back to article Ofcom slaps Bristol radio for uncoolness

UK regulator has issued a "yellow card" warning to GWR FM for failing to play music the kids want to hear, accusing the Bristol-based station of aiming for an older audience. UK radio stations are licensed on the premise of appealing to a particular crowd, and providing a particular kind of content. For GWR that means locals …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Who cares....

    Ive had the misfortune of listening to GWR and yes its an oldies station. But guess what it's a regional oldies station.

    Surely market demand says that if they play content people dont like, they go bust. Ofcom should leave them alone.

    I find it depressing that its hard to find new music on the radio but I can still respect that this is a radio station catering to the West Countries yocals.

    Doesnt Ofcom got better things to do? Uhm... probably not..

  2. chris

    Rah Rah old bean

    Personally, I prefer the current mix and find the culture of 'sick' tunes to be exactly that, ie mostly momentary projectile vomit.

    Classic rock please - I'm not a old skool character, more a reformed rocker!

    Thanks for asking.

  3. Anonymous Coward


    ... is pants no matter what name it broadcasts under. The music is quite old, but other than that they play mostly RnB, and very little else. They need some better DJs and presenters, quick.

    Heart, for the new name it will have in a few weeks (although I wish they wouldn't call their traffic bikes "heart-racers").

  4. Anonymous Coward

    They should look at something else...

    Instead of focusing on radio stations playing stuff older than two years, they should penalise stations who play 5 or 6 tracks over and over and over and over and over and over again all day, every day.

    I'm so sick of The Killers, Pink, Whatshername Burke, Leona Lewis and Take That.

    Not because I don't necessarily like their music, but I find I don't like it after listening to it 20 times a day 5 days a week!

  5. Jonathan Richards

    'ere! City boy!

    At least we'm capable of spelling "yokel", and putting an apostrophe in when we need un. You'm missing six of they little blighters by my count. Now bugger off.

  6. Lord Radstock

    Eddie Shoetring used to work for Radio West

    I'm wondering why they've singled Bristol out? GWR Bristol, along with huge number of radio stations in Southern England, is owned by Global Radio and, from my experiences of driving around the South, you can tell within seconds that you're listening to a Global Radio station ... The jingles are virtually the same (apart from the station name/frequency) as is the entire station format, along with the play lists. They even shared the same programming at times (remember Graham Torrington). Maybe Ofcom doesn't have anything better to do.

    As it is, I don't listen to GWR Bristol (or GWR Bath or GWR Swindon) because -- if not to Ofcom then at least to me -- they seem to play way to much modern stuff. I'd dread to think what it'll be like now.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All well and good, but...

    Defining contemporary music as anything recorded in the last couple of years is a curious idea. It surely depends on the artist. There are loads of artists out there who have recorded new music in the last couple of years who go out of their way to appeal to a more mature audience. So it should be pretty easy for GWR to comply with the ruling that they must play music less then two years old without appealing to a yoof audience.

  8. Rob Crawford


    It's not hard to find new music on the radio, but it is hard to find new music that isn't Urban (whatever that is), RnB (the fake modern stuff), generic boy / girl bands or misriable indy acts.

    Theres a lot of new music but you dont' get hearing it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    As a Bristol resident ...

    ... I was shocked to discover there's a Facebook group to 'Save GWR Radio' ... I was amazed to discover it ever got 200 members ...

    @AC .... Market demand my hairy bum!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    No, GWR isn't a local or even a regional broadcaster. Many radio shows they produce are simulcast on the group's national network of 'local' FM stations, now being rebranded as 'Heart'.

    So much for 'local' commercial radio.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    To the Anon Coward, when you set a station up you agree a format with Ofcom. This is a very small document that basically says what you will do. This binds you so you don't have stations just suddenly switching format. In the USA it's not unknown for a music station to flip to being a talk station overnight!

    Academic anyway as in a few weeks GWR will be rebranded Heart and will come from London for all but 4 hours a day.

    I always found it ironic that Ofcom was tough on formats but will bend over for anyone else. Wanna create a quasi national network from stations that are supposed to be local? Want to move studios 40 miles from the area they serve? Sure, go right ahead. We're Ofcom, we're only here to please!

    Paris, because unlike the listeners she knows when she is being shafted.

