Moyles and the Clutter Battle

I think it’s impossible to review a new show from the first edition. This morning’s Chris Moyles show was basically a ‘special’. However, there were a few things that I noticed about structure.

The bedrock of commercial music radio is structure. There are a number of things that you have to broadcast in an hour and the flow can be made or broken on how those elements are put together.

Commercial radio is always handicapped by the fact it has to make money. We have to insert interruptions into the programming to pay for it. The trick is to balance how much there is. Not only can you vary how many spot ads there are, you can decide how many sponsored features there are – things like weather, travel, whether there’s paid-for contesting and even if you’re pushing premium rate competitions.

As businesses are generally designed to make money, it can be very tempting to take as much money as you can in the good days. The problem, like a good game of buckaroo, is that if you load too much on, the whole thing collapses and no one wants to listen.

This is connected to the reason that there isn’t much speech on commercial radio, which, generally, is 2-fold:
1. It’s a point of difference to the (relatively) large amount of speech in BBC music radio
2. If we’ve already got 10mins of interruptions an hour from the ads, let’s not add more interruptions in the form of speech

Moyles therefore potentially is a problem as ads+heavy speech on a music station would traditionally generate tune out. Or more accurately, the people who like heavy-speech music radio already listen to the BBC, so heavy speech+ads means we’re on a hiding to nothing from the people who quite like the other type of music radio.

The difference, I think, is about the definition of interruptions. Moyles’ background and heritage means that the audience already knows that he likes to talk. The attraction for Radio X of Moyles is that they’ll be attracting people who understand how he works and what he does.

If you look at fans of the previous XFM Facebook page about how they feel about him, compared to his new show page, you can see the difference in understanding. The old listeners care very much about the amount of music, the new ones, not so much.

Interruptions to a Moyles audience is not about interruptions to the music, it’s interruptions to entertainment. A Moyles listener sees him as a bigger part of the music and speech that make up a show.

Back to structure

Ads aren’t the only interruption to the core being of a show – news, travel, weather, unnecessary sponsored features – these can be interruptions too. Another word for interruptions is clutter. Clutter are the things that get in the way.

What’s great to see with Moyles is how much the clutter’s been minimised.

First no traffic news. Traffic would usually be twice an hour and is likely to run:
Traffic jingle, sponsor credit, traffic bulletin, sponsor credit, traffic network ad. Loads of clutter for a normal breakfast show and here it just doesn’t exist.

Secondly, News. Usually something that’s delivered twice an hour, with Moyles it’s just once an hour. It’s also all delivered by a single voice and one that’s a core part of the team. There didn’t even seem to be an IRN Newslink ad either. Edit: The ‘solus’ Newslink ad, as Sophie Law points out, is actually wrapped into the break with the old “News is next” trick. However, with that and Dom doing it tightly packed and only once an hour it seemed a very clutter-free break.

Ad breaks. In the 7am and 8am hour there were three – 2mins, 1m30sec and 2mins. 5mins30secs an hour is incredibly light. Bauer breakfast shows will be crying on reading how long his run. Sponsor credits run into the breaks – just three times an hour before other commercial messaging.

The only other bit of clutter was a sponsored competition to win tickets to Muse. This was a text when you hear with some premium rate terms (voiced by Toby Anstis) and it was resolved straight after the break. It didn’t overtake the show by being opened and closed quickly.

All that was left was the entertainment – the speech content and the music. There were 4 songs in the 7am hour and 8am hour, 1 in the first half hour and six in the 9am hour. I imagine this is a little lighter than a normal show, but then they did have an exceptional guest in Noel Gallagher.

The entertainment works as it’s high quality, but also because it’s supported by having discarded so much clutter and the show’s fortunate by having shorting ad breaks.

Clearly Moyles is in a privileged position when discussing his show format with his bosses, but to me it really highlights the importance of flow and minimising clutter. If you’re doing breakfast, now really is a perfect time to review clutter and ask if all your show elements are entirely necessary and whether they’re delivered in the most efficient way.

The only structural negatives I felt were:

1. Long comedy production bits. There were a couple of longer than 30sec joke bits of production. I felt if these aren’t REALLY good there’s the danger that these drift into the clutter zone.

2. Talking about ad breaks. Moyles’ listeners are used to there not being ad breaks, when he talks about them, I know they’re coming and therefore feel the content-free discussion is just extending the inevitable. Chris is really lucky his ad breaks are so short, he shouldn’t being adding anything to them by going on about ads.

Overall though, minor quibbles. I’m really happy that Moyles is on commercial radio, I think the show’s going to make a real impact and be a big success. I’m also fascinated to see where the audience comes from.

However, as the show gets popular I imagine it’s inevitable that the demands for greater ad loads will increase as will the desire for more promotions. It’ll be interesting to see how Global balance keeping the existing inventory at a premium versus extending the amount of commercial minutage and whether they can keep doing the excellent job of keeping the clutter at bay.

Simplicity and Confusion

It’s been a busy week. I got back from holiday last weekend, had Next Radio on Monday, started test transmissions for our local multiplex in Lincolnshire and have been trying to catch-up on all the day-to-day stuff I’ve missed. Of course I’m not alone in being busy, we all have busy lives trying to combine work, family and fun.

One of the great things about radio, and one of the reasons I think we’ve done so well for so long, is that it’s brilliantly simple. You turn it on, it plays the last thing you were listening to. Marvellous. If you like a few stations you might use presets, scrolling by name on your digital radio, or remembering those frequency numbers. It’s a bit more complicated, but most people cope. Or at least teach themselves how to get to something that they need.

Changing a channel? But that’s not difficult, is it? No, it’s not difficult, but it’s another level of complexity in people’s busy lives. People, on average, listen to about three stations. That’s it. Radio contrary to our own belief, isn’t that important in people’s lives.

They consume what’s familiar without really thinking. It’s part of the reason that people get SO ANNOYED when we change something. Or someone leaves.

It’s fascinating to look through the tweets and Facebook comments to Chris Moyles and Radio X. There are a multitude of themes, questions and opinions. Lots are positive, some are negative. What I think it reminds me is the value in clarity and providing simple, easy to access information.

Away from X, I was talking to a colleague this week asking how his radio station re-brand went. He sighed and relayed bumping into a successful businessman who loved the old station, but hadn’t listened to the new one. The new name wasn’t familiar, and even though the programming was pretty much the same and it was broadcasting on the same frequency, he’d now gone elsewhere.

If you build it they may not come.

What helps, of course, is throwing lots of money at it. Many of Global’s re-brands have gone well because they’ve been well supported by above-the-line marketing that very clearly tells people what’s happening.

With Radio X we haven’t had that yet – it starts any day now, and in its place we’ve had below-the-line stuff of web and social, the messages on the existing XFM, press reaction and B2B messages.

In the absence of public information, it’s interesting to see how the B2B communications are so readily jumped on.

