Wednesday, November 19, 2003

CAPITAL CHOICE: In what might be the first ever ironic-gag media takeover, Capital extend their grip on the ears of London by buying Choice to add to their portofolio in the city of X-FM, Capital FM, and Capital Gold.

There was an interesting piece in media guardian by Capital Gold's Lyn Long a couple of week back in which she bemoaned the lack of an FM frequency in London for Capital Gold. At the time, it seemed to be a strange whine - the whole point of the station was it was created to provide an alternative service to Capital Radio on FM; this was when the Thatcher beast had threatened to remove any frequencies from stations who were simulcasting on both FM and AM because it was a waste of opportunities to sell the licences onto other people ("a finite national resource"). It was the sudden, panicked response of the station owners - to split into (usually) oldies on the medium wave band and Top 40 on FM - which buggered the radio industry in this country for good. Suddenly, running costs more or less doubled, while advertising rates plummeted (because advertisers were suddenly being offered half the size of the audience per ad they were before.) The end result was all the small players - the truly local services, like Radio City and Aire FM and Southern Sound - couldn't carry on and wound up being subsumed into the few big players we have today. It's the end of Long's article that's most telling - despite running stations covering every square inch of England, Scotland and Wales, Capital haven't been awarded a single new franchise since 1973. Its skill is not in providing radio programming, but in acquiring radio stations.

Which brings us back to Choice - could this purchase be made in the expectation that those awfully nice people at Ofcom might not be quite so strict about transfering Capital Gold to FM as the outgoing Radio Authority had been?

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