  12. Nicholas Wright

    2-TEN FM in Reading

    ... is also morphing into Heart. What if they decide to cut costs and play the same dull music in sunny cosmopolitan Reading, as they do in Cornwall?!

    Mine's the one with the recently knicked stash inside it.

  13. Alistair
    IT Angle

    Ringtones and all that

    Is there anything recorded in the last few years that has been anything more than a ringtone?

    How can the company survive if they are condemned to playing the trash that masquerades as music these days?

    Although, I've been told that the Saturdays are rather hot at the moment

  14. Andy Barber

    Jazz FM

    When Jazz FM started in London, it played... Jazz. Then after a few years stated playing 'Smooth jazz', (R&B, reggae & a lot of rubbish non-jazz) music. Then it dropped the moniker Jazz FM & called itself Smooth FM. They should be stripped of their licence as well.

  15. Anonymous Coward


    To be honest half the music now comes from London via a network feed anyway (gone are the days when the majority of the networked shows came from Bristol). Give it 12 months and if Global get their way they'll network the lot. First it starts by re-branding to Heart (and ditching really established stations) and then they'll lobby Ofcom to reduce the hours even more (it's pitiful, they are cutting local news and now the only local shows seem to be Breakfast and Drivetime). They're going the way of ITV.

    As an ex-GCapper things really went down hill when Global got their mits on the business and started laying off staff. Personally I'm glad I'm out of it, I just feel bad for the rest of the poor folk. They got rid of some really good people and as far as I'm concerned independent local radio would be dead if it wasn't for these smaller independent stations (who are not going that great because of the advertising slump).

    Mine's the one with the DAB radio in the pocket.


  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @'ere! City boy!

    Hey!!! its because I came from there that I cant spell yokel/yocal or in fact spell/punctuate at all.

    You must have been one of them posh kids whose's dad had two tractors.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Eddie Shoestring will be spinning in his grave at this news. Never mind the playlist. Why not bring back skinny ties and compulsory moustaches (both sexes)?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    West Country?

    The problem is that most people that refer to "West Country" think that it starts and stops with Bristol (a bit like London, but smaller and slightly smellier)

    I used to listen to a local station further south - "Orchard FM" and it was pretty good; had a decent crop of DJs who knew the area and the people, played a good mix, supported local bands etc. Then they got swallowed up by the GWR group and went downhill faster than a 40 stone bloke on a greased tin tray on a ski slope.

    A real shame - the muppets that took over were truly annoying, and WTF was that crap "Late night luv-in" that used to make me want to tear my ears off? I must admit, I got so pissed off that I re-tuned the radio and it hasn't changed since.

    In the vernacular of the locals - "E' wants to fuck off, dun' er"

  19. Man Outraged

    The radio stations being the only people Ofcom dare attack...

    Grrr.. Ofcom cosy up with the big telcos and fail to act on numerous scandals including mobile phone tariff transparency (hard to find value) overcharging for data and generally screwing customers over with utter crap customer service. Ditto for broadband suppliers.

    About the only people Ofcom dare criticise is local radio as it's actually in bed with all the other big business in order to keep them happy for some misunderstood reason that if they're nice to BT then BT will install gold wires to everyones houses.

    Well listen up Ofcom, this is BULLSHIT. All the big telcos are going to do is line the shareholders pockets.

    Go look up "light touch regulator" and see how it worked for the banks. Happy shareholders, unhappy customers, government left holding the baby.

  20. Adam Williamson
    Thumb Down

    Get the hell off my lawn!

    "Is there anything recorded in the last few years that has been anything more than a ringtone?

    How can the company survive if they are condemned to playing the trash that masquerades as music these days?"

    Alistair: congratulations, you win the "get off my lawn" award.

    This is one like "kids today have no respect!" that's been going on at least since Ug the caveman turned 45 (they retired younger in those days) and laid down the trusty pointy stick for a life of cave-based relaxation and yelling at youngsters with their sabre tooth tiger earrings. *Every* generation thinks that the music of the next generation is crap.