Radio X talked about being a male-focused station in its release. As an industry-insider I see nothing wrong with this. Radio is a demographically targeted product, it helps sell advertising. It makes it simpler for brands who do want demographically targeted outlets. It obviously doesn’t mean women can’t listen or aren’t wanted by the station, but having a particular skew is a good thing for the business.

However, that, alongside Popbitch talking about internal chats about whether positioning should be all Yorkie Bar Men Only, the hiring of an entire male daytime line-up and the (what I think is an incorrect assumption) of Moyles being a sexist pig, then it’s easy to see why the commeteriat have gone all Sexist FM on it.

Most of the articles and tweets about this are actually based on their being little information about what the station will really be. There are more women on the station than it seems (though of course room for more), the presenters aren’t sexist pigs, they are going to be welcoming to everyone and it’s not going to be some 90s retro throwback.

The trick is how, as a new brand or product, you can communicate what you are. I think it’s key that you do what you can to stop people jumping to conclusions. A vacuum of information, in a social media world, is a danger – as assumptions end up becoming truth. The more information you provide, the more you’ll find that consumers will correct each other. It’s also harder for someone to argue one thing when all the other information points in another direction.

Would 10 videos online, with a 50/50 gender split talking about the radio station have helped X’s coverage? What about someone laughing at the concept of banter? What about a video of the playlist meeting showing it’s not going to be Oasis FM. Positioning is much bigger than branding.

The other big question people have been asking is “How Do I Listen?”. Radio X is on the old XFM FM frequencies, has changed from having around 50% UK digital radio coverage to around 90%, is on Satellite and Cable, but not Freeview and is available through the old XFM apps, until they were updated to the new Radio X apps this week.

How do I listen again? On the Radio X twitter: “Radio X will be available all across the UK on the digital radio platform D1, as well as on 104.9FM in London and 97.7FM in Manchester from 21 September.” What the hell is the ‘digital radio platform D1’? D1 is a B2B brand that never needs mentioning. Is ‘digital radio’ DAB? Is it internet only?

I think we’re often so close to it, we don’t think and simplify enough. Now, the trouble for Radio X and for many of us is that our radio products are on a million different platforms – some are ones people can get, some they can’t. Oh to return to just being able to read out one frequency!

Tweets, and their character limits, don’t really help! You publish an iOS link and people are grumpy there isn’t an Android app. Can I get digital radio where I live? Again, I think more information is better than less. Is there a single page, with a good URL that explains it all? When someone asks ‘How Do I Listen?’ can it always be replied to with the same link?

Make these big questions ones that ANYONE can answer. If someone tweets their mates with ‘How do I listen?’, make it easy enough that their mate can find that one link so they can tweet it back.

I’m picking on Radio X as it’s new, but for your radio station, today, can someone easily find out how to listen? Is it obvious?

On the Radio 1 homepage, other than a listen live button, there isn’t any obvious link that tells you how to tune in. Looking at the last five videos on Radio 1’s YouTube channel none of them mention how to tune in to Radio 1 or give any information – in video, annotations or description – when the shows from Matt Edmondson, Grimmy, the Live Lounge or Scott Mills are on or how to listen to them on the radio. In the 1 day those videos have been up, they’ve lost 110,000 opportunities to tell people about listening to Radio 1 on the radio.

And when they do understand how to listen to something new, that they’re interested in, real change happens. Look at these tweets!

I think Radio X is going to be a big success, it’s position at the moment, is the ultimate in simplicity – it’s the radio station with Chris Moyles at Breakfast. If you want that, Radio X is the only place to find it. Most stations don’t have such a strong place to start.

So much of radio’s success has come from the platform’s simplicity. We’ve historically had a single device that everyone has access to. But radio’s becoming a multi-platform beast, 60% of UK listeners listen to radio on a device that isn’t a regular AM/FM set. Competition is stronger than it’s ever been before.

If someone shows a bit of interest in what your station is doing, are you making it simple for them to understand you, sample you and keep listening?

Radio X – Moyles, Johnny Vaughan and Vernon Kay – The New XFM

One of the things that I admire about Global is that they’re not afraid to make big decisions. Whilst the control the three key executives have over the business is sometimes unfortunate for those underneath, it does mean that they’re able to do dramatic things. The XFM change to Radio X is a great example of this.

XFM has been troubled since the beginning. Launching on the day Princess Diana died was unfortunate. Whilst they had an enthusiastic fan base created through RSLs and their pirate days, a combination of a dead princess and launch marketing with the ridiculous “9 out of 10 listeners prefer Capital” strap-line – thank you Saachi and Saachi – didn’t really help it get going. If you ever want to hear an entertaining story, XFM founder Sammy Jacob on the launch’s first weeks is a great one.

It took the Capital Radio Group a little while to work out that doing their own version of Virgin was going to be troublesome before it found its feet with Christian O’Connell, Adam and Joe, Ricky Gervais et al. Whilst critically acclaimed, it still didn’t really generate the audiences everyone felt it should deserve.

Into the GCap days, XFM had too many bosses, most of which lacked the clarity to understand what to do with the radio station, resulting in the ridiculous attempt to do XU. XU – a kind of Jack-esque production and callers plus music mix wasn’t designed to save money. It was a genuine attempt to respond to the changing ways people were consuming music. The thinking was flawed and it didn’t last long.

Interestingly, the recently launched XFM Manchester, did XU too where it was better received (and produced). Partly this was because it lacked the heritage/baggage (delete as appropriate) that 104.9 had.

Indeed, over the years XFM has been caught between a rock and a hard place. Poor marketing and an alternative name – XFM – scared off people who would like a guitar/new-ish music station and those who would revel in the alternative would tune in and be mortally offended by Kings of Leon.

The trouble has often been around being ‘cool’.

I’d spent my time at GWR trying to bid for FM licences with our rock radio station The Storm. It was an early DAB station and whilst it shared quite a bit of musical overlap with XFM it wasn’t positioned as cool. It was pop and modern rock guitar-based music and presenters having a laugh. We spent a ridiculous amount of money bidding for licences and often coming close but achieving nothing. It was worse as we’d lost out to XFM in Manchester and Kerrang! in the West Midlands. In different ways, they were cooler and the regulator probably thought they had a better chance of success.

Then, as is the way, just as I lost the Manchester licence I was merged into GCap and now responsible for growing XFM’s footprint. We’d decided that XFM was the stronger brand when compared to The Storm, and we didn’t need two rock stations, sadly The Storm was despatched to the radio graveyard.

In the rubbish way evil conglomerates work, the Capital people were responsible for much of the planning of the licence bids, but it was my budget. As an ex-GWR person I was unknown and untrusted by their team who thought I was a parochial tosser and I thought they were all posh-o spend-heavy idiots. Neither, of course, was true. I remember however thinking, as I was given the responsibility, that I had to make my mark fast. A request came through to agree for the Newcastle RSL team to stay at Malmaison. I made them all share a student house. We weren’t really all on the same page.

