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. 

1 comment:

  1. I don't disagree that Global may have shot themselves in the foot by describing the new station as 'male skewed'. However it's noticeable that whenever Heart is described as being orientated towards female listeners this usually passes without comment. What is wrong with equally describing a station as being aimed towards men?