Monday, 28 September 2015

BBC Radio London to return, is it worth it?

The various brands of BBC local radio in London.
Radio Today is reporting that BBC London 94.9 is rebranding back to BBC Radio London, the brand used by the BBC for it's local radio station for the capital between 1970 and 1988 on October 6th 2015.

Ever since Radio London launched, it has struggled against BBC nationals and commercial radio, this despite being London's only local radio station for three years until LBC launched in 1973.   

There were also reception issues for FM listeners as the transmitter used was in Wrotham in Kent.  This gave excellent reception for most in the capital, except South London.   FM moved to Crystal Palace and then stereo in 1981.

Radio London attemped a revamp in the mid 80s with the soul format, where Tony Blackburn had a successful tenure until yet again, the station lost listeners.

It could be argued that the best era for the station was when Matthew Bannister and Trevor Dann relaunched Radio London as GLR - Greater London Radio with a rock/male skewed format which replaced Radio London in 1988.   It was critically aclaimed and the format lives on as BBC Radio 6 Music.  It also ensured that BBC local radio for the capital survived and didn't become a relay of a national radio station broadcasting in AM.

The trouble really started for the station in the late 90s when it was proposed to close GLR and rebrand as a tri-media service, BBC London Live which proposed a more mainstream service, dropping specialist shows and increasing the speech quota with recognised presenters.

Later in the decade, the station rebranded as BBC LDN and then BBC London 94.9.

So is BBC Radio London, the latest attempt by the BBC to make the station relevant?  Managing Editor David Robey claims it's because the station is on so many platforms, that the station branding is no longer accurate.

BBC London 94.9's Rajar share is lower than LBC London News, a part-time rolling news station staffed by Global Radio journalists, while other speech radio listeners tune into BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the defacto 'local' breakfast show or LBC, the tabloid topical phone-in station or 5 Live.

This has led BBC London 94.9 to go uber niche, with contributors to their phone-in shows being regulars and other shows being a diluted version of programmes available elsewhere.

I wish BBC Radio London all the best with their relaunch, yet I doubt it'll make a dent on Radio 4 or LBC's Rajar unless David Robey changes elements of the format.   An identical version of BBC Radio London from the 70s and early 80s won't work.  It didn't then either.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Radio seXist?

"If you've read about Radio X being a radio station being for men only, that is rubbish," he said. "Nobody agrees with this except for the one person who put it in the press release."  proclaimed Chris Moyles, the former 'Saviour of Radio 1' as he launched Global's new brand, Radio X.

Radio X before it launched caused controversy after press releases were sent out announcing the radio station was a radio station for men.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I felt that Global shouldn't have put that quote out to the media as this is clearly a marketing exercise for advertisers and sponsors, which include O2 for Chris Moyles and other shows by Gillette ProGlide men's razors.

So onto today's output.   I didn't listen to Chris Moyles, except for a 30 minute extract on where Moyles made his quote and talked a lot.   He has freedom to produce his own show (as Global believe he'll bring in plenty of disgruntled Radio 1 listeners under Brand Moyles) that after what seemed an eternity of waffling, he then played Girls Aloud.   

Mid-morning had Vernon Kay who quite frankly was awful, too much waffling, an inane phone-in comp and a pointless two way with the afternoon presenter where he mentioned that his first gig was on Xfm where he was let go after a week.   How he got back into radio beggars belief, but messers Park and Tabor from Global know better as they've successfully relaunched Capital, LBC and Smooth Radio.

Dan O'Connell then took over and basically took the old Xfm format using the art of solid jockery for three hours with new and classic near mainstream guitar music.

Then 'Middle Aged Bloke FM' returned with Johnny Vaughan at drive.  A person who may have been relevant to a younger audience in the noughties when he opened BBC Three, yet in 2015, the topics for Radio X's Camdenista's were "Who should be on a bank note?" and "who is your favourite weightlifter?"   Topics which would be perfectly fine for his previous show on talkSPORT, but not on a radio station where for the last 18 years where music has been prominent.