It did get better though. Working on XFM you really did understand the power of the brand. It made everything much easier. It was cool and credible, it had an instant perception. The problem was that it scared off lots of people who’d like what it did on the air. Any other companies who wanted to work with us were obsessed with the cool-end – it’s why pretty much all of XFM’s ad campaigns have been crap – the ad agencies fell in love working on a cool brand without understanding the people who (should) be listening to the radio station.

Oddly, I did then win a FM licence for XFM in South Wales (now Nation Radio). Part of the reason I think we won was that I’d stripped back most of the bullshit elements. It was sold as a rock radio station that would be different to (then) Real and Red Dragon in the market and would share a lot of the back-office resource of Red Dragon, where it would be based.

I’d left by the time it had been won. By then mad Fru Hazlitt appeared, did a load of mental things to ‘save’ the company, including off-loading XFM South Wales, and then what was left was acquired by Global.

Out of all the brands, XFM hasn’t seemed to have had much love from Global. I don’t think this is particularly out of malice, but more that there were better places to spend the money.

Indeed, it’s always suffered a sort of third child syndrome. I remember when Johnny Vaughan was getting a multi-million pound ad campaign singing and dancing around London for Capital, Christian on XFM meanwhile got a couple of grand for some branded beermats.

Product-wise there’s always been a few options with what you do with XFM. Do you go very new, very pop rock, or something in between. Going very new would please the die-hards, but would be unlikely to be successful. New music fans are miserable bastards at the best of times – it’s almost impossible to satisfy them, there aren’t that many of them and you’re now sharing their listening with blogs, Spotify etc.

If you go the pop-rock end then you’re competing with Virgin/Absolute and the people who like guitars who listen to Radio 1.

Musically the middle position isn’t that bad – but without heavy marketing to define it or an anchor breakfast show, the incorrect perceptions, not helped by the name, are always going to hurt you.

What works well overseas is a slightly heavier more rock alternative. Kerrang! has a bit of that position, and a brand which supports it (even if it, too, over the years has been a bit all over the place musically).

The other issue that XFM has faced is 6Music. 6Music is really the evolution of the original XFM concept, a decent budget many times that of what X could afford, and with many of the presenters that X made famous. No ads also helps too. With 6Music creaming off the 20-40 AB web-designer crowd it was only a matter of time before XFM had to change.

Looking at the new Radio X that’s been announced they’re tackling many of the problems that XFM faced with some aggressive changes. The new Radio X is not really that connected to the old XFM. Of course it will aim to scoop up some of the old listeners but its main aim is to aggressively bring in new ones. Doing a 6Music-lite was never going to be sustainable.

Changing perceptions about a brand is hard. Marketing is essential to educate/re-educate people about what something is. This generally takes money. X I’m sure will have some cash to do this, but its DJ hires will also help it break through to non-listeners and, probably since launch, be the fire power needed to give new brand values to the name.

I imagine Radio X is going to be a male rock station – Absolute Radio with some newer records, but it’s not the music format, or music passion, that’s going to make Radio X a success or not. It’s Moyles, Vernon and Vaughan.

These are big, popular, mainstream personalities who will have no trouble being passionate about modern, accessible rock music, appealing primarily to men, but will be eminently listenable by women too.

As a radio fan, I’m excited that Global are building a radio station around personalities. I regard Moyles as one of the most talented radio presenters in the country, with a strong following, who I hope will be incredibly hungry to take a small station much larger. JV is a very funny, very intelligent guy – who, with the right team, will be able to do something very special.

I am surprised JV’s turned up at XFM. As a talkSPORT presenter, I thought he’d be an easy pick to put on the new Virgin Radio which talkSPORT’s parent company will launch in April. Indeed the new Radio X is seemingly doing very much what was planned with Virgin but with a more stellar line-up and doing it first. It’s also going to prove to be a tough challenge for Absolute. If Radio X is a slightly younger sounding, more personality packed station it could cause them some trouble.

With Radio X taking up a national berth on Digital One and launching before the 2nd national multiplex next year, Global are out of the blocks faster to build a national station that will grow from a decent proportion of its existing audience, as well as attracting new people from Absolute and Radio 1.

Digital Radio works well when strong, focused programming is delivered well, nationwide. We’ve seen it with 6Music, Absolute 80s, 4 Extra etc – XFM backed by real talent has a great opportunity too. It’s also much closer to our idea for The Storm – I knew we deserved those licences!


There’s an interesting column on the Evening Standard’s website today about radio. The column is where someone anonymously gets something off their chest. The piece is from an in-house BBC Radio producer (apparently) and they rail against the BBC’s planned compete and compare (which will open more BBC programmes to competition from independent production companies) and that they’re forced to do social media when they should be making radio.

I don’t for one minute, think this is a view shared by all BBC radio producers, but it did make me think a bit about independent production generally as well as social media’s role in radio.

In the piece there’s a view that opening BBC Radio up to more competition will destroy many good things about BBC radio whilst lining the pockets of the independent sector.

At Folder, we’ve been involved in a bit of independent production over the past few years, so have some experience of how bits of it work.

Firstly, most independent production companies don’t make a fortune from BBC radio work. Indeed many don’t make any money from it at all. For simplicity I’ll break down commissions into two – one off documentaries or short series and then regular strands (weekly or daily shows).

It’s pretty hard to make much money from the former but you can make good money from the latter. Most people hope that the work that they put into the former will hold them in good stead to win the latter.

Folder’s involvement with productions is predicated on that – start small creating docs or small series, build up a reputation, and hope that you’re in a better position to win bigger things. This is hard. Competition is tough. Big boys like Somethin’ Else, 7digital or Wise Buddah have already done this hard work and are also annoyingly good at making programmes, so they’re difficult to unseat.

Strands are great for indies because they generate extra resource that can be shared on other shows. So, for example if I win Bob’s Indie Experience on 6Music the production fee may cover an AP, a Producer and time from an Exec – but it’ll probably be quite tight. As soon as you also win Geoff’s Soul Experience you can share resource among the two shows – and start to make some money. For large operations there’s benefit back to the BBC too – they get access to graphic designers, video people and social media bods from the indie too.

Docs though are quite a different story. To get these one off’s is also hard as the networks are inundated with pitches. I think Radio 4 get 10x as many submissions as they have spaces available. This means 9 out of 10 ideas get rejected. I think this means that the ones that get through turn out to be truly excellent ideas. If in your job you had 90% ideas vetoed by the boss, what’s left would likely be the best of the best and make you work harder to get your ideas accepted. That’s what Radio 4 and the other networks get.

I would love Radio 4 to commission Matt talks to his mates in his office. Profitability would be quite high. Unfortunately they don’t seem to like this. What they do like is a documentary about Hip Hop in the Middle East. Where we have to go to the Middle East. Flights, insurance, fixers, travel etc.

