre Ireland aims to promote advertising within the radio industry.

We spoke to John Percell who is chair of the new board. He told us everything we need to know.

Firstly, what exactly is the aim of Radiocentre?

To promote radio as a medium; maximise the commercial appeal of the Irish radio and audio sector by promoting excellence and seeking to grow understanding of the value radio provides to commercial and agency partners and marketeers.

How did the collaboration between RTÉ and the IBI come about?

The collaboration came about following discussions about ways of building on the success of Choose Radio where IBI had worked successfully with RTE on a number of research projects, case studies and events to promote radio. Both IBI and RTE wanted to move the initiative to another level so we have agreed a multi-annual budget and are in the process of recruiting a Chief Executive to lead and develop the organisation and fulfil our aims

The IBI has had the Choose Radio Campaign for quite a while now. Will the activities of Radiocentre be replacing This campaign or will the two coexist?

Choose Radio ceases and the promotion of radio by IBI and RTE together will now take place under the Irish Radiocentre umbrella.

Will Radiocentre be focusing on advertising specifically or will you be looking at a variety of funding options? (Sound and vision funding, partnerships with streaming services ETC)

Radiocentre Ireland will not focus exclusively on advertising – other commercial options including sponsorship; promotions and broad commercial partnerships involving radio will also be involved. Radiocentre is a promotional and research organisation aimed towards the promotion of the commercial profile and effectiveness of radio. It is not envisaged that Radiocentre will be engaging in commercial partnerships in its own right. That is the business of individual stations and broadcasting organisations.

how can people keep up with Radiocentre? Will there be social media accounts and websites for people to check out?

We have registered the website At the moment the site just contains information and application details for the position of Chief Executive Officer for which we are currently recruiting. More information as well as social media presence will follow in due course.

We’ll share details of Radiocentre’s social media when it’s available. While you wait, why not follow Radio Land on Twitter and Instagram? We’ll keep you up to date with all the latest industry news.

We spoke to the founder of Freedom FM ahead of their launch as a legal FM station

The Freedom FM logo

In March 1995 a new pirate station called Freedom FM started broadcasting across Dublin. Tomorrow the station returns after they were granted a temporary licence from the BAI.

After the team revived freedom FM as an online station in 2020, they decided to take another shot at FM and applied for a temporary license which has now been granted. Not only will the station return to the airwaves in Dublin tomorrow but they’re also landing in Cork, Limerick and Galway for the first time.

Sean power sitting in the radio studio. He has a mixing desk on his left and two keyboards to his right. He has three monitors in front of him and is facing a microphone.
Sean Power in the new Freedom FM studio
Picture of the freedom FM studio with fancy lighting turned on
The new Freedom FM studio

We spoke to station founder Sean Power ahead of the station launch. Sean wasn’t able to tell us the transmitter power when we spoke as that hadn’t yet been confirmed by Comreg, but we asked other nerdy questions as well.

When the decision was made to try return to FM, what made you decide to go down the legal route? Was there ever a part of you that wanted to go pirate again?

Over the past year of running Freedom FM online, we have seen a continual growth in our online listenership, so the natural next step in developing the brand was to apply for a 30day temporary multi-city FM license from the BAI, going down the pirate route is not in our stations ethos.

Your current BAI licence is to broadcast for 30 days, does the team have any ambition to maybe apply for a full time licence down the road if things go well?

At the moment there isn’t any permanent FM licenses available, our ambition would be to apply again next year for another 30day license and expand on our FM coverage to bring the brand to a wider audience.

What playout software/ studio tech are you using and how are broadcasters doing shows from abroad?

We have been using Playoutone Pro with Music Master Scheduling software the past couple of months which has allowed shows both voice tracked and live to be done remotely, Playoutone Pro is a feature rich industry standard playout system, utilizing their webvt and livemic features, our DJ’s and Presenters are doing both voice tracked and live broadcast shows from a far as Melbourne, New York and Canada as well as locations around Ireland.

Will many shows be pre recorded/voice tracked or will everything be done live?

Due to Covid health & safety, Our goal is to provide 8 hours of live studio based content each day with other shows been broadcast live from presenters own home studios. Full schedule details are available on our website

Here’s how to listen

The station will be available on FM from tomorrow and will continue broadcasting on FM until October 17th

You will be able to listen by tuning your radio to

  • Dublin 105.2 FM
  • Cork 106.7 FM
  • Galway 87.9 FM
  • Limerick 105.5 FM

You can also listen online by using the Radio Land listen page where the station is now listed. Scroll down and you’ll find them in the other stations section.

