Ofcom backs Capital Xtra’s Choices

Ofcom’s Broadcast Bulletins are always an interesting read. Well, for radio bods like me they are. They detail Ofcom’s decisions on major complaints and for people who want to understand the regulator a little better it gives quite a bit of background into their thinking.

Issue 264 has just come out and in amongst slapping Radio 1 down for Lily Allen’s swearing and resolving similar naughtiness on The Wright Stuff it also talks about the complaints Global Radio’s had over Choice’s rebranding to Capital Xtra.

Many original Choice listeners have been unhappy about the shift to Capital Xtra away from its Afro-Carribean roots and complained to Ofcom that it was deviating from its analogue formats:

A targeted music, news and information service primarily for listeners of African and Afro-Caribbean origin in the Brixton [or North London] area but with crossover appeal to other listeners who appreciate urban contemporary black music. The service includes 21 hours per week of complementary specialist music.

There were three issues that came up:

  1. Was the daytime music in format; and
  2. Was the specialist music in format; and
  3. Was it delivering a satisfactory news, community news and information service for listeners of African and Afro-Caribbean origin in the Brixton and North London areas

You can read Ofcom’s full response here (PDF), but here are the main bits:

With regard to the station’s music policy, as set out above, we acknowledged that a greater ‘dance’ component had been injected into the station’s music mix. However, taking an overall view of the music output across both monitoring periods, and also taking into account the increasing overlaps between urban and dance music, it was our view that Capital Xtra’s music output remained compliant with the requirements of the Format. Nevertheless, we have reminded the Licensee that the Formats continue to refer explicitly to, “urban contemporary black music”. We consider that such music, including genres such as rap, hip hop and R&B, must remain the station’s core music offer.

In terms of local and community news, we noted that a separate London news feed is provided for the two FM licences which is different from the news bulletins broadcast on the (national) Capital Xtra DAB service. Consequently, a range of local London stories were aired, including some that would have been of particular interest to the African and Afro-Caribbean community. We noted that the local news bulletins broadcast by Capital Xtra were also compliant with the Format requirement to provide local news bulletins at least hourly at peak-times (which Ofcom defines as being weekday breakfast and drivetime, and weekend late breakfast).

We recognised that, in sharing most of the output with the national Capital Xtra DAB service, some of the previous local ‘feel’ of Choice FM has inevitably been lost. However, it was ultimately our view that the station’s news and information provision was sufficient to remain compliant with the requirements of the two London FM Formats, and was consistent with Ofcom’s localness guidelines

The output of Capital Xtra has changed in some respects in comparison to that of the former Choice FM, and we acknowledged complainants’ concerns about these changes. However, on balance, we did not consider that the changes meant that the station had ceased to be targeted primarily at listeners of African and Afro-Caribbean origin in the areas of London stated (as the Formats require). We therefore concluded that Licence Condition 2(4) had not been breached.

Some would argue that this is another example of Global riding rough shod over people’s radio stations and that Ofcom is weak. I’m sorry but I don’t really agree with that narrative. There’s no question that these stations have changed over the time, they were licensed in 1990 and 2000 so no real surprises there.

And that’s the nub of it really. Should radio stations be preserved in aspic? When the first station was licensed in 1990, there was no internet, no multi-channel TV, no digital radio, no mobile phones. Should, 24 years later, we be judging it the same way?

Have the Afro-Carribean community been ‘let down’ by the regulator? I don’t think so. Have they been ‘let down’ by business? Potentially more likely.

However, there has never been more opportunities for stations to be on-air. Licensed community radio, DAB across London, DTV, the Internet – they’re all options. Big ones. In Q1 of this year Capital Xtra’s share was 0.8 and 1Xtra’s was 0.7%. The idea that an FM licence is the only way to cater for audiences is no longer true.

102.2FM in London was licensed as a Jazz station, Smooth is very much not one now. Radio 2 used to play Mantovani. It doesn’t so much any more. Asian talk now comes out of radio tuned to 1035AM, it used to be Country.

The world moves on. It is a shame if you like the old. But there’s never been a better, and easier time, to build the new.

More Free Form Radio

I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Challenge Radio today. It’s the Radio Festival’s pop-up radio station. It ran from 8am to 8pm and had a whole host of radio presenters from BBC, commercial and student radio, hosting shows together.