Radio 4 gets great ideas, the scope of which, ensures that the vast majority of the money from the commission goes on the programme. Indeed the profit margins of these shows are often wiped out when you take into account the research to pitch the 9 ideas that didn’t make it and then the unbudgeted management time to cope with any issues.

In our organisation we’re lucky that as we do a few things, we have resources that are paid for by something else, these can then be used by these docs for free. If anything we’re subsidising the BBC’s radio docs, not the other way around.

Now, we’re not martyrs. We don’t have to make these things. We’re doing it because we’re hoping to do more later and can make some more money. It can also bring in revenue and use people that we’re employing anyway. Plus it helps build staff experience which is valuable to the company,

But the combination of the 9 out of 10 failure rate and the ability to draw on other companies resources is why I think independent production wins the vast majority of awards.

We have to work so hard to get things commissioned, that when they do, they end up being premium ideas as chosen by the commissioning bosses. I’m not saying that this doesn’t happen in-house, but where there’s production quotas to fill there can be less pressure to come up with stunning ideas when good ones will do.

That’s why I think Compete and Compare is a good thing. It does bring more jeopardy, it does change the way people have to work, but what it also does, for both ends, is focus the mind on delivering great, interesting ideas for the budget that’s available. Surely that’s a great thing for licence fee payers?

What it does mean is that you’re not going to be left alone to get on doing what you’ve always done. Sorry. Whether it’s public money or shareholders money – it’s your job to deliver value – creative, monetary, whatever. If someone else can do that better they should be given the chance to do it.

Where does the line get drawn? Well, the network decides, the bosses decide. Balancing budgets and creativity has always been a thing and it will continue to be. The system will just change.

Social Media

The other bit of the article is the audible sigh about having to do social media to support a radio show. It sort of fits the head in the sand narrative of the piece, but I know it’s something that many in both BBC and Commercial Radio agree with.

Unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all answer to the question. But it can be useful to go back to first principals – why bother with social media?

Using social media helps increase your hours from existing listeners (giving them another reason to tune in) and provides a reach building opportunity (if that piece of social content is shared with others) so new people tune in.

Personally I think if you care about what you’re making, then you should want people to sample it.

Whether you’re a commercial broadcaster that needs ratings for revenue, or you’re a public broadcaster that wants to demonstrate value by your content reaching audiences that could love it, social helps you do that at little or no cost.

As modern media folk we decide how we spend our time. 10mins on improving some audio vs 10mins promoting that audio – what’s the best use of that time? Each individual has to decide that themselves.

I also don’t think the argument ‘someone else should do that’ necessarily washes. You could say the same thing about everything. I need someone to do that interview, I need someone to answer my phones, I need someone to do social media. Well, just like whether you get an assistant, someone decides whether your output justifies extra resources. If they don’t (rightly or wrongly) then you’ve just got to get on with it. So, yeah, open up Photoshop and get drawing. That is your job too.

Thoughts on the BBC Licence Fee

It’s hard not to believe that the Conservative government’s intentions are to encourage the BBC to self-destruct. It’s bright enough to recognise that the BBC has huge support from the public and therefore any overt interference would be a political problem. It’s much easier if the BBC itself seems to get worse, invests less into programming, suffer scandal after scandal and generally annoy it’s licence fee payers so much that it goes ‘pop’.

A quick and easy way to accelerate this it to lop off large parts of its funding whenever it can. In the last settlement the BBC’s licence-fee income was top-sliced for things like local broadband roll-out, S4C and local TV as well as taking on the funding of the BBC World Service. This time around, so far, it’s had to take on £750m of 75pluses licence fees – around 20% of its annual income.

However, there is a small silver lining. Even the Government has realised that the 75+ thing is potentially too devastating (well it would be if inflicted straight away). It’s slightly phased in over three years, the BBC will also see inflation-related licence fee increases and they can ‘charge’ for the licence fee.

The latter isn’t entirely correct. They’re not about to start a Netflix. Instead you will need a licence to watch the BBC iPlayer (due to the rules being old, you don’t need one at the moment).

The 75+ thing is also interesting. It’s up to the BBC whether to charge them or not. They’ve been getting licence fees for free since Gordon Brown introduced it and the assumption is the BBC will think the PR is too bad to start billing them again.


Whilst none of this is ideal for the BBC, the scale of the change means that it can start to do some interesting things to prepare for its own future.


If the BBC’s licence fee was replaced by traditional subscription today it would likely destroy it. Even assuming that two-thirds of people paid what they pay now it would be a completely different operation. Why do radio (it can’t be scrambled), news would be hard to support etc. It would spend significantly less on programming and therefore be less attractive to subscribers – a potential vicious circle.

The BBC has always worked hard to make it difficult to turn it into a subscription service. For example, part of the deal in saving ‘On Digital’ and re-birthing it as Freeview was that all the conditional-access (the subscription bits) were stripped out. Anything to make it harder for the government to suddenly subscription-ize.

Unfortunately (well, for the BBC) the rise of IP, Satellite and Cable as large-scale distribution systems means that the free-to-air trick will be harder to pull come the next charter renewal.

A licence-fee unconnected to consumption, and enforceable by prison is a lovely system to have, but I think this is probably the last ten years its going to be enjoyed.


The trick now, for the BBC, is to put in place the architecture and infrastructure so that when the change comes, that they are ready to make the best of it.

IP, iPlayer and Online

The ace card the BBC has is its internet-delivered services. The public like the BBC website and iPlayer and more and more people are consuming content on the move on non-TV devices. The public are also used to logging in to internet-services.

The ‘charging for the iPlayer’ new rule is the perfect opportunity to start building the BBC’s future subscription system.

iPlayer and Verify

The stock argument over logins for iPlayer are that people will share passwords a la Netflix and Sky Go. Indeed the fact that a household is licensed will mean they’ll have to issue multiple logins per licence fee. Easy to circumnavigate then?

Well, maybe not.

The Government is currently introducing their own login system – Verify. In fact it’s not its own system. Verify lets you prove your identity by using another service – a service who knows who you are. It’s a bit like when you login to a website with your Facebook credentials. The initial partners for Verify are Barclays, GB Group, Morpho, PayPal, Royal Mail, the Post Office, Experian, Digidentity and Verizon.

The BBC should adopt something similar. Fast.

The identity providers will know where you live, so if you had to auth your licence fee account, the first question it will ask is whether that postal address has a licence fee. In itself, that will stop the vast majority of people adding themselves to someone else’s licence.

I think, if no auth’d BBC login, no iPlayer access (on web, TV, mobile or tablet), no use of the BBC mobile apps and no use of the website. While we’re at it, why not make pay-TV platforms have to auth their subscribers the same way. They definitely know where you live. No licence fee, no access.