Best of luck to the Freedom FM team from us here at Radio Land.

Bonus Post: An Interview with Cian Drake

When you want to listen to an Irish radio documentary the mind tends to gravitate to the likes of RTÉ or Newstalk. What we can sometimes forget however are the people just below the surface looking to make their break into the radio industry.

Today we want to introduce you to a young documentary maker from cork who independently published his first radio documentary this morning. We’re sure this lad will be making waves in the not too distant future so with that said , meet Cian Drake

So Cian, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start they say. How exactly did you start on this road into media?

Well I had done journalism in CSN previously which I felt wasn’t fully for me. I then worked a couple of jobs and found myself wanting more for the future. I found myself at a crossroads, so I asked myself what I wanted to do with myself and radio broadcasting seemed perfect for me so I took a chance and here I am just about to hopefully embark on a career in media.

How did you find the journalism and radio courses? Was there anything in particular that made you decide to pivot into radio over other mediums like newspapers or TV?

I found that I preferred Radio more, although journalism taught me a lot too I just felt the personality of radio mirrored me better. Although I picked radio now I would be open to any medium to be honest. I would love in the future to have a show like The Tommy Tiernan show but I would say I think my personality is suited to radio at this stage more than the other mediums mentioned.

Do you think news and journalistic works in general are heard enough on Irish radio?

I would say just from being a general listener that there isn’t. It’s all extremely commercial and I think it would be refreshing to hear more of the works mentioned in a mainstream space, I know those works are there when you look for them but it would be good that in the future they were more evident and readily available on the airwaves.

So that brings us on nicely to this new documentary your publishing, how did the idea come about?

Well I had a project to do for college and I wanted to document a sub culture in Cork City. As I use vinyl and would generally know some of the record shop owners I felt that would be a great place to start. So that’s how the idea came about and it blossomed over time.

How did you find it making the documentary through Covid?

I actually didn’t mind making it during Covid at all, the work is the same it still has to get done. I looked at the positives, I had more time to myself, I could go for a jog or do whatever I wanted right after the interview as opposed to travel back from town to home. I would say though that I am a people person, I would’ve love to have been able to meet everyone I interviewed for a coffee but it wasn’t to be. I enjoyed it overall but I know when I do my next project the interview process may be very different. It was also so refreshing to speak to such passionate and genuine people after being locked down for so long.

After making this documentary do you think you will be making more?

After making this documentary I most certainly have an urge to jump right into another one. I have a couple of ideas in the pipeline but vinyl addiction is one that is interesting to me. I just noticed through the way people speak about it that it almost becomes this unstoppable habit. It’s not something I have readily seen talked about under the topic of addiction so it is enticing to explore that world and see if there are people out there who could share that mind set – I will of course be doing things that aren’t vinyl related but I think immediately that is something of which is sticking out.

So all going well your planning to be off to a radio course in Sunderland this September, You looking forward to it?

Yes I’m most certainly looking forward to moving out and experiencing something new. Both in terms of furthering my studies and just being completely independent of home for a change. I am extremely excited in terms of who will I meet, the connections that are to be made and just making the most of my time there.

When you think about the world five years from now, where do you see both yourself and the radio industry?

Five years from now? I can’t even imagine what I’m wearing tomorrow. But I would hope that Irish radio has moved with the rest of Europe and joined in with DAB, not just dip a toe in but fully submerge ourselves in that world. That’s what I would hope, I think tho that radio may see an uptake with more talk shows in the main stream. I find people may grow more tired of the generic commercial radio prototype and may move towards some kind of podcast/radio hybrid. Who knows tho. Not that the style of commercial stations will disappear but there will be more talk shows I think. In terms of myself, not a clue. Alive (hopefully) and happy doing things I likes to do. I definitely see myself staying in the documentary lane I know that much. Ideally I will be able to make a living from making documentaries but there is a lot of work to be done between now and then if that is to happen.

And finally, the killer question. What’s your favourite radio station and why?

In the interest of not jeopardising future Cían I should stay impartial. I have fond memories of Today FM when Ray Foley was on as I used to work with my dad at the same time. I will say that I like different aspects of different stations.

On The Record is out now

You can listen to Cian’s new documentary now. Be sure to follow Cian on social media too so you can keep up with his future work.

If your reading this in an email click here to listen