It was a bit of fun. Something nice to do whilst the Radio Festival is on and everyone is together. It was on FM and DAB around Manchester/Salford and some of the shows were simulcast on BBC Radio 2 and Fun Kids too.

With my Fun Kids hat on, that’s why I was listening to a lot of it. Interestingly it was our first ever live show on Fun Kids – which er, somewhat added to the Fun…

Anyway, listening along to it made me think about radio a bit. Sometimes you need to hear something different to remind you of what you know, or perhaps don’t know.


Firstly, it was a fun listen. The people doing it didn’t need to do it. They all have much bigger and better shows. They did it because they wanted to and as there was no real pressure they were relaxed and had fun.

Other than Ofcom ones there were no real rules. But that didn’t stop the presenters being presenters. They generally didn’t ramble on and they did ‘radioy’ things – teased ahead, reset and explained where they were are etc.

It certainly helped there were no ads to play (as it does the BBC) as it gave the presenters the room not to worry about hitting speed links etc. There were some lovely naturally paced stories and anecdotes and still room for plenty of tunes.

We live in an imperfect world, competition and ease of switching means that formatting is a necessary evil. Total free rein would make it harder to gain audience and traction. R1/R2’s success comes from heritage, high value talent and no ads. Being Radio 2+ads (and slightly weaker talent) would sadly be suicide for any station. Sorry anoraks.

However, the trick is how you can create the flow in an hour that allows the format to hit but gives the presenters confidence to be relaxed and funny. It’s something that commercial radio particularly manages in Breakfast, it would be interesting to take the level of production – particularly around break and song placement in traditionally more music intensive hours.

In 10mins-of-ads-an-hour commercial radio it’s probably still  going to be difficult. However, if you’re on, or run, a station with a spot load of less than five mins – maybe a digital station – I think it’d be possible to win on music+personality (providing, of course, you have the right people and the right scheduling). Plus if you’re a more specialist station you’re closer to being replaced by Spotify – you might as well add something to your armoury. Perhaps that’s chat.

Anyway, back to Challenge Radio…


Quite a few of the shows had people thrown together – for fun! Some of these worked, others didn’t. The ones that didn’t weren’t because they hadn’t met – some of those were actually great – they didn’t work because the people doing them didn’t understand what they needed to do.

So much good chemistry comes from generosity. Enabling others to be fantastic. There’s also the improv trick of ‘Yes and‘ to move things forward. You don’t need to know your co-host, you just need to know the skill. Lots of stations, especially those who want to prep people for bigger shows should teach these skills – rather than “hoping they all get on”.

Visualisation enhances

The pictures are better on the radio blah blah blah. Yes, of course the benefit of radio is that it’s a multi-tasking medium and you don’t need to look at something. However, when there’s something you can look at, make it available. Challenge Radio had high value talent, guests, chat – this made it something I would occasionally lean forward to consume.

It didn’t need pop videos (especially crappy ones pulled off of YouTube), just having some camera swapping based on mic levels and a smaller window showing metadata when songs were on was great. Streamed on YouTube, which I’m comfortable using on multiple platforms, was perfect. I think Challenge Radio had a Broadcast Bionics solution. It seemed to work fine!

Why bother? My hunch is visualisation like this would be hours enhancing. I think I’m more likely to keep something on ‘in the background’ if I can occasionally foreground it.

Different can be exciting

Like Radio 2’s learned with 2DAY, what can you do to your existing station that rejuvenates the presenters and provides something that’s fun for listeners.

At Challenge Radio they broadcast from a sort-of Crystal Maze type studio. It was a talking point. It was engaging, you wanted to see what it looked like. What can be a surprise? What can be intriguing? What can be fun?

Anywho, well done to the people who worked on Challenge Radio, particularly Chris North who had to wrangle all the presenters to be on it and then find all the people to support it and broadcast it. It was fun to listen to and made me think. So hurrah for that.

The Business of Internet Radio

Occasionally I stumble over people who are vociferously in favour of Internet Radio as the future, to the detriment of all other radio platforms. I think this is somewhat platformist. From my point of view, a pair of ears is a pair of ears. I don’t mind whether they’re listening on DAB, FM, Internet or a piece of string.

