Friday, 28 June 2013

Wimbledon 'commentary' on BBC Radio 5 live

Listening to BBC Radio 5 Live's Wimbledon commentary of Murray v Roberdo this evening, it started off as you'd expect, ball by ball commentary of each game, which was interrupted by the news and a round up of the day's play.

The third set had started and then suddenly the commentator announces that he's interviewing players who'd been knocked out, but after 5 minutes of these 'interviews' they announced that it was a 16 year old "internet sensation" impressionist had been doing them.

Now I don't begrudge the young man, however what the hell were 5 live doing this amount of padding during a game?  Now people in the industry will say "you could listen on 5 live Sports Extra" which is fine if you have digital or online.  However, what will the commuter with an analogue radio do expecting to hear the match and get banality instead?

You wouldn't have this nonsense during an English Premier League football match, so why does the BBC have this editorial policy of anything but the game during one of the major Tennis tournaments of the season?

If we were fully digital with radio as we are with tv, I could understand why 5 live would take an alternative look at Wimbledon, but while we still have analogue, it's a poor show.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Big groups are not 'protected' on radio discussion forums

A member calling himself 'neilm833' claims on the main radio discussion board that the big radio groups are protected when people promote niche online radio stations.

This is complete nonsense.

Global, Bauer and the other main groups come in for more scrutiny by anoraks than any other radio station.  Threads about Global's Heart, Gold, Capital FM, LBC 97.3 and the acquisition of GMG Radio are popular topics of discussion alongside Bauer's recent decision to switch Kerrang! for Planet Rock in the West Midlands and the merger of Metro Radio with TFM in the North East.

People from the radio industry will reply to defend their stations output or at least try to explain why they playlist stations in such a manner, which is largely met with resistance from elements of the anorak community.

Threads about internet radio stations tend to be created to either promote the station to fellow anoraks or to bash the major stations output as they have a more extensive playlist than your average radio station which cater to Joe Public.

Not all internet radio is programmed for the anorak in mind, the .977 stations in the US have many formats, but are tightly playlisted to attract different demographics and advertisers unlike the specialist culture of those promoted on the radio forums.

My own personal opinion is if somebody wants to recreate a heritage ILR in internet form for the anorak community, good luck to them, but please don't try to compare it to a mass market, larger budget commercial radio station as there's no comparison as both have different audiences.

As for 'neilm833'  Members of radio forums may remember a certain character from the noughties who'd complain about bitrates and post about soul/jazz stations etc.  Some things never change in the wonderful world of radio forums.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

TeamRock Radio - Brief snoop

At two minutes to midnight on Sunday evening, new digital station TeamRock Radio finally launched after six weeks of test transmissions.

The station built up a following before the launch, thanks to social media via ex presenters and background staff from Real Radio XS who resigned from the station and publicity from TeamRock's magazine titles Metal Hammer and Classic Rock Magazine, which both have shows on the weekday schedule.

After a reading of a poem by Edgar Allan Guest from Corey Taylor, a band member from Slipknot, the station went straight into a special programme covering the Download Festival, with artist interviews with TeamRock's presenters.   This could've been an anorak fest of ego's self congratulating themselves, but no, the target audience came first and should be congratulated.

I then tuned into to thirty minutes of the debut show on Monday from "Dewsbury", a former producer of Real XS Manchester's breakfast show and now the afternoon presenter and head of music for TeamRock Radio.

I heard one metal track, however the playlist was mainly radio friendly without selling out by not playing Beady Eye or Coldplay as Kerrang! Radio have been playlisting when they were a FM station in the West Midlands.

I tuned in again this afernnon and heard some metal, however they played between 2-3pm the likes of Queen, Guns n Roses and Nazareth which should be enough to keep the hardcore rock fans going without frightening away the 'dippers' who may find out they like the random metal track in between the radio friendly  tracks.


TeamRock has launched to a great start, it's neither too commercial or too niche.  The presentation of the daytime shows is spot on, although listeners who like tight links will be disappointed and should have a healthy listenership of ex Real XS and Kerrang! Radio listeners, the latter who lost their FM service in the West Midlands to the mainstream Classic Rock station Planet Rock.  I do wonder how they'll monitise the station without spot ads, yet I think we'll see sponsored slots for the daytime shows once they finally report to Rajar.