    This is because the music of every generation more or less is crap, obeying the tried and testing "95% of everything is crap" formula. 95% of today's music is crap. 95% of the 1990s music was crap, same with the 80s (well...more like 99%), 70s, 60s and so on back to Ug. As time goes by, your rosy-eyed filter kicks in. No-one remembers all the shit music from the 60s or the 70s, just the Beatles and the Stones and Zep and so on. No one PLAYS the shit music from the 60s or the 70s, the era's equivalents of the Cheeky Girls or Jason fucking Mraz or something. There was just as much crap back then, much of it at the top of the charts, it just got politely swept under the carpet of history in the mean time.

    In thirty years, all that'll get played from the 90s and 00s is the good stuff, and those of us who are in our teens, 20s or 30s now will be bemoaning how crap all the music of 2039 is, and how they just don't make 'em like the good bands of our youth - Radiohead and so forth. At which point, someone please reprint this with appropriate updates to shut us the hell up.

    There's plenty of excellent music available these days, as there always has been. Some of it finds its way into wide popularity, much of it doesn't - again, much as it always has been (many of the acts now agreed to have been the best of the 60s and 70s were fairly obscure at the time, see for e.g. Big Star or Nick Drake). If you want to find good contemporary music, it really isn't that difficult. If you're determined to just listen to whatever's on the radio, at least try and remember that 'whatever's on the radio' in 1967 was probably equally crap.

  21. Peyton

    USA stations

    It's true that stations can go from one genre to another overnight, but they aren't trying to be mean, they're just attempting to stay afloat when ratings don't pan out and they start losing advertising. Seems kind of cruel to make someone stay on board a sinking ship.

  22. JB

    Local radio, what local radio?

    Like the man said, Ofcom need to conventrate more on this radio land-grab by the big media groups rather than whining about music.

    It's such a shame that true local radio is virtually dead. The cycle was always the same:

    Happen on new local station, with local presenters, good mix of music, that tinge of entertaining amateurishness. Then you tune in one day and there's some looped recording promising big changes on the way. And then the new station hits the air, it's borged and blandified overnight. You tune to the next-door station, get into that, same alien takeover happens. It's even more galling when you can tune between the two adjacent stations, they're playing the same bland tune at exactly the same time, only the adverts are different.

    I'm originally from the so-called West Country, and grew up with stations like Severn Sound, Radio Wyvern, the original 80s GWR, DevonAir, all swallowed up by the media companies, all totally unlistenable. I now live in California, and the stations in my town are even more appalling than the UK commercial stations. The only difference is some are actually broadcast from my town, not fed down the line from a central studio to 57 other stations, masquerading as local.

    When in the UK, I would tune in to the temporary special event radio stations, and even though I wasn't really into the music being played, I found the local presentation relly fresh and I'd keep listening. Let's have more of these.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A kid at 43?

    Kid-hood seems to extend further than it did in my day. Maybe--probably--I have a really staid acquaintance, but most of the 43-year-olds I know and knew heard recently-recorded music only when their children controlled the CD changer.

  24. Brett Brennan

    Four notes on terrestrial radio

    Terrestrial radio is pretty near death in the First World. Here in the American Colonies, we tried to switch over to digital ("HD radio") to invigorate the business and failed miserably.

    So, four thoughts to temper the tempers.

    (1) Most kidz today use their iPod for their personal "radio" mix. Artists are found via word of mouth or YouTube, and less via promo by the licensed broadcasters. Radio Disney may be the exception here, but their target is the over-pampered 5-11 demographic anyway.

    (2) Here in the Colonies you can *literally* drive from coast to coast listening to the same programming. There are several U.S. wide network feeds like JACK, Radio Disney and The Wolf that are truly seamless from station to station. Again, because the revenue to support a radio station is GONE, the only way to run a station at all is by mass-producing a format and distributing it cheaply. Even so, it is doubtful that these networked stations will last out the decade - revenue is drying up faster every day. In fact, it's so bad that you can buy a secondary market station (non-top 10 markets) for as low as US$20k. That's assuming the market is big enough to support a station other than one of the networks.

