'Laser Broadcasting Limited Newsletter No. 1: February 2006' by Grant Goddard


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First issue of the corporate newsletter of UK local commercial radio group Laser Broadcasting Limited, edited by Grant Goddard in February 2006 for Laser Broadcasting Limited.

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'Laser Broadcasting Limited Newsletter No. 1: February 2006' by Grant Goddard

  1. 1. GGG SHAREHOLDERS This issue we look at one of the shareholders in Laser Broadcasting Northern Enterprise Northern Enterprise is a business that invests money in other businesses based in Northeast England, providing them with the funds needed to achieve their goals. Because the region has experienced economic hardship since the closure of the shipyards and the coal mining industry, it is sometimes hard for local entrepreneurs to raise the necessary funds for their businesses from traditional sources such as bank loans or share issues. At the same time, it has become more important than ever that small and medium-size local businesses are actively encouraged, because families in the North East can no longer depend upon the steady employment that used to be on offer from the National Coal Board or from shipbuilders such as Armstrong. Because Laser's head office is based in the North East, it has benefited from some of the £50m in venture capital that Northern Enterprise has made available to help 350 local businesses since 1993. In Laser's case, the investment is helping it to build a portfolio of interests in local radio stations that have been identified as profitable businesses. Northern Enterprise's involvement and endorsement of Laser's business strategy is helping considerably in achieving its goal to become an emerging commercial radio group over the next few years. Steve Garbutt, fund manager at Northern Enterprise, says: “The key to securing this sort of investment is to develop a sound business plan based on both specific and realistic principles and market knowledge, and then to work out how much capital you require to make the plan a reality.” The Laser management team's detailed understanding of the UK radio industry, combined with team members' track records of success in both local and national radio, has given Northern Enterprise the confidence it required to support the company's growth strategy. For Laser, this investment has provided the capital to acquire interests in several local radio stations over the coming year, alongside its continuing strategy to support applications by local groups for new licences. More information about Northern Enterprise and the other successful businesses they support is available from their web site at www.nel.co.uk. GGG NEXT ISSUE G Hull Local Radio G Laser in the press G Investing in radio G What is ‘localism’? GGG THE LASER STRATEGY As an emerging commercial radio company, Laser Broadcasting has a clearly defined strategy to build a successful long-term business. At the centre of the strategy is Laser's commitment to setting high standards of professionalism in the radio industry. This desire for quality is reflected in the calibre of Laser's board of directors and management team, each of whom has considerable experience and a long track record of success in their particular fields. Another example is the use of qualified and objective market research professionals to execute all of Laser's market research projects up and down the country. The principle is that the best results can only be achieved with the highest quality inputs. Laser's corporate strategy comprises two complementary parts, both of which are being aggressively pursued to build a strong enterprise: 1. Investment and acquisition Laser is committed to purchasing substantial shareholdings in several local radio stations. These holdings provide Laser with opportunities to build success by applying good industry practice and professional expertise to existing businesses. Laser recently purchased a stake in Fresh Radio - a station that is a perfect example of how truly local radio can be so effective by weaving itself into the fabric of the local community. Laser is presently identifying suitable opportunities to invest in further local stations. 2. Licence applications The second strategy is to apply for newly advertised radio licences in partnership with local groups of people who can offer the relevant experience, skills and investment to build a new small-scale local media business in their community. To this end, Laser is actively involved with more than twenty groups across England and Wales who are making plans for applications to Ofcom for local licences. These parallel strategies will add considerable shareholder value to Laser's business. This is a very exciting time for Laser, heralding the development of a new, vibrant media company that is committed to creating success through local radio stations that reach out and touch listeners and advertisers in their communities. GGG CONTACT Laser Broadcasting Limited PO Box 50 Leyburn North Yorkshire DL8 4TW Tel: 01969 640425 Fax: 01969 640425 e-mail: office@laserbroadcasting.com web: www.laserbroadcasting.com February 2006 GGG WELCOME Teamwork and partnership these two factors are essential