Thursday, 3 October 2013

Global's insensitive rebranding of Choice FM to Capital XTRA

Copyright: Global Radio Ltd.
The decision by Global Radio to close Choice FM abruptly at noon today ahead of a rebrand to Capital XTRA brought back memories of the sudden decision of Capital Radio PLC to move indie station Xfm from it's base on Charlotte Street to it's Leicester Square base in 1998 with an automated playlist and sacking of specialist presenters with a lack of support from listeners from a management headed by Richard Park who didn't quite understand the audience.  Mr Park is now the executive director of Global Radio.

Unlike the subtle change in output on local radio stations which rebranded to Heart and Capital and even the more recent changes on Smooth Radio on Tuesday, this was sharp, sudden and poorly thought out considering how Choice is ingrained in London's black community starting as Britain's first commercial radio station for black people, based in Brixton in 1990 before being sold to Capital Radio PLC in 2004.

I can see why Global's decision to rebrand Choice as a spin-off of Capital FM considering the demographics are very similar and it'll boost the share of the overall Capital brand which makes it very attractive to advertisers, however the audiences couldn't be more polarised.

Global are using Choice and Smooth as pawns in a game of radio chess with rival Bauer Media.  Their brands Kiss and Magic are market leading in the capital and Global has lost ground to those stations.   As Smooth Radio became part of Global Radio on Tuesday, this has allowed them to tweak Smooth towards a more easy listening format and are using the Digital One National DAB slot currently used by Smooth 70s to launch Capital XTRA in it's place.   Kiss is also on national DAB, so will also be competing for the youth audience with them and the public service urban station BBC Radio 1Xtra.

Returning to the black community in London, the feedback on social media is largely negative, although this may work to the advantage of community, DAB and pirate stations to cater for those audiences.  Colourful Radio is largely similar in format to the original Choice FM and has former presenters from the station, I wouldn't be surprised if Daddy Ernie's Superjam ends up on there, younger listeners in North West London may prefer BANG Radio on 103.6 FM and there's the pirate stations, such as Metro Love Radio, On Top, Genesis and TSOL - The Soul of London which may benefit from Choice's closure.

I wish Capital Xtra all the best for their launch on Monday, however they may have a struggle to keep the existing audience who feel that Capital is a brand focused on One Direction and Lawson rather than urban artists and the community they're supposed to support. 

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