The island’s government owned radio station turned a profit in the last financial year, its annual report shows.

However, this is in part due to Radio Manx Limited (Manx Radio’s company name) making cost savings which its chairman says are ‘unsustainable’.

Manx Radio’s annual report, which is due to be laid before Tynwald in November, shows that the company made a profit of £36,659, to the year end March 2021. This compares to a £64,540 loss the year before.

Subvention

Ok let’s point at the elephant in the room. Manx Radio is owned by the gov and receives a grant of taxpayer cash each year towards its operating costs. For the year 2020/21 this rose from £899,830 to £995,000 after a vote by Tynwald in 2019, which financed 46% of the station’s expenditure.

Financials

Chairman Bill Mummery says in his statement that ‘turnover from continuing operations in 2020/21 of £1,199,197 was £116,266, 9% below 2019/20’. Mr Mummery adds that the impact of Covid on the station’s total turnover was £14,926 (1%) below its normal average annual turnover.

Manx Radio’s operating expenses of £2,156,663 are £120,847 (5%) below 2019/20. Mr Mummery said: ‘While cost savings were implemented to get the company through the tough COVID period, all of the savings and changes in practices will not be sustainable and we anticipate some of the expenses to return to previous levels.’

If the radio is to return to its previous level of operating expenses it would, based on this year’s figures, make a loss of £84,188. And indeed without the increase of its annual subsidy of £95,170, taking it up to £995,000, the station would have made a loss regardless of the reduction in its operating costs. Mr Mummery adds that the station ‘did not benefit in any way from any government financial Covid-19 support schemes or furlough payments’.

The radio also states that the £200,000 made available to it by Tynwald in the July 2020 Budget Update was not accessed or used. In 2021/22 the company’s taxpayer funded subsidy has increased to £1,228,722. This is of course separate to the TV license fee islanders pay for which results in residents paying twice for public service broadcasting without receiving the same output from the BBC as our friends in the Channel Islands do. However this is not a matter of criticism for Manx Radio, merely the deal negotiated with the BBC by successive administrations. 

Audience Share

Mr Mummery goes on to say that due to the pandemic, the industry survey company RAJAR was unable to provide its usual service of calculating audience shares. However, he added: ‘Our lunchtime audience interaction programme ‘Mannin Line’ is proving popular across all platforms and we’ve seen increased levels of Listener engagement and reaction. Despite Covid-19 restrictions, a number of outside broadcasts were possible through the year including live programmes from every one of the Island’s senior schools. These Broadcasts, which gave a voice to the nation’s younger generation, proved popular with both the schools and regular listeners.’

Covid Briefings

Throughout the pandemic, particularly in the earlier months, daily or weekly briefings were broadcast online by ELS and Greenlight. However, Mr Mummery said there were ‘repeated technical issues on the independently provided video stream of the daily media briefings, saw many members of the community telling us that they returned to listen to Manx Radio’s FM & AM radio coverage which remained glitch free’.

DAB

The station’s chairman also uses this point to push for digital radio to be rolled out in the island. Manx Radio’s report says the station wants to see DAB, which is sometimes referred to as Dead And Buried by critics, rolled out as an island-wide service that would be a ‘preferred (and in the mid to long run), cheaper option than a costly and aging AM transmitter system’. They further this point by saying that fewer people are listening to AM services while DAB has ‘grown significantly in the UK’. 

Managing Director Chris Sully adds: ‘There is a danger that the Isle of Man community is being left behind as the rest of the British Isle moves to DAB. The BBC have switched off nearly all of their local radio AM transmitters in favour of FM and DAB. The Channel Islands have their own DAB multiplex offering 26 different audio services via a DAB radio to listeners https://bit.ly/3nEGont.’

However, while the station states its preference for DAB, it is not made clear how much its rollout would cost. 

The Future of the Nation’s Station 

The report makes for plenty of good rescind for the station. It explores areas of the its future direction such as further engagement with a younger audience and retaining listeners it gained during the height of the pandemic. However, there is little detail around future digital operations beyond a further use of video, operational or commercial strategy or how the radio would boost revenue when its operating expenses increase again to avoid returning to making a loss.

You can read the full report below:

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