Phil Clifton then took over at 7pm where he welcomed us "to a brand new radio station"    No it's not Phil, it's the carcus of the old Xfm, with where Global really want to take the direction of the station in, a hybrid of talkSPORT and Absolute.

So did Radio X and Global stop the fears of female listeners who feel the station isn't for them?   No, after this little ditty was played during breakfast 
"We love women, with your make-up & high heels, you're so cute"

Stereotyping and Everyday Sexism still exists in the British broadcasting industry.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Farewell Xfm

After 18 years as a full time station, Global are closing indie station Xfm.

For those of us who have listened to the station over the years, it comes as no surprise as one of the management of Global Radio is Director of Broadcasting Richard Park.

Back in 1998, less than a year after launch as a full time station, Xfm had been sold to the Capital Radio Group and Mr Park was put in charge of relaunching the station.    The format changed from the original aims of Sammy Jacob and Chris Parry (who managed The Cure) to a Virgin Radio style Adult Orientated Rock format overnight with a playlist of Alanis Morrisette, The Beautiful South, Dave Matthews Band and other mainstream rock offerings alongside a tokenistic freeform show with Sir Bob Geldof.

The Radio Authority fined Xfm's new owner £4,000 for not adhering to their alternative format alongside the lack of a gig guide and Capital were forced to introduce more alternative programming, such as the re-introduction of John Kennedy's late night 'Peelesque' show which was rebranded Xposure, The Rock Show with Ian Camfield and Steve Taylor's A to X of Alternative Music.

Park was replaced by Andrew Phillips who introduced slightly more near-mainstream rock music and celebrity presenters with a laddish skew, he introduced Tom Binns, Robin Banks, Tim Lovejoy, Zoe Ball, Dermot O'Leary and the returning Vernon Kay.

After that period, Xfm started to take the format a bit more seriously.  Muso presenters such as Shaun Keavney, Lauren Laverne (both now at BBC 6 Music) and Iain Baker were introduced with more near-mainstream alternative music.  Other presenters included Natasha Desborough and later Marsha Shandur.

Xfm's downfall in my opinion was when Capital stretched themselves by launching spin-offs in Manchester, Scotland and Wales.

GCap Media replaced Capital and along with it, Xfm South Wales was sold months after launching while Manchester was under threat of being sold along with Scotland.   They also introduced an automated format called XU between 10am-4pm while Manchester started sharing programming with London outside breakfast and drive.   Xfm felt unloved once again.  This was when I as a listener turned it off.

This continued under Global, Xfm Scotland became Galaxy and now Capital FM, while Manchester and London limped on with a bland mix of indie pop until September 21st....

Once again Xfm has turned back the clock to a hybrid of Park's 1998 station and Phillips celebrity skewed format with the new name Radio X.

Chris Moyles, an undisputed radio presenter with a clear background of award winning radio over the years has returned to present breakfast after a three year absence after leaving Radio 1.   However he is a polarising personality, you either love his work or think he's a misogynistic pig.   He'll certainly bring in a lot of ex thirty something Radio 1 listeners, but may lose a ton of indie/alt and female listeners.

Global have really executed the pre-launch poorly by saying the radio station is 'male skewed', while it's true and suits advertisers, it does nothing to reassure female listeners that this station is gender-netural and for all.   Sadly broadcasting is still a largely sexist industry which makes it harder for radio people to understand that both sexes expect equality from entertainment formats.  However advertisers are first behind listeners which is a sad part of commercial radio.

Heart, Xfm's sister station which is largely female skewed doesn't say it's a women's only station, nor does UTV's talkSPORT which is uber blokey and white van man.

Other celeb presenters include Family Fortunes host Vernon Kay who had a stint on Xfm in 2000 and wasn't well received then and former Capital FM DJ Johnny Vaughan who presents drivetime.

So later this month, Xfm goes into radio history and a white middle aged executive's format from 1998 finally replaces a creative vision that alternative music people had vision to create in the 1990s.

Radio X will do well, but once again alternative music radio in the UK goes niche.