When it comes to listening to the radio, I can say quite honestly that the only commercial station I ever listened to do with any degree of regularity was Radio Luxembourg and that was mainly when I was very young and there were few commercial competitors. Always, for me, it’s the BBC, these days, mainly 6 Music or if I want speech Five Live.
Commercial radio has never much done it for me, partly for the reason that I hate to have my entertainment interrupted by adverts. And because of the miserable (lack of) variety of music on offer.
Most commercial stations are not ‘local’ stations as such. In Bristol, there was the abysmal Heart radio which had one locally produced show, the seaside postcard presentational style of Ed, Troy and Paulina and their breakfast show, with the occasional burst of antiseptically clean muzak. No more. Heart, like the other stations owned by Global which include Capital, Smooth and Radio X, is now 100% national, generic radio mush.
The other main operator is the Bauer Group, which owns the likes of Absolute, Kiss, Breeze, SAM and Planet Rock.
I suppose I cling to the concept of the DJ, the broadcaster who always takes second place to the music. An old, dated concept, for sure, but one I cling to. We still have them at the BBC, but we also have the modern scourge of the modern day presenter, who is a very different animal.
And it’s not just the presenter; it’s the celebrity presenter. The minor TV star or ex rock star who is there to project her or his personality.
It could be said that it was Chris Evans, the doyen of radio (and TV) presenters who started all this, with his ‘zoo’ radio shows, brought to great popularity in London by Chris Tarrant. People certainly bought into these type of shows, which I see very much as a radio version of OK magazine and the Sun. Plenty of celebrity tat, gossip, ribald humour and safe, generic music.
By its very nature, commercial radio is likely to be bland and unchallenging because that’s the only way of quickly attracting a substantial audience. You are not going to hear the latest single by Flying Lotus or the Orielles on Ed, Troy and Paulina when there’s a Robbie Williams oldie to play. Horses for courses, innit?
I shouldn’t really be critical because perhaps music plays a greater part of my life than it does in the life of others. Where I am constantly searching for new and different music, many people just like what they like. And what’s wrong with that? And for people who just like what they like, there is a proliferation of radio stations that do just that.