The station could easily replace Absolute Radio if TIML Radio decide to sell at the right place, unlike AR which relies on mainstream stadium rock artists such as Muse, Coldplay and Snow Patrol and comedians at weekends, it'd fill a void on analogue radio (even on AM) of credible harder rock.  However Planet Rock (via Bauer) may finally win the day.  It's more likely they'll acquire the local radio licences of Real XS after Global's appeal to the Competition Commission is heard after their acquisition of GMG Radio was halted by being told to sell various radio stations across the country as they'd have an anticompetitive share of the radio advertising market.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Why Global are right to appeal

I'm not an expert in the advertising market, however it's clear that Global are right to appeal the decision by the Competition Commission based on these simplistic factors.

Ofcom's investigation into the merger between Global and GMG Radio took on board all the other media outlets, such as tv, print and online and approved it.  Global also offered to provide increased news for Real Radio in Wales and Central Scotland with journalists to cover the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Government.

The other is Bauer Media who were proactive in being against the merger to Ofcom and the CC.  In Northern England and Scotland where Real and Smooth compete with them, Bauer own heritage brands under their 'Place' banner where if Global rebrand Real as Heart would be a threat to their business.   This is nothing to do with Bauer losing advertising to a new rival in those markets, rather than Global have ready made brands which are tightly targeted to a particular audience.    This would be a greater threat to Bauer's broad heritage Place brands which target a wider female audience.

Take Yorkshire for example.  Global have been asked to sell Real or Capital.  Only Capital serves the whole of Yorkshire on FM, Real is a smaller regional licence covering the South and West.  Each part of Yorkshire has at least one commercial rival, such as UTV in Bradford, the Lincs FM Group stations, UKRD in York and Bauer in Leeds and Sheffield alongside local and regional press and websites.  To base the decision on just the radio advertising market is archaic.

A part of me thinks that Global should just 'take it on the chin' and franchise the brands in the conflicting areas as Global did with Heart and Gold in the Midlands after the merger with GCap, but there's also a golden opportunity to bring the Competition Commission into the 21st Century by getting them to take on board the other media providers in each area.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Alternatives to Planet Rock in the West Midlands

Classic rock station Planet Rock replaced Kerrang! Radio on 105.2 FM across the West Midlands this afternoon bringing the third classic rock FM format to the UK.

While this is sad news for those modern rock listeners with analogue radios, such as in cars, there are many rock alternatives available to West Midlands listeners on DAB or Freeview.

Kerrang! Radio hasn't closed down and continues on DAB, Freeview & online across the UK and has announced a new line-up which starts on Monday with all the presenters on weekdays being from the old FM station which gives some continuity. However the station will be refocused to be closer to the brand ethics of the sister magazine publication.

TeamRock Radio is the new all rock station which has been test transmitting on DAB across England, Scotland and Wales since May.  They finally launch at 11.58pm on Sunday with an eclectic playlist of modern and classic rock and for the first time on daytime commercial radio, the sub genre of metal will be playlisted.

For those who liked Kerrang! Radio playlisting mainstream artists such as Beady Eye and Muse, London's alternative station Xfm can be heard on DAB across the FM area that Kerrang was on as well as Sky.

At a push, the analogue radio alternative is adult orientated rock station Absolute Radio on 1215 AM and various options digitally.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Preconceptions about Gold Radio

A typical forum comment.  Copyright: Hearst Magazines UK.
"Worn out old songs" and "repetition" come up regularly on media forums when it comes to discussing Gold Radio and at times isn't seen by some in the anorak community as a proper oldies radio station.  You get kudos if you have a broad playlist like Smooth Radio, online such as Big L which is managed by volunteers or a radio station in the Netherlands which the quote is from a discussion about a poll from a Dutch radio station where they're counting down listeners votes which has an eclectic selection of classics.

