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Virgin Radio eyes Middle East

Virgin Radio is eyeing a move to the Middle East, with at least two companies vying to establish a Virgin branded station in the UAE.

Virgin Radio is eyeing a move to the Middle East, with at least two companies vying to establish a Virgin branded station in the UAE. Fujairah Media, and senior managers from Radio 1 and 2, have been in talks with Virgin about launching the brand in the UAE.
Britain’s Virgin Radio was launched by Sir Richard Branson in the 1990s. Although he later sold it, it still retains the Virgin name. Virgin Radio International has launched stations in Thailand, China and will start two in India later this year.

Mark Fisher, chief operating officer at Virgin Radio International, said that conditions in the UAE were now right for a Virgin Radio station. He said that while discussions had been ongoing for a year, no decision had yet been made about which media group the company would partner with. “These discussions have been going on for a year and they are going in the right direction. A lot of people might think, however, that we might be closing a deal with them, but as far as we are concerned, we are still in discussions with several people and it is premature at this stage to comment further.”

Mekki Abdulla, director of radio and marketing at Fujairah Media, however, said that he was close to signing an agreement with Virgin when another unnamed media group came onto the scene. “I went to meet them in August last year and have been talking to them since then. We are pretty close to making an announcement on that. We signed pretty much everything off with them and then other people tried to spoil the parade,” Abdulla said.

Jeff Price, programme director at Radio 1 and 2, said Virgin had also been talking with him. “The talks with Virgin for us are ongoing; I don’t know whether they are going to come to fruition or not. Of course it would be fantastic to be involved with the Virgin brand.”

Price said that should it join up with Virgin there could be ‘a new future for Radio 1’.
Talking about why Dubai was an attractive destination to start a Virgin radio station, Fisher said: “The radio market is relatively developed and the overall advertising market is growing quickly. We feel there is a great opportunity to leverage the Virgin brand and come up with a great station.”

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