to build a successful radio station. More than anything else, radio is a “people” industry where the quality of personal relationships can make a massive difference between a great station that sounds full of life and attracts a loyal listenership, and a poor competitor that is simply dull. Laser Broadcasting places great emphasis on building positive relationships as part of a business philosophy that success is something that has to be built through personal action, rather than corporate slogans. At a local level, Laser invests a huge amount of time identifying and recruiting a diverse range of talents from communities, all of whom contribute to the success of a local radio station. Whether you want to be an investor in a new local project, a reporter who gathers local news stories, or one of the essential behind-the-scenes team who hold everything together, there is always an opportunity for you to contribute your local knowledge and skills. Laser's local stations and trial broadcasts are truly local affairs, involving investors from the area, and producing 100% local programming tailored specifically for listeners in that town or city. At a national level, I am fortunate to be leading a small team of managers scattered across the country who all share the same philosophy that long-term success can only be built through partnerships. We all have varied and complementary experiences over several decades in the radio industry, but the one thing that unites us is the belief that radio is an intensively personal medium, a fact that has to be built into the teams working at every radio station, and in the relationships they forge with their audiences. At a corporate level, Laser benefits immensely from being partnered by investors who understand and fully endorse the company's philosophy that, to be successful, local radio needs to be exactly what is says on the box - genuinely local programmes, made by local people, that fulfil the needs of the people in that area. To this end, Laser spends considerable sums on professional market research for every project in which it is involved, in order to understand as much as possible what people want from their local radio station. If Laser's formula for success sounds relatively simple and rather old fashioned, then I am not at all apologetic. A successful local radio station needs to be just as close to its community as a local hardware shop. And, no differently from any local business, success comes from building teamwork and partnerships. Investing in people is the most rewarding thing we can do because, without people, radio would become no more than a music jukebox. Yours truly, Nigel Reeve Chief Executive, Laser Broadcasting Limited “Northern Enterprise has invested a substantial sum in Laser Broadcasting Limited on the basis of its innovative business model and its aim to become one of the leading radio licence holders in the UK. We support the management team’s plans for growth, both organically through the winning of licence applications and also by the selective acquisition of key stations throughout the country. We will continue to support Laser wherever we can.” Steve Garbutt Fund Manager, Northern Enterprise Limited
  2. 2. GGG GGG SHREWSBURY LOCAL RADIO Alan Mullett, chairman of Shrewsbury Local Radio, talks about his hopes for the group's recent radio licence application. When I started my career in local radio in 1976, the business was still very much focused on truly “local” radio. Back then, everyone who worked at Beacon Radio lived nearby, we used to talk to our most loyal listeners during their regular visits to the station studios, and we all used to go out to local events every week, meeting our fans and distributing car stickers and station publicity. The commercial radio industry was still in its infancy then and we knew that, to make Beacon a success, we had to do everything possible to develop relationships with both our listeners and our local advertisers. None of us had our sights set on anything other than creating a really successful local company for the immediate area. It was hard work, but we were quickly rewarded with the kind of loyalty that most new businesses can only dream of. By 1978, one in three of everyone in our area was listening to Beacon, for an average ten hours a week. New local commercial radio stations like ours were phenomenal success stories during these times. When I was promoted to Managing Director of Beacon, I asked the authorities for permission to extend the station's coverage to Shropshire, so that we could bring commercial radio to the county for the first time. For a while, this created a distinct service for Telford and Shrewsbury, though this has largely gone now. A lot has changed since then. Listeners' choice of radio stations has widened considerably and technology has brought us more things to distract us, such as the internet, mobile phones and home entertainment systems. At the same time, the quirky feel of local stations like Beacon has evaporated, largely as a result of being bought by large media groups that own similar stations the length and breadth of the land. Whereas, once, Beacon had a very distinctive sound, different even from other local stations in our own region, now it