Radio is multi-platform and that’s brilliant. Each platform has its pros and cons and it’s our job (as radio folk) to use the advantages of each of the platforms to help us grow our businesses and serve listeners better.

Internet Radio hasn’t seen as sustained growth in the UK as it has in other places around the world. I think this is probably a combination of the music rights situation, plus the strength of the brands (BBC and Commercial) on DAB and Digital TV – they often scratch people’s choice itch. In many markets if you don’t like what’s on analogue radio you have to use the internet, here that’s not the case.

However listening on the Internet provides many positives and with everyone toting an internet-connected mobile phone it means we can bring our stations closer to listeners when they’re on the move. At home, apps like Radioplayer for the iPad give great discovery tools where, wi-fi connected, listeners can discover and sample our new radio stations.

Up to now what Internet Radio in the UK has failed to deliver is a killer commercial product. The versatility of a two way connection, and the ability to geo and demo target has been around for a while, but there’s been little way to take advantage of it. Selling geo/demo-targeted inventory is actually harder than one-size-fits-all and whilst target demos might be very much more profitable, you’ve still got the other ones to fill too.

For me, the big shift is the introduction of Global Radio’s DAX platform, built on much of the great AdsWizz technology. This allows ‘publishers’ be that radio stations or music streaming services to pool their internet radio inventory and let Global’s (and AdsWizz around the world’s) sales teams to do the selling and for stations to concentrate on content.

The idea is that they combine this large inventory pool with access to ad teams around the world to get good rates for spots. Providing they can fill the inventory this provides a brilliant new opportunity for radio stations – suddenly more internet listening equals more money. Having this formula will encourage stations to innovate in the Internet Radio space and do fun new things with streaming.

These opportunities are part of a wider discussion of Internet Radio, something the guys from US website RAIN have been having for decades. As well as making a great news website, they’ve also been creating conferences talking about it – and now they’re coming to London.

They’ve created an event in London – RAIN Summit Europe – that has a great line-up of speakers and to me, is a perfect primer if you want to understand the opportunities for Internet Radio in the UK.

It’s £199 , with £25 off if you use the code FMRSE when registering.

Bauer’s Network Changes

An interesting bunch of changes are about to happen to Bauer’s network of radio stations.

At the national level they have two types of national radio station.

In the Premier league they’re pointing to Absolute Radio, Kiss and Magic. With Absolute Radio and Kiss already broadcast nationally on DAB, they’re going to be adding Magic to Digital One in January 2015.

Absolute 90s will provide the capacity to make this happen, though will still remain on in London and some other areas.

Alongside Kiss, Kisstory will join DAB in London and a selection of local multiplexes and Kiss Fresh will be in London on DAB.

In the second division nationally they’re still supporting Heat Radio, Planet Rock and Kerrang.

At a local level where there’s a Place network station on FM, eg Radio City -that stays the same – simulcast on FM and DAB. However, what was Magic AM becomes Radio City 2 on AM and DAB. And then a third station launches in each market on DAB targeting 15 to24s – Radio City 3.

The stations that get a ‘2’ are: Clyde 2, Key 2, Metro Radio 2, Hallam 2, Radio City 2, Forth 2, Rock 2, Viking 2, TFM 2, Tay 2, Northsound 2, Radio Aire 2, MFR 2 and Westsound 2. The ‘3’s go to all of those stations except Northsound and Westsound.

Updated: The Hits, it seems, will cease in those areas to become the 3 service. It’ll carry on, as is, on DAB in London and Freeview as The Hits – clever network splits ahoy!

These changes happen in January 2015 too.

This is quite an interesting shift. It means nationally they’ve got three strong national brands – Absolute, Magic and Kiss.

Then locally with 1, 2 and 3, it’s an aim to cover off the local market with services targeting 15-24s (Radio City 3), 25-44 (Radio City) and 45-64 (Radio City 2).

There’s then some more niche national development brands in there with Heat, Kerrang and Planet Rock.

For Bauer,  Global is the big competitor and this is a solid strategy to try and dominate locally and nationally. To be a real success locally though, they’ll need to give proper cross-promotion and marketing to 2 and 3.


Radio stations with the most social network listeners

“When did they add social to RAJAR”, I semi-screamed at Dave on Friday afternoon. “Er last quarter I think”.