So what is Gold apparently doing wrong?  Their proposition under Global management has been "The Greatest Hits of All Time"  A straight out of the tin brand where they play the big hits mainly from the 60s and 70s with a dash from the late 50s and early 80s with tight personality links which is perfectly fine for the average listener.

However Gold doesn't just play the big hits.  Gold Requests on Sunday to Friday evenings is presented by Dean Martin, a promoter and passionate presenter with an encyclopedic knowledge of music.  He's probably the flag bearer for the brand where he uses the traditional straight to air calls from listeners to discuss the songs they'd like to hear in addition to more modern social media techniques to discuss elements of his show while on-air which gives the listener a feeling that he's interested in the listener and isn't afraid to play what could be considered off-target tracks.   If a listener requests The Wombles, it gets played.   There are also specialist request segments for the 50s and 60s.

Gold is a different beast from the big budget Capital Gold of the 80s and 90s which included heritage presenters such as Kenny Everett, Tony Blackburn and Paul Burnett, but continues to treat those core early songs from the birth of mainstream pop music in an entertaining and respectful manner.  It'll never have the wide playlist of a 'Big L' or an niche oldies Dutch station, but it was never meant to be in the first place.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Saving radio station groups and the ignorance behind them

Summer 1998, Harvey Goldsmith sells his share of indie station Xfm London to the Capital Radio Group.  I was absolutely livid and Londoners set up 'Demonstration X' to combat Capital's takeover of the station.

A demonstration was held outside Leicester Square (along with a legendary rumour that the station was moved outside of London for the day, so was the fear that demonstrators would break in) where a brick was thrown into a window from the Charing Cross Road side of Capital Radio's HQ.

Later, a meeting was set up with the then programme controller, Richard Park which came to nothing.  However, Capital were caught after not complying with their format by providing a playlist of AOR (Adult Orientated Rock), the lack of a gig guide and specialist shows and were fined £4,000 by the Radio Authority.

This orchestrated campaign in the pre social media era worked because Capital had clearly not understood the spirit of the station and tried to implement the Virgin format they had when they tried to buy Virgin from Richard Branson.  This was blocked by the Competition Commission.  Eventually Xfm brought back a daily specialist show, the gig guides and a mainstream indie lite playlist during the day.

Step forward to May/June 2013.  Bauer Media announce that they're closing the new music skewed rock station Kerrang! Radio and replacing it with another rock brand Planet Rock which is skewed towards Classic Rock.

A Facebook group 'Hands off Kerrang Radio' was set up by a listener who wanted to share how frustrated he is with other listeners and even set up a farewell event at a nearby pub to the studios.  Fair enough.

The problem with these groups is when people with some knowledge of the station try to reason with people who are so blind to why it has to close.   Kerrang isn't Xfm circa 1998.  The radio industry has changed so much to the extent that the station has to flip format and network from London or die. 

Where this campaign could work is to ensure after the station flips on June 14th is to ensure they comply with the format agreed with Ofcom.   They have to play some modern rock and breakfast is speech heavy.  If they don't comply with it, orchestrate a campaign to ensure Bauer comply with Planet Rock's Kerrang legacy format.  

Using a group to say "Bauer is evil/shit" etc is not a good use of engaging listeners to be proactive and just leads to bickering and trolling.

Monday, 3 June 2013

More cuts at Bauer Radio

After recent decisions at Bauer to close their Birmingham station Kerrang! Radio on June 14th replaced by a relay of Planet Rock on DAB and the earlier decision to close TFM Radio and merge output with Newcastle's Metro Radio along with the regionalisation of local breakfast shows on Magic AM, Scotland now takes the turn for cuts with the decision to network the Breakfast show on all but one AM station in the group.

Clyde 2, Forth 2, Tay AM, West Sound and Northsound 2 will all share a new breakfast show presented by  Robin Galloway, a presenter well known for his wind-ups on Real Radio a few years ago. To give Bauer credit, the presenter should be able to convert those who'll miss local breakfast shows.

According to the Bauer presser, those presenters who lose their breakfast gigs will be offered a new show on the networked station schedule elsewhere and will feature a new topical phone-in regarding Scottish independence.

