XFM was the alternative dream for London devised by indie/dance music fan and founder Sammy Jacob. The station had its origins in Q102, a pirate radio station set up by Sammy at his family home in Hackney. Sammy went on to launch XFM in 1992, recruited Steve Lamacq, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Mary Ann Hobbs. Numerous applications were made, XFM finally obtained a licence, frequency and launched on the day Princess Diana died - 1 September 1997.
Sammy sold his share and XFM got swallowed up into the Capital Radio Group in 1998. Richard Park, director of programmes, controversially axed most of the station's credible DJ's and introduced a contemporary playlist. Listeners went mad and demanded all the shows to be reinstated. They organised a demonstration outside the station studios in Leicester Square. Their wish was granted. A team of heavyweight tastemakers, Dan Greenpeace, Zane Lowe, Eddy Temple Morris, James Hyman and Claire Sturgess were drafted in to ensure XFM continued to be an alternative voice for the indie music scene. Audience figures started to increase. This led to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant rejoining and recruiting Karl Pilkington to produce his weekly show.
XFM has roots, it has history. The rumour circulating about the station's future indicates it's due to close and rebranded as Radio X on Saturday 21st of September with Chris Moyles pencilled in to host the Breakfast show. It's worrying and highlights greed and lack of creativity at the top end of commercial radio. Profit over talent. Ratings rather than quality content. That seems to be the raison d'être of Global Radio, owners of XFM.
Global's CEO Ashley Tabor worked as an intern at Capital then producer and now owns the parent company. So the obsession of Capital has always been there. Capital was popular in it's heyday back in the late 80's, mid 90's with a 43% share of London's radio market. Richard Park is a radio maverick who signed the likes of Pete Tong, Neil Fox and Chris Tarrant, Tim Westwood. Back then the internet was non existent; Digital Radio was just an idea. 2015 things have changed, the bigger end of commercial radio is dull, unimaginative, repetitive playlists with DJ's who are told to only speak for 10 seconds.
How can advertisers think it's wise and credible to target clients and replace credible stations like XFM? Insane. Totally insane. I love radio and think the bigger commercial radio groups seriously need to pull their finger out or else audiences will go elsewhere. First and foremost Radio X is an awful name. Attracting big name talent may lure listeners from other stations but they will get bored and switch off eventually. Commercial Radio need to emulate stations such as BBC Radio 6 Music. Ironically 6 Music's sound and vision is based entirely on what XFM originally was set up to do. Commercial radio should follow Gordon Mac's (Kiss FM founder now Mi-Soul Radio CEO) lead in believing in talent and creating original content by taking Mi-Soul on to the digital airwaves. It's imperative for other commercial radio groups and outlets to invest in established and credible platforms. They should not replace them with tacky offshoots.