sounds quite similar to everybody else, playing the same songs and using the same jingles you can hear in other cities. Those changes have had an impact on audiences, although the station's London-based owner still wonders why what used to be the marketleading station now reaches only one in five people, listening for less than nine hours a week. To anybody who lives locally, the reasons are obvious. I am leading Shrewsbury Local Radio's application for a licence because I firmly believe that there is still a place in people's hearts for a station that wears its “localness” proudly on its sleeve. Despite its status as a county town, Shrewsbury has never had its very own, standalone local radio station. When we organised a trial broadcast here in May last year, the response from our listeners was amazingly positive, and we received a lot of support from local businesses. Our market research showed us that people loved the local news and information we gave them. I was extremely gratified, but not completely surprised, by this public response. All we did was put the “local” back into local radio - something that has been missing for far too long. The whole business strategy of Shrewsbury Local Radio is based upon those ideas of building a local company that wants to be different from its competitors, of becoming part of the fabric of the local community, and of accurately reflecting its needs and concerns. That's what will make us successful and will bring us the kind of listener loyalty that I have witnessed before. With the support of my fellow directors and our experienced team, I am confident we will take Shrewsbury by storm. GGG STATION SPOTLIGHT Fresh Radio has recently joined the Laser stable. Wherever you travel in the Yorkshire Dales, you are likely to hear Fresh Radio - in shops, in offices, blaring out of passing cars. Fresh can be heard across almost the whole two thousand square miles of the Dales, making it one of the UK's biggest local radio stations. Since it opened in 1997 from its cosy studios in Skipton, Fresh has made sure that it keeps the feel of a small local business that is truly in touch with its listeners and advertisers. If you visit the station on a Saturday afternoon, you might find the owner of a local shop paying for their next month's advertising with their weekend takings, and all the coins counted out on the reception desk. On a Sunday, you might find the station's staff banging in the poles of the station's promotional tent at a local folk festival. If there is something significant going on in the Dales, you can guarantee that Fresh will be there too, whether it is the news team covering the story, or the marketing team handing out stickers and information. This commitment to excellence in local radio was rewarded in January 2005 when Fresh won the Radio Academy's prestigious “Radio Station Of The Year” award for Yorkshire and the North East. Fresh Radio's Managing Director Dave Parker says: “The award recognises how we've improved the station and it recognises the very hard work put in by our team. We're thrilled that work has been recognised by the rest of the radio industry - and we promise to improve the station as much as we can.” What makes Fresh unique is the station's determination to reflect the interests of the local community in all its programmes. In addition to hourly local news bulletins in its daytime shows, the station broadcasts minifeatures throughout every day that focus on a particular local organisation or interview an interesting local person about their achievements. The end result is a radio station that sounds like no other, a fact that seems to be much appreciated by the local people. As Dave explains: “We've made a determined effort to put ourselves firmly at the heart of the community, supporting the people of the Dales in their daily lives and hopefully keeping them entertained along the way.” Fresh Radio can be heard on 936, 1413 and 1431 AM in the Yorkshire Dales, as well as on the internet at www.freshradio.co.uk Fresh Radio at this month’s Skipton Medieval Festival PROJECT DIRECTOR Laser Broadcasting Project Director Stuart Linnell MBE explains why radio remains so important to him “Radio - Someone Still Loves You” So sang Freddie Mercury and Queen in 1984, and it's true - there's something about radio that inspires passion and affection like no other form of media. Well, there is for me, anyway. As a broadcaster, I have often envied the longevity and the tangible nature of the written word. I have been fortunate enough to work on television and to appreciate the peculiar relationship that has to be developed with the camera. Neither, however, holds a candle to the sheer adrenalin rush, sense of responsibility and creative opportunities that are there every time I sit at a radio microphone. Just as a good education is based round the three “R's”, so good radio focuses on the three “I's”. It is immediate, intimate and evokes imagination. even if it is relying on a sound report to carry the information as quickly as it can, it still has to create a visual image of some sort to accompany that sound. Even if technology now enables that to occur fairly fast, there remains an unsatisfied element at play, because television needs pictures. As