    (3) Ethnic radio is the *ONLY* growing segment of the broadcast market. A "survey" I do each time I reach a new city is to use the rental car's "scan" to listen to all the stations in the area for about half an hour. The "usual" mix on AM is roughly 30% Spanish language, 20% religious, 25% talk radio (mostly networked or local sports), 10% "other" Ethnic (ie, Hindi, Russian, Pakistani, Vietnamese) and the remainder "legacy" stations that are operated by a couple of people more as a hobby than as a business and/or news stations. FM is about 30% "networked" feeds, 20% talk radio, 20% religious, 10% Spanish language, 10% National Public Radio and the rest (ie, about 1 station) either Jazz, Classical or some other "local option" format. The growth is in the number of "other" ethnic stations on AM: at least one new language each time I return to a region. Even religious stations (the previous growth market) seem to be drifting away.

    (4) Satellite radio is where many Americans are turning for broadcast sound if they don't have an iPod. Sports, wide music choices, alternative entertainment (comedy, drama, etc.) and "real" news (including BBC, CBC as well as the big US television news stations audio) make the US$10/month subscription fee appealing. Also, most autos come with either XM or Sirius as a pre-installed option (at least GM, Ford and Chrysler), making it easier to get into the subscription. Yes, I know XM-Sirius is in financial trouble, but of all the radio broadcasters it's got the best chance of surviving - because it offers customers a better choice than any of the terrestrial networks.

    If you want to get more information on the state of radio in the U.S. I recommend Radio Business Report ( (subscription) for a very detailed daily analysis of the radio and television broadcast industry.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    "UK radio stations are licensed on the premise of appealing to a particular crowd"

    Whaaaat? How incredibly bizarre. Is there any aspect of personal and commercial decision making your government DOESN'T have its fingers in?!

  26. Jon Press

    I realise I'm out of touch with popular culture...

    ... but if people want to listen to records, can't they just listen to records? It isn't as if they have to carry around a wind-up gramophone and a couple of hundredweight of shellac. I believe there are things you can put in your pocket that can contain the equivalent of several thousand 12 inch 78rpm discs.

    So if radio stations are to be licensed on the basis of programming at all (which seems odd), shouldn't there be a better test of creativity than the ability to act as "shuffle play" for a particular age group?

  27. Thomas

    No bureaucratic priesthood needed

    Yes here in the US stations do change their format more or less regularly as they struggle to squeeze a little more blood out of that stone. Today's rock station could be broadcasting Tavis Smiley tomorrow and some other talk radio in six months. The bills for the kids' grief counseling are formidable let me tell you. Would that we had some nosy officious tax-fat BBC types to listen in on our radio and make sure we're getting enough Pink.

    I listen only to WRTI in Philadelphia, a listener-supported public radio station broadcasting classical and jazz. If the supporters -- me -- stop supporting, the station goes away, no bureaucrats needed.

  28. Tezfair

    Heart? not for me

    Heart in Brum is rubbish and when we move to the South West the local radio was a breath of fresh air. No recycling the same tracks every 2 weeks that heart does, but arrg, now its been taken over. I have been hearing stock heart crap for the last 12 months as they have been slowly merging.

    Fortunatly, we can get PirateFM so we have already switched

    Mine's the one with the MP3 player in the pocket


  29. Tom Mason

    music radio stations are all the same

    I'm afraid I can't listen to music radio at all any more. They've all got on this multilayered jingle meme where you have several voices all saying the same thing, layered and repeated, with "effects", and it drives me up the wall. Then you add some innane chatter from a couple of people with massive egos, and either a OMG huge stash of anti-depressants and other drugs, or else a frontal lobotomy. Finally, add a sprinkling of mainstream music, about 5 tracks should do. (these kids have the memory of a goldfish, so they won't notice), and voilà! Instant commercial radio station.

    For the love of God, why can't they just find some interesting new music, tell us what it is, and then play it?

  30. Jerry Lefever

    They are all the same!

    I think its appalling that what appear to be local stations are all syndicated from London or wherever. SmoothFM does too for some of the time.

    The only stations that are putting out local content (news events) are the new tier of Community Stations popping up. There are about 100+ now I believe. At least its real radio, instead of the faceless, boring playlisted rubbish that comes from the likes of Hereward Radio, Leicester Sound. No wonder there are pirate stations about!

    I've found that an internet radio is the best thing since sliced bread. At least you get a choice of stations to listen to. Shame you can't listen to them in your car (well, I suppose you can if you jigged up some 3G receiver connected to a PC in your car, and providing you have 3G coverage where you are travelling)

    Get rid of the playlists. Get rid of the syndicates.

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