I was creating a demographic group when I’d noticed that Dave had added a whole social section to Octagon CrossTab (the excellent software from Hallett Arendt that I use to do RAJAR things). The nuts and bolts of RAJAR are, of course, radio listening – but it also asks lots of other questions from the newspaper people read to how much TV they watch. Octagon CrossTab allows me to create demographic groups which are usually things like ‘people aged 20 to 39′ or ‘Guardian readers’ but now I could create demos based on people’s use of social media.

It allows me too look at social networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, MySpace, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr and Vine and sort use by listeners from ‘never’ through to ‘several times a day’.

So, I thought it might be interesting to have a look at stations with the most active Twitter and Facebook users in Q2/2014.

This doesn’t look at active users of a station’s Facebook/Twitter account, but the listeners who state they use the social networks AND listen to each of the stations. Why bother with this when you can look at the follower/like numbers? Well, I think this is more interesting it shows the radio stations that have really engaged social media users. If your station is high up the list then by concentrating on your social output you could actually start to have a meaningful effect on reach and hours.

Now, I can cut this a number of ways. Firstly we’re going to look at Heavy Twitter use and sort it by the total number of people per station who state they use it ‘a few times a week’ or ‘several times a day/daily’. In other words a list of the stations with the highest Heavy Twitter users. For this I’ve stripped out corporate groupings but left in networks.

Heavy Twitter Users (‘000)

BBC Radio 1


BBC Radio 2


Capital Network


Heart Network


BBC Radio 4


Kiss UK


BBC Radio 5 live




BBC 6 Music 


Capital London


Now I’m going to look at Heavy Twitter use as a percentage of reach. So this shows the percentage of a radio station’s reach that are Heavy Twitter users.

% Heavy Twitter Use





Kiss Fresh


BBC 6 Music


Capital XTRA (London)


XFM London


107.6 Juice FM


City Talk 105.9


Capital South Wales


Kiss West



Up next is good old Facebook. Again, I’ve removed corporate groupings and ranked by the number of listeners who use Facebook ‘a few times a week’ or ‘several times a day/daily’.

% Heavy Facebook Users (‘000)

BBC Radio 1


BBC Radio 2


Heart Network


Capital Network


BBC Radio 4


Kiss UK


BBC Radio 5 live


Smooth Radio Network


Magic UK


Classic FM



And then by percentage of total reach…

% Heavy Facebook Users

XFM Manchester


96.3 Radio Aire


Kiss Fresh




Key 103


Kiss East




Capital South Wales




The Hits



The North West clearly loves a bit of FB!

I think this may be the first of a few posts looking at social. But if you want to investigate it yourself, and your station is an Octagon CrossTab customer – just add a bespoke demo in the ‘Demographics Editor’ and then you can use it in any column, row or layer in any type of analysis.

RAJAR Q2/2014

RAJAR has always been about trends. Snapshots of quarters don’t really tell much of a story, it’s the direction of travel that’s really interesting. This happens at both a macro and micro level – of course what’s happening to Station FM is interesting, but we’re also blessed in the UK that because we measure where people listen and how they listen, we’ve able to understand much more about the changing behaviour of the listener.

If you’re just concentrating on the reach and share of a single station, then you’re missing out on the true shifts in the market.

For me ‘digital’ is more than just a particular platform. To me it means people choosing stations based on strength of the brand and the content rather than just what they happen to be able to pick up on their analogue radio.

6Music now has more listeners (just) than BBC Radio 3. It does not need an analogue outlet to be successful. Absolute 80s has 70% of the reach of the main Absolute Radio. Heat Radio, a well-targeted magazine spin off is on the way to a million listeners. Kisstory, on-air for around a year, is bigger than Planet Rock (age: 15). Eagle Radio’s been on DAB for a couple of quarters and its already generating 15% of its hours from that platform.

As a radio industry we should celebrate, we’re being freed from our FM shackles. How much better to compete on content rather than rely on happening to have 2million watts of music power.


I think Bauer gets more of my attention now than it (or EMAP before it) ever has. It does however seem to be a fundamentally boring company that happens to have some interesting assets.

Over the past 18 months there’s no arguing though that they seem to have got their shit together. Grabbing Planet Rock and Absolute has given them hours – to fight Global Radio – and has also given them some interesting people. You only have to look at the rise of the Absolute team in the Bauer structure to show they were lacking in quite a few areas.