the old cliché says, on radio the pictures are always better. Every good radio presenter knows that he or she is serving one person - the listener. Hopefully, there are several listeners in the audience but each one is listening in isolation, often literally. Gone are the days when families gathered round the radio in the sitting room each evening, thus rendering the cheery “morning every one” that is still a feature of heritage programming like Radio 4's Test Match Special an anachronism from radio's past. The intimacy of the presenter's relationship with his or her listener requires understanding and respect. When that relationship is at its best, the presenter's ingenuity combines with the listener's capacity to interpret the programming into a meaningful if not essential part of their lives. The imagination of both enriches the lives of broadcaster and listener in a way that is simply denied to newspapers, magazines, cinema, television and even live theatre. GGG RESEARCH IN ACTION As part of its partnership with local radio projects, Laser commissions lots of market research in each area. Because this work is contracted out to qualified research professionals and the results meet Market Research Society standards, they give us an accurate picture of what people want from the radio in their particular town, as well as what they like and dislike about existing radio stations. What is surprising is that there are some issues that seem just as important to people, whichever part of the country they live in. One of these is the priority that listeners place on being able to hear local news and information on the radio. In recent research for Warwick Local Radio, people said that local news was the most important thing for a new radio station to broadcast, followed by local weather forecasts, local what's on information, local travel information and discussion programmes about local issues. Nationally orientated news, weather and sports coverage scored much lower on people's wants list, probably because these things are already readily available from high quality national radio stations. It was exactly the same story in research for Shrewsbury Local Radio. Almost three quarters of the target Radio has the capacity to be organic, audience aged 35 to 64 wanted to hear dynamic and exhilarating. There is never about issues concerning Shropshire. an excuse for making it stodgy, Ninety per cent of people said that it repetitious and predictable. When that was important for the radio station to happens, it needs rescuing by someone attend local events, while ninety-four who cares for it - someone who still per cent said the local station should loves it. support local charities and businesses. Almost three quarters of people said that if talk items of local interest were included in the station's programmes, they would be more likely Laser Broadcasting recently appointed David Bickle to to listen to it than their current favourite station. its board as Finance Director. David is a member of the Chartered Institute of In Ipswich, the research told us that the items that people most Management Accountants and the wanted to hear, in order of importance, were regular local travel Chartered Institute of Certified bulletins, local what's on information, hourly local news bulletins Accountants. For the last decade, he during the daytime, and community billboard information for has specialised in developing start-up local organisations. The three trial broadcasts by Ipswich Local companies and small or medium size Radio included all these things, which probably helped the enterprises, including the recent stock station achieve awareness amongst two thirds of people in the market flotation of a biotechnology area. company. David says: “Laser has a clear strategy to build a number of radio station Interestingly, recent research by the media regulator Ofcom found investments across the UK. It believes in the strengths exactly the same results. The word “local” appeared in two of the top of local radio and is committed to building audience four reasons that people listen to the radio (all radio, not just local and then revenue. Its own research shows that even radio) across the UK, regardless of their age or where they lived. smaller stations can be profitable without losing the When they were offered the choice of more local radio stations or local character of the radio station.” David's skills will more national stations, twice as many people opted for “local” over further strengthen Laser's senior management team “national”. More than any other research, this shows the incredible and will ensure that the company's financial value that communities all over the country place on truly local radio projections are both realistic and attainable, based on stations that give them regular local news and information. industry benchmarks and detailed empirical data. Radio can convey information - through news bulletins, advertising messages, traffic news, weather reports, new record releases, sports updates and much more - instantly and immediately in a way that no other medium can imitate. The 24hour TV news and sports news channels try to mimic that effect but television, by definition, will always be slower because,