Considering Bauer sell their local stations under the 'Place' banner, based on their locality, networking is creeping in via the back door, yet rivals such as Global's Gold have networked everything on AM from London since the rules changed with the exception of Wales which continues to have a four hour 'national' show from Cardiff from noon-4pm weekdays on it's licences based in Cardiff and Wrexham.

UTV Radio continue to provide local programming on their AM stations during daytime hours, although Signal 2 and Swansea Sound take networked programming from their FM stations during evenings, while Pulse 2 is largely automated off-peak.

Can we see Bauer merging more station output in the future?  Wave 105 appears to be the exception to the rule of standalone stations being revenue earning successful stations being the market leader in the Solent market, yet the company could save money by relaying Magic 105.4 from London.   Yorkshire's Radio Aire and Hallam FM could also become one station.  Aire in particular has suffered from poor Rajar in-part due to poor reception issues in Leeds.  At one point, the sister station Magic 828 had more listeners than Aire despite being an AM oldies station.

Bauer should also consider bringing in a unified brand name for their AM stations in Scotland.  The nation's radio output is of course different to England due to the lack of BBC Local radio, yet it'll be an easier sell to advertisers, rather than than the mix of local brand names the networked greatest hits output currently has.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Have Sunrise Radio run out of Time?

Following on from Brian Lister's blog post about the news that Sunrise Radio have asked for listener contributions to keep the radio stations on-air, speculation is rife that the Litt Corporation who run Sunrise Radio Group will sell or cut back even more on their stations.

Since last year, Litt Corporation have sold their share in Exeter FM (which is now called Radio Exe) and more recently Radio Plymouth, leaving them with three mainstream format stations.  Time 106.6 in Slough (which is based at Sunrise HQ in Southall) which was recently re-awarded to Time beating a bid from Slough community station Asian Star claiming that Sunrise can support the station with it's shared resources, Time 107.5 in Romford which last year had it's own problems when the former pirate station Centreforce who provided the off-peak output on the station to meet it's licence requirements resigned after Litt Corp decided to reduce their hours to weekday evenings, Palm FM in Torquay, alongside their Asian brands, Sunrise Radio, Kismat Radio and youth station Buzz Radio.

The company has also cut costs by closing Sunrise TV on Sky and removing Sunrise and Kismat Radio from Sky and Virgin Media and on Friday removed Sunrise from DAB in Glasgow and Edinburgh leaving the station only available in London on 1458 AM and DAB. 

Sunrise have had financial issues in recent years, in 2009, their two stations in South East London, Time 106.8 and South London Radio were put up for sale.  It's hard to find confirmation, however it was alleged that Sunrise sold these two stations to an Asian owner who kept the two stations on-air.   There were also mysterious 'For Sale' posts on the station websites.  However the station licences were handed into Ofcom and were re awarded to community organisations Rinse FM and Reprezent who are providing an alternative service which was much needed in London in comparison to the poor contemporary pop services that were provided previously.

Will Litt Corp sell more stations?

Possibly.  Time 106.6 is in the Thames Valley approved area which allows local licences to network all output together.  This would allow Celador's The Breeze to broadcast a bespoke version of the station from it's Thames Valley base in Basingstoke, alongside networked programming from Southampton.  The Breeze already broadcasts in the approved area in Newbury, Andover and Basingstoke, however the Litt family may put an inflated price tag on the licence considering the TSA is within the Greater London area.  Asian Star Radio may also offer to buy the licence, but would have to request a format change from Ofcom which would surely go to consultation and in that time would still have to provide an AC service.

Palm FM and Time 107.5 could be sold as part of a management buy-out.   There's also the possibility of Adventure Radio (Southend and Chelmsford Radio) acquiring the Time Romford licence, however it's not in the Essex approved area and would have to adhere to Time's format which includes playing soul music, although it could network from Southend expect for 7 hours per day on weekdays and 4 hours at weekends.  This would mean Time would continue to have a local base for peak shows.

Litt Corp would be left with the core Asian services in London without the burden of the contemporary stations