XFM, London’s alternative-playlist FM radio station, is to be relaunched on Monday (August 24) with a different airplay policy.
Additionally, the station will no longer be operating under the banner “London’s Only Alternative radio station”.
The relaunch announcement follows a week of unrest which has left 20 staff, including DJs and programme assistants, sacked and survivors shunted to new slots. Among those badly hit was DJ Gary Crowley who is thought to have resigned after being asked to host a five-hour show running from 1am until 6am. Crowley left the station on Wednesday afternoon, saying to colleagues, “It’s not good.”
Crowley’s manager told NME that the DJ has gone away for the weekend and that his future with XFM was “unclear”.
NME editor Steve Sutherland and writer Keith Cameron are among other on-air staff who lost their programmes and the daily NME news bulletin has been suspended.
The decision by XFM’s Acting Programme Controller Richard Parks to shunt Crowley – well known for broadcasting demo tapes from unsigned bands – to the graveyard shift doesn’t bode well for the future of new music at the station. Such fears were reinforced at a press conference to announce the changes yesterday (August 20) as Parks repeatedly attempted to put distance between the station as it was and how he envisages its future.
When Capital Radio bought XFM in May, Parks vowed to NME that the music policy would not change. From next Monday on, however, every XFM programme will now be forced to use a playlist, effectively ending the option for DJs to express their personal taste; the very premise on which the station was founded.
Parks addressed the press beneath an enlarged station logo which had the words “London’s Only Alternative” blacked out and replaced by sponsors’ stickers. Questioned about the logo alteration, Parks said that ‘alternative’ was “a media word and if a song was a new release it should be judged as new music.”
He also said the station’s output would move away from its old format which he described as a set of individual shows changing direction in each three hour period.
“XFM in its new environment is a consistent radio station broadcasting new music 24 hours a day and not varying in and out.”
The new-sound XFM broadcast test transmissions – minus DJs – from Thursday morning while the station packed up from its Charlotte Street base and moved into Capital Radio’s Leicester Square offices. It will begin broadcasting the new service proper on Monday morning at 6am.
Bob Geldof has been enlisted to host a two hour-afternoon show for the first 104 days. The media pundit and one-time Boomtown Rat, who once hosted a drivetime radio show in Perth, Australia, says he doesn’t have a clue what he will be playing but ironically contradicted Richard Parks’ assertion that no old records would be played on the new-look XFM. “Nothing has been said to me about the content of my show and if I want to play a track from 1967 I will,” says Geldof. “If it’s been important in my head and I can explain why I will play it. That to me is as alternative as the latest release by whoever.”
Parks claims the station will remain “absolutely true to the promise of performance that XFM under co-founders Sammy Jacob and Chris Parry had when they won the radio authority licence.” Though he admits that, in common with Radio One and Capital, there is a chance the station would play fewer records more frequently – in essence a high-rotation playlist.
NME writer Keith Cameron is among former XFM staff critical of the changes. “I think it’s become a travesty of an alternative radio station. I’m not surprised they’ve taken the ‘alternative’ off the logo because it would be a laughable claim. It’s like Barclays Bank running an indie station. XFM would not have existed had it not been for stations like Capital having it their own way for so long. There’s absolutely no point for the station to exist now.”
The interview with XFM Programme Controller Richard Parks in next week’s [I]NME will also be posted on this site.