In the UK, Bauer is smaller than Global Radio. Global have more licences, more audience and more hours. There’s also limited growth for Bauer – there are less and less prime assets around. The last big one is probably talkSPORT. With its radio/mag/digital output it would be a sensible fit for Bauer.

The one thing Bauer does have over Global, is digital radio clout. Their press release tells me that 50.8% of their business is now made up of digital hours. The acquisition of Absolute has helped this no end – as an amazing 82% of Absolute’s hours come from digital listening. With those kind of numbers you’d definitely be looking at the AM and FM costs…

Looking at all listening, Global’s sales division has 209m hours, Bauer’s 144m. But just concentrating on the digital hours for the groups, Global is on 65m but Bauer’s on 70m. Bauer will be trying to keep that lead over Global as the UK gradually transitions to a predominantly digital country. It’ll mean that they don’t have to worry about complex warehousing arrangements or OFT negotiations – they’ll be growing their business through attracting listeners to their brands.

The two things that will get in the way of this dream are Global, of course, but also themselves.

Even with this digital drive, I worry that it fails to pay much attention to its digital siblings. If you treat Heat, Absolute 80s, Absolute Radio 90s, Kisstory, Kiss Fresh and Planet Rock as a network – it’d be one that delivers 5m listeners and 27m hours. This compares to Kiss UK (26m hours), Bauer Scotland (16m hours) and Magic UK (19m hours). Bauer’s English Place network’s reach is only a little higher than the new station combo at 5.4m.

For me, something like The Hits shows the dichotomy. I think The Hits is a great little station. It sounds good, it’s got a good on-air team who come over as being young and in touch. It should be seeing great growth – but this quarter its reach and hours have dropped nearly 20%. It was a station regularly around a million but now is at 774k. I think it’s almost criminal to have a station punching those sort of numbers with, what looks like, pretty much no marketing, its online activity built on good will and, I believe, not even paying all of their presenters.

I know other stations are looking at The Hits – and plucking talent from it – it’s a shame it’s not as well supported by the Bauer guys.

Radio 1

Someone I’m sure that’s over the moon that The Hits is sidelined is Radio 1, who continue their task to keep the station young and to try and take it younger. Radio 1’s average age (looking 15+) is 34. It’s been 34 (with rounding to the nearest whole number) since Q1/2010. If you look at 10+ it’s 32 (again with rounding). Which it’s been since Q2/2010. Contrary to the visible evidence though,  I still believe making Radio 1 younger is an achievable aim.

On the face of it Nicks’ had a good book, up quarter on quarter and year on year to 5.9m listeners (up from 5.8m for both). However, his 15 to 24s have dropped 190k, whilst he’s added 338k 25 to 64s. The share of 15 to 24s who are tuning in has dropped to 22.5%, not his lowest ever, but still a disappointing number for the team. And also probably not helping those average age numbers either.

Global Radio

In other news – Global’s execution of Smooth is really paying off. It’s doing well pretty much everywhere, but especially in London where it’s reaching 781k and has a market share of 2.6%. It’s the biggest audience it’s had since at least Q3/05. The rest of the Smooth regionals have also seen increases plus it also seems to be doing better on many of the old Gold’s it replaced on AM.

The new Hearts have done pretty well too with NE, NW, Yorks and S. Wales seeing growth, whilst Scotland, which will always probably be a difficult nut to crack,  having dropped back.

I think it’s still early days for LBC and Capital Xtra. LBC’s racking up about 150k outside of London which is solid, if unremarkable. Capital Xtra’s really taken a hit in London post-Choice at 358k reach (when it was previously doing 470, 550), however, outside of London it’s seeing more growth – no doubt aided by being in Digital One. Overall compared to the old Choice UK figures – it’s about the same.

And finally…

Thank the Lord that Radio 2 didn’t add any more listeners, even if their drop was so marginal it’s recorded as a 0% change.

Other bloggers on RAJAR night:


Radio 1’s Seize Summer

I quite like Radio 1’s new promo trail series – ‘Seize Summer’. Now showing on TV and YouTube pre-rolls etc.

I think brand campaigns like this are a difficult sell for a Public Service Broadcaster. It’s easy to mark them as unnecessary as surely everyone knows about Radio 1 as it is. I don’t entirely disagree, but I think for stations that continually have to renew themselves to attract a young audience it is something that’s important to do.

