by Malcolm Curtis | Tribune de Genève Blogs | July 9, 2012
Two former presenters from World Radio Switzerland are competing in rival bids to take over the national English-language radio station.
Conor Lennon, who left WRS early last year to start up Mountain Radio in Verbier, is behind a proposal announced last week by Off-Piste Radio Network to bid for the station, put up for sale by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG SSR).
Mark Butcher, another onetime WRS presenter, is a partner with entrepreneur Peter Sibley in Anglo Media, a company that publicly announced its readiness back in April to provide a national English-language radio service to replace the public broadcaster.
The board of directors of SRG SSR decided on June 27 to sell WRS after receiving a report from management which stated that English-language radio was not part of the public broadcaster’s core mandate.
The decision comes five years after the station was launched following a takeover of privately run World Radio Geneva.
Butcher, a 15-year veteran presenter at WRS and WRG, hosts a morning show on Radio Frontier, an Internet and cable radio station run by Anglo Media and aimed at expats in the Geneva and neighboring French region.
Lennon, who previously worked as a broadcast journalist for the BBC and Sky News Radio, founded Off-Piste Radio Network as a limited company in January 2011.
The company says its Mountain Radio, broadcast through the Internet and on cable, is Switzerland’s first tourist radio station.
It caters to the international clientele of Verbier and surrounding mountain resorts in the Quatre Vallées and St Bernard Pass regions.
A privatized WRS “should continue to provide public-service oriented, intelligent and entertaining content,” Connor said in a statement.
“I believe WRS plays a very important role in integrating expatriates and Anglo-professionals in Switzerland,” he said.
“It is also an excellent way to promote Switzerland both internally and abroad.”
Off-Piste proposes a “marked increase” in local content for Geneva, Zurich, Bern and Basel, Switzerland’s main metropolitan areas.
And Lennon said the company would “integrate many of the talented journalists and technicians from WRS into our new structure.”
Off-Piste said it is in touch with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation and Ofcom, Switzerland’s broadcast regulator, as well as “several private Swiss media organizations”.
SRG SSR is accepting bids from prospective buyers of WRS until October with a decision to be made by the end of the year.
For more information about Anglo Media’s plans, click here.