Yep – you’ll still be able to watch the TV or listen to the radio free-to-air on Freeview or DAB/FM – but that should be it.

Licence-fee payers should get used to this straight away. Indeed, I think it could easily be spun to prove the BBC is providing more value by keeping those non-licence fee payers away from the lovely BBC content that good citizens pay for.


I think it will be hard to say no more free licence fees for over 75s. I think it would be the right thing to do. But it would be hard to defend.

But, let’s reduce their access. As an over-75 you get free access to free-to-air TV and radio and maybe (if we’re being generous) access to TV and radio through cable/satellite. What you don’t get is any access to BBC online services, they’re for licence fee payers only. If you pay up you get them. If you don’t, you won’t.

I’d wager that a great deal of the 65 year olds today are as big fans of iPlayer and the BBC website as the rest of the population. They’ll be used to paying the licence fee, they’d still like to get online, they’ll probably carry on paying.

Whilst there’s still the licence fee I want the BBC to create the best system for getting households who use it to pay. There used to be detector vans now we’ve got login screens.

Thin edge of the wedge?

Is all of this the thin edge of the wedge on the route to a subscription-only BBC. Yes, it probably is. However, to my mind, not doing this or something similar is akin to crossing your fingers and merely praying that a legally-enforcable TV licence fee is going to be around in ten years time. If the BBC keeps their head in the sand, come the next charter renewal a sudden shock change, a sudden move to subscription, really will decimate Auntie.

The opportunity now is to build the ultimate subscription system. To learn about consumers consumption and to ensure that when an element of subscription is introduced, that the BBC is ready to convert licence fee payers to subscribers and to continue to make outstanding programmes.

The other benefit of having this direct relationship with paying customers is in the future that they will no longer have to be at the mercy of the Government and commercial media that does everything it can to ensure it won’t exist.

Let the iPlayer set them free.

Evans and Grimmy on the Telly

Lots of telly news for radio folk as Radio 2 Breakfast host Chris Evans takes the helm of Top Gear whilst Radio 1’s breakfast boy Nick Grimshaw joins the judging panel of the X Factor. But what does it mean for their jobs on the wireless?

Personally, I think it’s good news. One of the main things I’ve been banging on about is that in a crowded media world the biggest challenge to establish programmes and stations is how you drive awareness.

“If you build it, they will come” is bullshit. Doing a great job on-air isn’t enough to ensure success any more. Presenters need to ensure their content and personality transcends the show and station. Great content, word of mouth and advertising can definitely help do the job – but there’s a million other ways to do get the message out – newspaper columns, social media, YouTube or getting on a big TV show.


Three years in, Grimmy has found it hard to make his mark on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. For me, it’s a combination of production issues, coaching and lack of promotion. I still think, fundamentally though, he was the right choice. It’s also much easier to fix content than personality. Given the right material and promotion he could totally deliver.

X Factor is the perfect place to communicate his personality, massively raise his level of fame and provide lots of reasons for new, target listeners to sample the show. Being on the inside of the biggest pop culture programme for his radio show’s core demo puts Nick in an amazing position. The challenge is now to ensure that the other bits of the show deliver the wow that turns these samplers into regular listeners.

I think there’s also a brilliant opportunity to make it a more family-friendly programme. If you want 15 year olds to listen to the radio, it helps if the Mums are on-side as they’re the ones tuning in in the kitchen and car. If Mum’s more comfortable listening after spending her Saturday nights with him on the sofa, that will only turn out to be a good thing.

There is, of course, a knock-on effect of putting the Radio 1 Breakfast host on the X Factor – and that’s whether commercial radio will stop talking about X Factor. But you know what? I’d happily swap Global talking about the show to get R1 talking about it everyday. Easy.

Chris Evans

Evans is in a very different situation. He presents the biggest radio show in Europe with nearly 10million people in the UK tuning in each week. He does not have an awareness problem.

Whilst TFI’s excellent ratings were partly down to people’s fondness for the format, the extensive cross-promotion on Radio 2 (and popping up on Radio 1 and 6Music to talk about it as well) didn’t do it any harm. You see kids, radio advertising does work! Though it would have been nice if Channel 4 had paid to advertise on commercial radio rather getting it for free on the BBC. Anyway, I digress…

The BBC has been in a terrible state over Top Gear. How do you manage a Globally-successful brand when the core presenter is radioactive in the UK. Even with the awful things Jeremy Clarkson did, the show still had huge goodwill from viewers. High production values, humour and three likeable presenters made it look like it would be impossible for the BBC to reboot.

I think with the appointment of Evans the balance of power has shifted away from the three ex-presenters back to the BBC. Chris is a popular choice but has also, cleverly, had the endorsement of the old guard. Getting their blessing massively helps the show move on. Today, on the One Show, Evans announced that they’re having open auditions for his co-hosts. Another masterstroke. They will, of course, pick who they want, but tipping it towards being “the people’s show” is a canny move. I’m sure they won’t be shy to mention that Hammond and May were both appointed through auditions too.

As well as losing the three hosts, they also lost the key producer – Andy Wilman. Bringing in Evans as Presenter and Exec Producer also gives them an entertainment-genius to provide creative renewal and a new leader for a group of people no doubt significantly demoralised.

As the success of Evans’ TFI promotion shows, the new Top Gear will also have a ready-made platform to reach the right demographic every morning.

Will his new TV duties affect the radio show? It shouldn’t, but that’s not to say it won’t. At the Evans level, TV and radio are team sports. If you are supported by the right people it should be fine. Where I think it’s harder is that Top Gear requires lots of international work. Whilst Evans does have nine weeks of holiday a year, it’s going to be hard work to combine the two jobs.

One person to perhaps look at though is Ryan Seacrest in the US. He does successful local and national radio shows alongside American Idol and a lot of TV projects (he produces the Kardashians). To achieve this, his show literally follows him around the world. When he’s doing Idol auditions in Wichita, the radio show are there, pop up studio and all. He’s created a machine to support what he does. There’s no reason Evans can’t do the same.

Forget About Dre? What Beats1 Means for Radio

I’m excited about Beats1. A radio station with great presenter and production talent, well-funded with a large marketing budget and no end of ambition – to be a truly global radio station with a focus on new music.

I love radio. The world loves radio. Here in the UK 90% of the population listen to it every week. Lots of what it does is cool, but we, as the radio industry, don’t make it seem as cool as it is. We’re lucky that we have the BBC as it makes great radio programmes (with a ridiculous budget) and it forces commercial radio to compete.

Commercial radio without strong competition ends up being a missed opportunity. Just look at most American radio output.

Beats1 will help radio seem contemporary and relevant. Good luck to them.

I’m definitely not worried about them.

Over the past ten years hundreds of people have sat opposite me wherever I’ve worked, wanting to run a new radio station. Rich, poor, big, small, everyone wants a radio station. They’ve also all got an idea that’s brilliant! That’s a gap in the market! That will show the big boys a thing or two.