Also, I think so much of Radio 1’s positioning is around ‘new music’ that actually that can be seen as a negative for some of the audience. Not all young people are into ‘new music’ they’d rather you just banged out 5SOS and The Vamps. Now, that isn’t Radio 1’s job, so something like this reminds them Radio 1 is also the home of fun, for people like them.

The creative is that Radio 1 asked listeners to tweet in suggesting ways they could “Seize Summer”, they then brought it to live.

Behind the scenes:

An example of the execution:

Meanwhile, in France…

France is having an interesting time with digital radio – Radio Numerique Terrestre! They’re quite late to the party having just launched this week. However one thing it’s missing is most of the big radio groups. This has meant a really diverse bunch of radio stations have launched – lots of them!

It means France is very different from the rest of the world at the moment. However, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about digital radio, organisations original positions do seem to change. So there’s a bit of a watch this space about this all. Indeed, some of the companies not playing here, are playing with DAB in other markets.

For me what’s interesting is that having a territory that mainly consists of new stations offers an interesting control. Does the market need existing FM stations on digital? Is it essential, or irrelevant. I guess we may find out!

To provide a bit more background I’ve asked Paul McNally to tell us more…

It’s been described by one Paris official as the “the most important moment for independent radio” in 30 years – and by another industry executive as “doomed to fail”.

After about a decade of uncertainty, listeners in three French cities woke up to digital radio for the first time this morning (called RNT – radio numérique terrestre).

67 stations have been licensed to broadcast on DAB+ in Paris by the broadcast regulator CSA, and another 53 each in Marseille and Nice.

But none of the ‘big four’ commercial radio groups (Lagardère, NRJ, RTL and NextradioTV) is involved – or the public broadcaster Radio France (reportedly saving it €150,000 a year). And between them, they represent 80% of current radio listening.

The commercial groups boycotted the applications round and since then have campaigned vigorously against DAB+. The president of their body, Michel Cacouault, told one French newspaper this morning: “We are certain that digital radio (RNT) is destined to fail.”

Their boycott appears to have motivated independent stations to make an even bigger noise about going digital. The group representing smaller stations, Sirti, is firmly behind the new medium, calling it “a historic moment, a decisive turning point in the digitisation of media – and essential for the future of free, unlimited and accessible radio.”

The national union of ‘free’ radio stations, SNRL, has also enjoyed extra publicity from smaller stations’ decision to go their own way and seize an opportunity from digital.

The union’s director-general Pierre Montel said “the most fragile” stations in the radio economy had got one over on the big groups.

Work is under way now for a co-ordinated marketing effort under the brand “Prêt pour la Radio” (Ready for Radio). WorldDMB and Pure have both been very supportive of the launch efforts – as have French retailers Fnac and Darty.

So who’s broadcasting? At the time of writing, in Paris, 37 out of 67 stations have gone live.

They include existing FM stations such as Voltage, Ado and Radio FG – with Ouï FM, Nova and Skyrock due to follow any moment now.

Two stations on the French Riviera have used the DAB+ launch as an opportunity to be heard in Paris (and heard by the Paris-based ad agencies): Vitamine and Radio Monaco.

One multiplex is made up entirely of not-for-profits including a Protestant radio, Mandarin and student radio. The CSA has even given a nod to English-language radio for the first time, with World Radio Paris catering for the city’s sizeable expat population and tourists.

So is the CSA still committed to digital radio? A first report on the medium’s success post-launch is expected in the autumn. It reportedly has no plans at this stage to invite applications in other cities.

Rachid Arhab, who was involved in drawing up the CSA’s digital radio policy from 2007 to 2013, said in an interview this week:

“The big operators were the most eager to see digital radio arrive – but many have changed their mind since. I hope they’ll find alternative solutions and the radio world will succeed in its digital transition.”

Paul McNally is a former radio industry correspondent (The Radio Magazine, Press Gazette) and now provides editorial support to English-language radio stations in Europe including World Radio Paris, Radio X Brussels and Riviera Radio in Monaco.

Radio Redundancy

Some more sad radio industry news, today from the BBC, that there will be 65 redundancies at the BBC’s national networks. Already this year there’s been similar changes at GMG/Global, Absolute and other radio groups too. It’s never nice. Especially if you’re at the receiving end.

