Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Capital UK

So as the ‘Army of Networking’ marches inexorably on, and a whole raft of stations become Capital FM, what are we to make of this latest move by Global? Is it another dark day for local radio or is it a brave move designed purely to simplify an offering to advertisers and maximise audience?

The answer is of course both.

We wave goodbye to the Galaxy brand, which has served audiences across the country well, and when it launched, provided listeners with a real alternative to their heritage ILR station. The local and regional stations Galaxy stations delivered some great shows and you felt instantly in touch with the areas they broadcast too anytime you tuned in. Over time and with increased networking, this sense of identity was diluted somewhat, but you can’t help feeling that a perfectly good brand has been ‘put to sleep before its time’.

And of course, the station that was the very essence of what is was to be Welsh... Red Dragon FM, is another brand casualty. It was and has always has been a station that’s proud of its nation, and used its ‘Welshness’ as a strong identifying factor. How will it fare by having some of its programming piped in from ‘over the bridge’?

There are of course many other cases to cite; Trent FM – another strong heritage brand going, and let’s spare a thought for the ‘Scottish station’... I hardly know what to call it now, after it has gone through more rebrands in a decade than most stations have in a lifetime!

So, laying the sentiment aside for a moment, is this a smart move? Well there’s no doubt that creating a strong single CHR brand makes it far easier to sell, and far easier to manage. Advertisers and agencies will instantly ‘get’ a pseudo-national Capital FM. And that’s the main reason behind this when all is said and done. They want to make more money, which is a perfectly noble ambition in business. It’s just that we get more attached to radio brands than we do to say, toilet roll or cleaning products... so there’s more of an outcry when it comes to rebranding to maximise profit in radio.

Of course the other argument used is about bringing a better product to listeners, and the theory behind that is perfectly sound... however as good as they are, bringing Roberto and 'The Bassman' on to replace you local offering during the day isn’t exactly going to have people skipping work just so they can stay home and listen all day.

The line touted to the media yesterday evening was very much along the lines of “this will be a station to rival Radio 1”. And sure enough the papers have bought that PR line, and reprinted old photos of Kenny Everett and Chris Tarrant to illustrate the ‘power of Capital’. Well yes – except that was the Capital of old, and the only real national star that Capital has now is Johnny Vaughan. So as it stands at the moment, Capital isn’t exactly a real rival to Radio 1 in terms of content. It’s just a very different offering indeed targetting a similar demo. (In the same way as Heart is touted as an alternative to Radio 2 - “Chalk and Cheese” anyone?)

Which brings us on to Johnny / breakfast. You get the sense that if the rules allowed it now, all local programming would be put to the knife, and Johnny and Lisa would be rolled out across the country. Surely it’s only a matter of time before the requirement for any local programming is quietly put to one side, and the true reason for all of this can be final made clear; Johnny Vaughan on Capital Breakfast and Jamie Theakston on Heart Breakfast... nationwide.

And once we have that, the plan will be complete... and then we can truly mark the demise of much of UK local radio as we used to know it. (There are of course notable exceptions and they continue to perform well... Key 103, Radio City, Wave 105 etc...)

Is it a ‘sad’ thing to see these latest stations disappear? Yes.

Is it a sensible move in a changing media environment? Yes.

So there we have it. The harsh reality of the ‘business’ of media ruling over sentimentality of it all.

A lesson for us all.

1 comment:

Terry Purvis said...

I don't think Global can teach anyone anything unless it's a lesson on how venture capitalists operate. They are just doing what venture capitalists always do with every company acquired with a leveraged buyout.

As someone correctly said a little while ago:

They’re venture capitalists. Any similarity between them and radio professionals is purely co-incidental.

I'm more than a little surprised you seem to be so positive about the road Global is taking commercial radio down, especially after the thoughts of the CEO were published in great detail a little while ago.

In a few years they will either try to sell the business whole, or break it up and sell off sections, depending on which way will fetch the largest amount.