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January 05, 2009

All hail homogeneity

It’s a sad day for radio today. The first of several dozen local radio stations are losing their identity and becoming Heart.

Global Radio bought GCap Media last year, and today some of the former GCap stations start using the new name.

I’ll be particularly sad to see Chiltern FM go. I grew up listening to it in the years that Radio 1 was full of loud rubbish. From today, it’s just Heart.

The changes go beyond the name though. There’ll be less local news, fewer local presenters and more ‘networked’ programming. The long and short of it is that it’s less likely the next Chris Moyles or Scott Mills will come from commercial radio.

Moyles presented a brilliantly funny show on Chiltern around ten years ago. Today a presenter on the station wouldn’t be allowed to talk for more than thirty seconds between songs, let alone try to be funny.

I’m not upset that Heart, as a national brand, is coming into being. It should have happened years ago. Commercial radio would have had a much more successful decade if it had a national, contemporary music station broadcasting on FM. All it has had up to now is Classic FM.

But using local radio frequencies to create this national brand is sad, and not what they were designed for. They might have been full of local people trying to imitate Radio 2, but at least they were local.

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