They generally never happen or shortly go bust.

That’s because to be a successful radio station is really difficult. They all forget that the easiest thing is making the content, the hard part is getting people to listen. Someone has to choose to give up the thing they listen to at the moment and pick something else.

If I asked you what it would take to make you stop listening to your current breakfast show, what would you say? Evans, Today, Grimmy – what would make you stop and turn over?

But Beats1 is different to lots of those wannabe radio stations. Firstly, audience size or commercial revenue is not their aim. Yeah, it’s nice to have, but it’s not why they exist. They’ve also got money and marketing  – they can do whatever they like.

Their arrival doesn’t scare me. I’m still much happier in the radio business than in the streaming music business that’s for sure.

Streaming music like Spotify, Rdio, Beats, Tidal are in an odd position. The rise in competition and the money they pay the music industry means their business has, already, been entirely commoditised. The repertoire across the services is pretty much the same and the functionality is the same too (there was little technical wow in Apple Music). The price is also pretty much the same. Operators want to cut prices/offer different deals, but are being stymied by the record companies who are trying to keep value high. The only thing left to compete on is content and curation and then having enough money to spend on marketing to tell people about it.

Beats1,  the curated music channels and playlists, the music videos and the artist content through Connect are designed to be the layer that makes Apple Music more interesting than Spotify and the rest. Having a better content layer and music service on a device that you control (through iOS) and can bend to your will (Android) is also very handy too.

The other thing Apple are good at is marketing. Their Beats1 poster budget in London is likely to be be bigger than Spotify’s global marketing spend. Also, they’re clever in knowing that content as marketing works.

Beats1 will be free (and I imagine ad-free). It has great DJs and will have lots of music exclusives. A friend was telling me the artists that they’re trying to sign up to become DJs – it’s going to be a station full of famous faces. And more than just the three they’ve announced.

By using Beats1 as the hero, it will encourage lots of people into Apple Music. Beats1 is the equivalent of the ‘ad funded’ version of Spotify. It’s just ‘the ads’ are going to be the encouragement to sign up to Apple Music.

Will Beats1 be a game changer for ‘traditional’ radio. No.

I imagine it’s going to be an accessible specialist music service. Your ILR listener is unlikely to abandon their home station for it. The more specialist listeners of R1, XFM, 6Music and low hours radio rejectors are probably the core audience. People who like Greg James and the latest Pitbull single? Probably not. Will it be a truly global radio station, or will it end up tilting towards the US market? I imagine (even with the work of some fine people pushing the other way) it probably will.

If Apple really wanted to “do radio” they’d have hired the top 50 radio DJs in the world. Then I’d be scared.

This isn’t about radio – this is about music streaming. It’s a content and marketing play to make up for lost time and the race to sign up as many people to spending a tenner a month.

Beats1 – welcome to the radio industry!

RAJAR Q1/2015

60 and 40.

To me this RAJAR is all about what the 60 and 40 are doing to existing radio stations. Established stations are seeing the sand underneath them shift and change. It’s because of the 60 and 40

60% of radio listeners listen to some form of digital radio each week. This digital listening now accounts for nearly 40% of all radio consumed in the country.

That means a large proportion of the UK are using different devices to consume audio. This is making them consume more radio stations and change their old habits.

It’s not about which platform is best, it’s about technology enabling consumers to have a better listening experience. They are using everything at their finger tips, whether rotary dial, touchscreen or mouse to give them something a little more than they had in the past. To better scratch an itch. Or even find a new radio home.

Existing stations are definitely not going away, but they’re changing or having change thrust upon them. Oh, and that’s even before we think about whether their programming is right and they’re firing on all cylinders.


In London, Kiss has maintained much of its audience growth with reach at 1,883 (vs 1,911 in Q4) and share at 4.6% (vs 4.8%). It’s also kept ahead of Capital which has had a stinker of a book, indeed it’s worst share ever at 3.8%

Kiss is now bigger at Breakfast whether you look at their own breakfast time-slot (6am to 9am) or Capital’s (6am to 10am)

Magic leads London’s commercial stations with a 4.9% share, LBC at 2 with 4.7%, Heart at 3 with 4.7%, Kiss are 4th with 4.6% and Capital 5th at 3.8%. A brilliant book for the yo-yoing in London Absolute Radio who are 6th with a 3.2% share.

In Global’s stable, Smooth has fallen back a little to 627k reach. Up year on year, but down on the last three books (781, 742, 760). A poor hours result for them too at 3,709m.

Capital Xtra still hasn’t found an audience in the capital, sliding further to 310k reach and its sister station XFM down to a disappointing 362k.

In the capital, digital-only station 6Music’a pulling in 612k reach and in the capital alone, Kisstory’s at 453k. AM and DAB’s Gold’s at 262k whilst digital-only Absolute 80s is nipping at their heals at 255k.


It’s the same story nationally. With digital-only stations pulling in better numbers than those that have a dual analogue and digital footprint.

The XFM network’s slumped to 884k reach, now beaten by digital-only Kerrang at 919k and now way behind 6Music’s 2,064m.

The rumours of taking the spectrum that XFM sits on and combining it with Moyles suddenly seems a very valid idea, whether or not they still continue to call it XFM.

Absolute 80s 1.4m reach plays against Gold’s 1.0m and 1Xtra 838k is neck and neck with Capital Xtra’s 840k.

This is the first book measuring Magic nationwide as it’s now on DAB across the UK and it seems to have been great for them – pulling in 3.6m across the country. If we take away their London reach of 1.9m, that leaves them with 1.7m tuning in digitally outside the capital – an amazing success in a single quarter.

If we look at the Kiss reach in its FM areas it’s about 2.7m, take it away from the UK figure of 4.9m – that’s 2.9m people listening to the brand on digital. Again – a stunning result. It’s sister station Kisstory continues to perform well with 1.1m listeners.

Bauer’s Kiss network (the Kisses, Kisstory, Kiss Fresh and, oddly, Heat and Kerrang) total 6.1m listeners compared to the Capital network’s 7m. It’s amazing to think that Bauer can get to that figure without the need for anywhere as many FM stations as Capital and just use digital capacity instead.

With the successes the digital-only stations are making – what does it mean for the valuation of FM licences? Whilst obviously nice to have, they are clearly no longer essential to generating large audiences.

Radio 1 will be disappointed as its reach drops below the psychological 10m mark to 9.69m – it’s lowest reach in a decade. It’s also now at, what I think, is its lowest share ever – 6.4%. Sadly it hasn’t had much of an effect on it’s average age either, which remains at 34.

Local Radio

There’s double-digital drops in reach and hours for much of Bauer’s 2 network. With results like Metro 2 (hours down 44%), Key 2 (hours down 59%), Radio City 2 (hours down 42%), it’s going to be a while before the local network sell of 1, 2 and 3 will help relieve the inventory pressure of their main heritage FM station. Those mammoth Bauer ad-breaks won’t be going anywhere soon.

