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.


  1. Hello

    I'd like to feature this blog on eRADIO if that's OK? Also, if you can get in touch it would be good to run your future blogs on the site too?

  2. What a very sensible Blog on this failing station - with a consistent low of 4% audience reach - that the JOURNALIST management seem to not want to tackle!

    The commercial equivalent would not just re-name it but clear out daytime staff from Vanessa Feltz upwards as this very dry brittle mix of SPEECH with music is now very dated and easily beaten by its commercial competitors, much as 50% of BBC Locals now are.

    The re-naming is a complete WASTE of licence fee money.

    Is the station going to be allowed to live out its last years on this speech/ journalistic format until they can pension off the staff and finally put it out of its misery?