Why kill something so harmless? Or was it always about the money?
As much as I would love to open this piece with a witty or just downright rude and anarchic remark to contextualise the following discourse, I do not feel that I am allowed to. You see, the anarchic voice of radio is gone, as it does not appeal to men and needed updating apparently. Yes, for those who are somehow unaware, XFM got the boot last month to be replaced by Radio X. It is entirely different and such a downright odd but sadly commercial direction for the station to go in. Apparently.
It’s just that, it is not different. It has a shinier coat of paint perhaps, but it is the same damn station, its just dumbed down. As widely publicised, the alleged ‘Saviour of Radio’, Chris Moyles, is back on maintain radio, with the breakfast show on this ‘new’ station.
Do not be fooled. Its the same station. It has the same overall playlisting of Oasis, Blur, Mumford, and all the modern equivalent indie-rock, (and whether Moyles likes it or not, playlisting rules, do’s and don’t’s), it has the same adverts (British Gas, the Army, Greenwich College, O2), and actually, the same producers. Dave Masterman has stayed and seemed to remain quiet, even if the rival station, Absolute Radio, has taken Matt Dyson. It’s just that it’s dumbed down.
And when I say it has dumbed down, I downright mean it.
The writer and comedian most frequently heard on Radio 4’s The Now Show, Jon Holmes (Six times Sony Radio Award Nominee, Three Times Radio BAFTA Nominee), heralded XFM’s Breakfast Show for the last 3 years almost, taking over from Danny Wallace. Holmes’ show wasn’t quite as warm-hearted as Wallace’s interpretation of the Breakfast Show, but it was did something important. It took an approach of parody to breakfast radio. It featured the lazy PR that they got sent to feature on the show and pointed out everything wrong with it. They put up with idiotic sponsorship deals and took part in events like Red Bull Soap Box challenge just to point out how dumb taking part in such an event as a breakfast show team would be. On his second day, Miles Hunt (from out of The Wonder Stuff), took part in a game where we had to guess what fictional location he was in. Did it have a prize of value? No. I won a best of The Wonder Stuff CD from it.
Where else is there a platform for anarchic radio like this? Yes, there’s Radio 4 of course, but its breakfast show is The Today Programme, which is really not the kind of comforting I will enjoy in the winter months. Absolute Radio? No chance, Christian O’Connell is the nonsense originally subjected of the parody and anarchy approach by XFM.
What did Chris Moyles offer by way of silly fun on his opening day? He offered a 27 minute monologue about the virtues of being back on the radio that sent me back to sleep, and decided to ruin mornings everywhere with Girls Aloud, to make the point that he is his own man. Yep. He truly proved that a rock and indie led radio station with individuality as its main feature for its previous hosts will not be controlled by corporations by… playing a pop song? He then really showed the man who was boss by having the news reader, a much more disembodied aspect of Radio X than ever was on XFM, read the news late. WOAH.
THe darkest part of this rebrand is that the press releases in the weeks before proclaimed how excellent it would now be to have a radio station just for men. Fair on Moyles for trying to dispel this myth. However, just as a basic point of comparison, the only DJs on the station who are women have very much been shunted from their previously… more… prominent slots. Maybe some of the men who’ve been promoted truly deserve the step up the radio ladder, but there is no way that Jo Good of XFM’s Lunch Club (unofficial naming of shows was always a lovingly personal touch), deserved to be shunted to Weekends 4pm-7pm. The only times you will now hear a woman’s show on the station is 1am-4am with Hattie Pearson, Jo Good on weekends between 4pm-7pm, and Lliana Bird on weekends, 10am-1am. That’s 27 / 168 hours a week. That’s pathetic, and undeserved.
Stations have identities. Radio 1‘s the mainstream station, the public version of Capital, Kiss is for those so obsessed with Nightclubs that they feel the need to hypnotise the rest of us, Radio 2 is for anyone 38 and willing to admit it, and Magic is just lazy radio, but shockingly well produced. XFM was for those who wanted to find genuinely new music. It was the commercial competitor (and arguably forefather) to BBC Introducing. What is Radio X going to be? The modern and more up to date more corporate version of the indie one? It doesn’t work so well if you’re not willing to make a loss on the station for artistic integrity anymore does it?
And yet, I am unable to entirely hate this new corporate machine, no matter how much I wish Eddy Temple Morris hadn’t quit and had tried to recreate Alan Patridge: Alpha Papa. John Kennedy is still here. Doing the same show. Without any noticeable differences so far. I am pleased that what little time of the weekend the man-station isn’t being overrun by women-hosts (PLEASE NOTE THE SARCASM), that we can still find Jon Holmes and the Ellis James / John Robins combination. Communion Presents continues to be an excellent show in its production values and its aims.
However, you cannot hide that you have a station riding off the back of Chris Moyles. The alleged ‘saviour of Radio’, he is not. Do not fall for this prank on the nation, please. Maybe it is just one massive prank. What’s more likely, that he has the ego to have an entire radio brand ride off of his image, or that he would force the nation to go along with this elaborate set up as a reality show feature? Luckily, radio rebrands seem to cost so little that I can see which is more likely.