Capital South Wales continues to be the black sheep of that family, with hours now at 827k – a third of what they were in the Red Dragon years.


Radio stations seem to fall into three groups now. Firstly there’s the stations that are doing nothing. They remain on AM and FM with little investment into anything digital (The Breeze, Touch FM). There’s then the stations that are replicating their existing brand on some digital platforms (XFM, Key 2). And then there’s those who are taking what they’re doing and pushing it out to more places and on more platforms (Kiss, Magic, LBC).

The third group are on the offence and they’re using the changes in listener behaviour to eat away at the audience the other two groups have. Doing nothing means that you have to work harder and be more successful in a shrinking analogue pond and doing just a bit? Well, I’m not sure it’s going to be enough either.


RAJAR Q4/2014

Capital is no longer London’s Number 1 Hit Music Station.

Well done to Andy Roberts from Kiss who has finally managed to beat Capital on reach, hours and share.

Kiss has often been number one for different demos and every so often for hours, but looking at the past ten years it has beaten it on reach only once. This quarter though its the first time they’ve beaten it on both measures (1,911 vs 1,869 in reach and 9,965m vs 8,509m in hours). RAJAR bonuses all round!

The trick of course is whether it can be a sustained or if it’s just a one off.


I’m a CHR fan. I love tight, music-driven radio. And though I’m out of the demo, I hope that I can still hear through the ears of a young ‘un. I think one of the issues Capital faces is that the product’s just a bit dull.

Historically being tight makes CHR a winner. I think that’s changing. With youth audiences we have cleared out a lot of listeners who just want the hits to Spotify/Music TV et al. I think this leaves us with a bunch of people who don’t mind a little non-music entertainment and that’s where Kiss is winning. It’s still tight but at least there’s some personality.

Case in point is poor Marvin off of JLS. He’s a good signing for Capital. He’s an ex-popstar, he’s married to a popstar and he presents the biggest show on Saturday nights with The Voice. He’s mates with the stars (or could appear to be) but you would never know any of this by listening to his show.

I had it on the other week and it was such a missed opportunity, have a listen below. He spoke for less than 6minutes over three hours. I think he jocks it well, but there’s just nothing there. The Hits, Kiss and R1 are streets ahead.

That’s not to say Global have lost their touch. Smooth and Heart are doing storming business.


As I mentioned last time round, Heart London’s bad book was probably more down to Summer holidays than anything else. Well, whatever it was, Heart’s now gone number 1 in London for share – with a stonking 6.3%.

Looking at the new Hearts around the country (the old ex-Real Radios) they’re doing incredibly well too. Heart North East’s got the best reach and hours for three years, Heart North West’s got the best reach for 3 years and best hours for 5 and Heart Yorkshire’s got the best reach for at least 10 years.

The overall transition is a great success resulting in a best ever reach and hours for the network.


Smooth’s not too shabby either. In London Smooth was hovering in the 400s for reach, it’s now had three books in a row in the 700s. It’s getting solid 2 shares since the re-launch, something it previously only managed back in Q2/2006. The North West did well under the old regime, but under the new it’s gone up a gear, delivering 1.1m reach and 8.1m hours.

The network as a whole has hit an all time record reach at 4.7m people and record hours of 38.5m


Digital Radio UK have sent me their latest update on digital radio. Lots of positives:

  • DAB listening share has increased by 6% year on year (3% quarter on quarter) and now represents over a quarter of all radio listening (25.2%) and over 30% in home (30.3%).
  • DAB listening in car grew by 29% year on year and total digital reach in car is now 7.6 million people per week.
  • 48.9% of the population or 26 million adults now have access to a DAB digital radio, up 7% year on year.
  • Analogue radio listening is at its lowest ever level; 56.2% nationally and below 50% in London and the North West regions.
  • Digital radio listening in home (46.2%) has overtaken analogue listening (45.6%) for the first time.
  • Over half of the population (52%) or nearly 28 million people now listen to radio on a digital platform every week.

I think in-home listening being majority digital is a big shift. If you’re not on DAB your available audience is just shrinking so fast its probably impossible to counter.

We’ve also definitely passed ‘peak digital TV’ it’s dropping quite significantly now, down 11% year on year.

I also think internet radio listening is massively disappointing. It’s increased at the same rate as DAB – 6%, but from a much lower base. This is at a time when listening to the radio through the internet has never been more accessible – high broadband penetration, 3G and 4G, smartphones, apps, infinite choice, higher quality – but it’s just not something that’s capturing people’s imagination. I don’t know why this is.

Internet radio and specifically app based listening gets the most platform plugs on any radio station and especially on station websites. But it’s not generating the explosion you would expect. As an industry, we should be lucky that we’re not relying on internet radio to be our only future. If we were we’d be stuffed!

It’s not just here in the UK. In the US, growth of internet streaming for regular radio stations has massively slowed down too. Over there, it’s the pure-plays like Pandora that are still seeing good growth. We’re lucky that we don’t have those sorts of competitors over here, if we did I think we’d be over the moon with our 6% growth.

If you want me to mention your RAJAR successes make sure you send me your press release.

Some other RAJAR thoughts:

Bidding for the Next National Multiplex

We’ve just announced our involvement in bidding for the new national digital radio multiplex. I wanted to write a little history of how we got there. There’s lots of people involved in the application – this is just my personal take, it’s not the corporate line.

I’m very lucky to do the job I do. I’m a fan of radio and digital media and through our company, Folder Media, I’m able to explore many different ideas. We’re a small team but everyone has lots of different skills which means we can make a decent go at the things we put out minds to.

When we set up Folder it was to bid for some local digital radio multiplexes. It’s one of the things that we previously did for GWR/GCap. We were pretty good at it. We learned to combine the benefits of being part of a big group, creative ideas for digital radio and relationships with different organisations into winning bids. We were successful, but not incredibly happy. We thought that there were lots of new opportunities out there but as part of a big company we couldn’t do exactly what we wanted. We decided to therefore have a go at this bidding business on our own.

At that point (2007) DAB was going in the right direction, but not everyone was involved. The costs were too high for the smaller radio groups. We created MuxCo as a vehicle where the smaller radio groups were able to get involved, knowing that the larger groups would begrudgingly tag along. We were also keen to do transmission and management in a different way so we worked with National Grid Wireless, the competitor to NTL/Arqiva. They were hungry for the business, as were we!

So, how did it go? Well, we won 9 of the 13 multiplexes we went for, though our transmission partner changed to Arqiva as they had bought National Grid Wireless. But we had to pause our launches a little as the BBC and Commercial Radio were only keen to commit to roll-out when there was some policy statements and funding from the Government.