The main thing to keep in mind if you’ve been dealt this duff hand, is that it’s rarely about you. Generally the reason redundancies happen is that the organisation did not keep pace with the changes in its industry. If they had evolved as their market had evolved, roles and responsibilities would have done the same. A large number of lay offs means they’ve only just realised what they should have known for a long time. It is very much their fault and not your fault.

However, blame isn’t that useful and it definitely doesn’t pay the bills. I’ve therefore tried to come up with six tips about what to do if you know (or suspect) that radio redundancy might be coming your way.

1. Examples

Most people are hired based on skills and experience. You need to be able to demonstrate that to a potential employer.

Get audio examples off the log, take screen shots of websites and download that raw video that you made. Do it now, because you’ve got the ability to easily get it from internal systems, or can quickly push that old microsite live again so you can do a grab. You know you always MEANT to get a copy – do it now.

You’ll then be able to make stories out of this material to explain who you are and what you can do.

2. Expand Your Knowledge

All companies do exciting things. Just probably not in your area. And I’m sure you often think “I must go and find out about that” but never do. Now’s your time. You probably know someone vaguely connected with that bit, find an excuse and then learn about it.

Knowledge about cool things is useful – other people will be interested. If you worked at Radio 1 and had an interview at Capital they might be interested in how R1’s visualisation works. Do you know enough to seem knowledgable? No one expects you to be an expert, but being knowledgable shows you have value. Value that could be useful to them. So use your time to acquire the knowledge you never got round to acquiring.

3. Networking

Networking isn’t about having faux business relationships whilst quaffing wine and laughing at other people’s jokes. Networking is about building loose connections that you can build on later.

Having a two-minute chat with someone at a party means later on you can send an email saying “oh, we had that chat at thingy’s party, I meant to ask you x…” or being able to tweet them a few days later and say “well done on your RAJAR figures”.

Providing you’re not a dick. And luckily most people aren’t. Small network connections make it easier to achieve something – suddenly you have a few routes to find out more or get closer to your goal.

In radio there’s lots of ready-made ways you can start networking.

1. Radio Academy monthly/regional events. The RA run monthly events in London and regularly around the country. These are free if you’re a Radio Academy member. If you are an employee of pretty much any radio group or in Student or Community Radio, you get free membership. Even if you don’t it’s only £25. They’ll be 50-100 people at these events from the whole breadth of the industry. The events are usually quite interesting, you get a free beer, and then you go to the pub afterwards. Low-energy, low-cost, great networking.

2. Go out for drinks with your work colleagues, go to your friends (at other radio stations’) work drinks too. You’ll meet more people and make more connections.

3. Go to radio conferences. This may cost you a little bit of money, but it positions you as someone who’s looking forward. The Radio Festival can seem expensive but there’s big discounts for freelancers. Definitely come to mine and James’ Next Radio – it’s £99+VAT – and is a great way to learn something new and meet lots of people.

If you’re worried about networking, visit yesyesmarsha.com. Marsha used to be an XFM DJ before she moved to Canada. She now helps people get the most out of networking and there’s lots of great free advice on her website.

4. Social Media

Everyone I interview I look up on the internet. I can find out much more about them in five minutes than from their CV and covering letter. Often their social media contextualises their CV better than they do. It can however make me skip them or, if I can’t find anything, and BTW I am an AMAZING googler, it’s a wasted opportunity. If I find less context there’s less chance you’ll go into the interview pile.


FFS sort out your LinkedIn – don’t sound like an idiot – but use it to explain what you did at your different jobs. Remember employers are after skills and experience – this is the perfect place to demonstrate it. Maybe use some of those examples you pulled off the loggers. Also put a nice professional headshot on there. Books are judged by their covers, make sure your profile makes you something someone wants to buy.

Also, don’t beg people for recommendations. Well, definitely not over email. In person you can get away with, but over email it’s just annoying. Even if I like you a lot, you’re asking me, out of the blue to give up some time to describe how brilliant you are. They’re hard to write and take time.

The way to get recommendations is to write them about other people first (without asking for one in return). It’s likely I’ll feel so embarrassed I will write you one back immediately.


