Friday, 25 April 2008

Radio station battles to survive parent company's financial woes

STAFF at West Somerset’s commercial radio station, Quaywest 102.4 FM, were this week putting a brave face on its parent company’s financial troubles which threaten its future.
Both Watchet-based Quaywest and its sister Bridgwater station, formerly BCR FM but rebranded as Quaywest 107.4 FM, are owned by Laser Broadcasting, which has its headquarters in Darlington.
The West Somerset Free Press recently reported on how Quaywest’s Watchet telephone and fax lines had been lost for several days and listeners could only contact the station by email.
The station has also been without a website for several months - although it can still be heard over the internet – and staff had received late payments of wages.
Now, The Post has discovered that Laser Broadcasting has had a county court judgement entered against it for a £34,147 unpaid debt.
And a High Court petition for the winding up of one of Laser’s companies has also been presented by the Commissioners for HM Revenue and Customs.
The county court judgement was made in Leeds on March 17, and the winding up petition went to the London Companies Court on April 9.
The Revenue was seeking to wind up Fresh Radio Ltd, which Laser bought for more than £1 million only a year ago.
Laser also owns also owns Sunshine 855 in Ludlow and Classic Hits in Hereford and Worcester among its portfolio of six stations.
The move came after some staff at Fresh Radio quit amid claims they had not been paid. Staff at other Laser-owned companies around the country had also complained of late salary payments.
The problem of telephone, fax, and broadband connections being cut off has also struck a number of Laser’s stations.
In March, Fresh Radio suspended its live broadcasting in Skipton for several days and instead played a continuous loop of pre-recorded music.
The Post was this week twice told that Laser operations director Stuart Linnell would make a statement on the company’s position, but he had not done so at the time of going to press.
However, Mr Linnell has told other newspapers that Laser was forming a new company to run Fresh and was working hard to settle its problems and looked forward to a positive future.
Laser, which has invested £3.5 million in its stations in a 12-month period, has also set itself a target of owning 15 stations in three years.

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