In the meantime we had the opportunity to acquire Fun Radio from Global who were keen to reduce their portfolio of radio stations. Initially we saw it as a shop window – the ability to run a radio station in a different way to demonstrate our skills to consultancy clients and also potential multiplex clients. A strange thing happened though. The station kept building and building.

I’ve learned more about the modern media world through Fun Kids than anything else I’ve ever done. We’re over the moon that it’s able to support itself whilst expanding each year. It really is a truly multi-platform business. The broadcast radio side is the business’s bedrock for audience and revenue. It’s supplemented by the streaming and the website (along with YouTube and Podcasting). In fact the online output is now a key product in its own right as we do over a million page views a month and hundreds of thousands of audio downloads and video plays.

Its main success however comes from DAB Digital Radio. Without it there’s absolutely no way it would still be in existence. Our London coverage and the high degree of DAB take up means we have a business of a certain scale that can be supported by advertisers.

It’s one of the reason I’m such a digital radio fan. I’ve seen first hand how a new radio product can delight listeners whilst creating a sustainable business for a new entrant. It takes a lot of work too of course. And a great deal of luck. But it’s all built on DAB.

It’s also why, with MuxCo now on-air in eight of our nine multiplex areas, that I’m proud we’re able to work out ways to broadcast a whole cross-section of stations. We have new entrants like Trash Can Radio, community stations like Pulse in Somerset, smaller commercial stations like Sunshine Radio, the BBC locals as well as stations like Heart, Smooth and Capital from big groups like Global.

Providing a platform for a variety of stations at a local level is great, but we’ve also been keen to see if it’s something that can do on a national level too. As such we’ve spent the last two years looking at different ways of doing a national multiplex and earlier today our work (and the work of many others) was able to see the light of day.

DAB is in good shape at the moment. 18million people listen to it each week and it accounts for around 25% of all listening. I think it’s important for the radio industry that DAB’s successful because the stations it provides, the ease of tuning and interference free reception means people get to like radio more. It helps the sector by giving listeners a good experience of our medium – it literally makes them happier customers. It also generates the scale of listening that means companies are able to invest in content – presenters, shows etc.

I think it’s great that those stations are then on DAB, Digital TV and the Internet. Really I don’t mind how people tune in – a pair of ears is a pair of ears – but I know that if they weren’t on DAB, the lack of scale DTV and the Internet have means none of them, that’s none of them, would be able to afford any real investment in programming and that would mean a poorer experience for listeners, and for radio as a medium.

The 18m people who listen digitally do so because it offers them a benefit – it might be a better radio, it might be more choice. That’s 18m people who would be less satisfied if it wasn’t there. I’m keen that we grow that 18m further. I want more listeners to get more enjoyment out of the radio with more things that are relevant to them.

The share of listening DAB gets (25%) is also a good measure. The more time people spend with their digital stations is a good proxy for satisfaction. If it stays flat it just means the new stations are competing with other. If it grows it means that more people have greater engagement.

We know that certain stations attract people to digital radio. 6Music, Planet Rock etc provide new reasons to tune in. Content-led reasons. I think many of the ‘Extra’ stations and spin-offs play to the established crowd, they’re mainly good for people who understand them and are already digital listeners. I know Smooth Extra will add more hours to Global Radio’s group total but is it distinctive enough to bring new people to digital radio?

It’s something that’s driven a lot of our thinking in the Listen2Digital bid. We’re going to broadcast 18 radio stations. Which is a lot. We’ve tried to create a line-up that has some mainstream formats and some specialist formats. The mainstream formats should provide alternatives to existing stations with solid programming teams and a varied output – definitely not jukeboxes. Our specialist stations are there to scratch individual itches. Whether it’s the Christian and Asian stations or RTE and Gaydio, we think these are stations that speak to significant audiences who rarely have a radio home that reflects their community and culture. Other specialist stations speak to particular music fans whether that’s jazz or country.

From a Folder Media point of view we’re excited that our two radio brands – Fun Kids and Upload Radio – will have a national home. The way that we’ve been able to set up Listen2Digital has created a cost-structure that allows us to broadcast these stations nationally. Up until now we would not have been able to do that – and stay solvent! I know that this structure has enabled many other stations on our bid to do the same.

Part of the reason we’ve been able to keep the costs down is that we’re predominantly using a different transmission company. Rather than using Arqiva we’re opting for Babcock International. They’re a huge engineering company who do a massive amount of broadcasting, looking after much of the military’s communications in the UK and also broadcasting the BBC World Service to hundreds of millions of listeners around the world. However, we’re unable to do it all without Arqiva, we’ll still be broadcasting the multiplex from their big sites.

I’m particularly excited that we’re broadcasting four stations in the new flavour of DAB, DAB+. From our Fun Kids DAB+ trial earlier in the year we discovered a large audience that was able to pick the station up on in-car radios as well as many home sets. It made us realise that we’re entering a phase where the number of DAB+ receivers starts to make commercial sense for broadcasters. But these things are always chicken and egg – you just need to get going with it! We’ve therefore come up with a way to support four stations in DAB+ in the early days to break that chicken and egg cycle. They’re also specialist stations that can really shout about what you need to receive their services in DAB+ – Gaydio, Chris Country and RTE Radio 1. Oh, and Upload Radio.

Upload Radio has been a big project for the Folder Media team. We’ve been building a system that will let anyone create a programme, buy a one hour slot, and have their show broadcast on DAB digital radio, online and mobile with listen again for 30 days. The local version is going to roll out later this year and then hopefully it will be nationwide on DAB+ if we win this bid.

It would be great to be able to paint our competitor for D2 as rubbish and terrible. But that’s not the case. We work closely with people at Bauer, UTV and Arqiva all the time. They’re diligent, committed and have some great ideas. If they win the multiplex their line-up will be a fine addition to digital radio in the UK.

However, we’re still pleased that we’ve done something different. We think there’ll be value for the whole radio industry in having these new stations from our new operators. DAB has great scale, there’s never been a better opportunity for new stations to make a success of it. The fact they’re not from big radio groups and that success is so important for them will mean they will work harder and shout louder to ensure their businesses do well. I’m as excited about their enthusiasm as I am about their radio stations.

I also think it’s time that a new multiplex operator is added to the fray. At the moment if you want to broadcast nationwide you have a couple of options. Option 1 you can broadcast on Digital One – which is owned by Arqiva. Option 2 is you can broadcast to a selection of local multiplexes. Right now Arqiva, UTV and Bauer control over 80% of the local multiplexes in the UK and they have a shareholding in all but 2! I don’t think it makes much sense to add as Option 3 – Broadcast though Sound Digital (owned by Arqiva, UTV and Bauer).

I am, however, clearly very very biased.

What I would ask you to do is to read both the bids, make up your own mind about which is best and why, and then perhaps drop Ofcom a line to tell them. This is our public spectrum, we all should have a say in what happens to it and where it goes.

My multiplex colleague, David Lloyd, talks here about what taking Gem national means for them.