Sort out your privacy settings and change everything to friends only or friends of friends. Then post some things as ‘Public’ that frame you as a clever, interesting person. Good industry articles, a lovely picture of a sunset, whatever. Make your public Facebook look like you’re a normal person and not a beer monster/writer of long boring posts about how crap your life is.


Radio people love Twitter because we’re a bunch of narcissists that got into an industry where our day job is broadcasting our opinions/ideas/music choices/voices to millions of people.

It is likely your potential boss will use Twitter, so you need to make a good impression. If you’re a lapsed Twitter user/never used it before, then do it in this order:

1. As per FB and LinkedIn – make a nice profile. Decent imagery, good bio, link to your website (or LinkedIn page) and get a decent name. TableGangster554 is not acceptable. Your Twitter name should identify you.

2. Write at least two posts a day for a couple of weeks. Two thirds of your posts should be what you want your personal brand to be seen as. The rest should be posts that make you a real, normal person.

3. Follow your actual friends and colleagues. They are more likely to follow you back. This will give you a nice ratio of followers to followees. This will make you seem like a well adjusted person.

4. Slowly – perhaps a max of 30 at a time – follow people who you’re interested in and potentially could give you a job. When you follow someone, they get an email or a twitter alert, most people will check out new followers’ profiles. If you’ve done the above you will maximise being followed back or worst case, they will actually, for a brief moment, know who you are.

5. Start to engage with the people you want to get to know – favourite their funny tweets, reply to their questions – join in. It’s called social networking for a reason.

SoundCloud & YouTube

If you make audio or video for a living, put your best examples on these sites. Link or embed them in your other social media. Use the metadata to probably describe what it was for and why you did it this way. Let people explore and find out about the work you’ve done. Use it to demonstrate your skills and experience.

5. Listen and Learn 

If you’ve been siloed in one company for a long time, start listening to other radio stations, visit their websites and generally find out more about them.

Don’t just do this for stations that you want to work for. If you’re applying to Capital, make sure you have an opinion on Kiss, The Hits and Capital Xtra.

Learn about the media their listeners are interested in – websites, mobile apps, games.

Exploring these areas will mean you can combine your skills and experience with insight and ideas.

6. Job Adverts

Lots of jobs are advertised, lots of jobs aren’t. Subscribe to Media UK’s Jobs Emails and you’ll get pretty much all of the ones advertised. The ones that aren’t advertised you’ll find out about if you do some networking and get to know people at different companies.

I hope some of that’s useful. If you’ve been through a radio redundancy please leave your tips below too.


Next Radio 2014

I love working in radio. I love the fact that we all do something that entertains or informs nearly every person in the country. I love it as a medium. I love that it’s having to evolve to better look after our listeners. I love digital, I love the video, I love the website. I love someone I’ve never met, talking to me through a speaker. Making me laugh. Making me cry. I love hearing songs that activate a memory. I love hearing songs I’ve never heard before. I love looking up from my desk and saying to my colleague Joe, who sits next to me, “Did you hear that?”.

I think the thing I love the most is that it’s an industry based on ideas – things individuals or teams come up with. I love hearing about them, whether that’s through a mate, a tweet or at a conference.

James Cridland and I decided a few years ago that we wanted to create a radio conference based on ideas. So, every year, we get around 25 brilliant people to tell you about ideas, concepts or the things that they do. Each session is either 9 minutes or 18 minutes, there are no boring panels and it covers all of radio – presenting, production, online, sales. It’s called Next Radio and this year it’s on Monday 8th September at the Royal Institution in London.

We also wanted to create an event that’s as cheap as possible to go to as we know, from experience, that your boss won’t always pay (that’s if you have a boss). The Earlybird price (open for a few weeks) is just £99 and at the price we only lose a little bit of money per ticket! Yes – it’s the worst business model ever! Luckily people like Broadcast Bionics generously sponsor so we can keep the price as low as we can.

If you love radio and ideas as much as we do, we would love to see you this year. Not sure? You can see what we get up to by watching videos of sessions from previous years at http://nextrad.io/. But come on, it’s actually really easy. If you’re the sort of person that reads this blog then you’re the sort of person that should come to Next Radio.

We’ll be announcing the speakers in the coming weeks. But there’s people booked from the BBC, Global Radio, Bauer, Orion, the Government’s website and radio stations from around the world who can’t wait to tell you their ideas. You can find out more (and get your tickets!) at http://nextrad.io/.