Following the long-expected resignation of Chris Moyles from Radio 1’s breakfast show, I thought I would discuss the place in the media landscape that the station appears to occupy today. Much emphasis has been placed on this announcement, it being a more obvious indication of Radio 1’s altered priorities and direction. More acute observers (yes, perhaps such as myself!) have noticed change ebbing in through a variety of mediums. I would suggest now that Radio 1 perhaps represent something very different to what it did ten years ago.
Of course, the resignation of Moyles is a very big indicator in the new style of presentation that the station is aiming for. It was a trend that perhaps began with the banishment of hook-nose stalwart Jo Whiley to Radio 2 and continued with the pushing back of Scott Mills’ slot into the early afternoon. We can gauge the stations priorities mainly by analysing the personalities (though that description is a bit of a stretch for one of the people i’m about to detail) they have chosen as replacements. Firstly, Jo Whiley was replaced by eternal hate figure Fearne Cotton. Her limited vocabulary and unabashed enthusiasm demonstrate her (supposed) direct appeal to youth. Similar is the appointment of Greg James into drive-time. Now whilst there was no love lost between myself and Whiley/Moyles, I didn’t realise quite how much I appreciated the fun and variety that Mills offered the station until he was shunted back in favour of this younger model. He is also one of the last bastions of the station with a genuine passion for pop music. His replacement James feels like someone engineered clone of about five of the laddiest of laddy lads, all of whom count banter amongst one of their top three most used terms. He does have a hint of awkwardness about him that stops a transition into “full blown wanker” and that is something I can appreciate, but he otherwise is simply a somewhat mediocre young guy now being pushed forward as one of the station’s top talents in a way that is perhaps unmerited. As some readers may know, James was one of the names thrown around in the media when it was revealed the station would be replacing Moyles but eventually wasn’t chosen, the powers that be instead opting for a camp haircut of a man known as Nick Grimshaw. For myself, this only cemented what I perceive to be the T4-isation of the station.
This is a process that is exemplified also by the current state of the playlist. Whilst it was always been the remit of Radio 1 to try and capture the attention of young people with the music they play, the orchestration behind today’s playlisting is altogether more knowing than in the past. Incidents in which Radio 1 fail to playlist something that has high commercial appeal are now ever more common. I believed up until this week, that Radio 1 had decided against adding the launch single of 2011 X Factor winners Little Mix to their roster. Their track “Wings” has obvious potential to be a gargantuan hit, even when we acknowledge the undeniable corniness of it’s message and the undoubted saccharine pop appeal. However, the continued absence of the track on the Radio 1 airwaves made me feel that it’s lack of perceived “edge” had let it down. For this “edge” is what the Gods of the Radio 1 playlist at least appear to favour above all else at this point. A quick comparison of the iTunes top 20 and the playlist seem to indicate that the station’s attempts to appeal to their designated demographic are out-of-step with what this demographic are choosing to purchase. Particular stand-out omissions include Nicki Minaj’s new release “Pound The Alarm”, currently sitting at number ten on the iTunes chart and “Brokenhearted” by Karmin which lies at number two. Additionally, directly following the Eurovision Song Contest, Radio 1 refused to playlist the winning song, Loreen’s “Euphoria”, despite campaigning from Scott Mills and it’s position at the top of the iTunes charts. This is not to say that everything of this ilk is shunned, but there are an overwhelming number of spaces on the playlist occupied by music that might be perceived as more underground and hip, but that the vast majority of people are just not buying aside from a few crossover hits, such as Rudimental’s “Feel The Love.”
I definitely see some of this as a desperate and cynical attempt to be seen as on the cutting edge and in line with what is apparently cool to be listening to, there is certainly an element of that in the stations choice of DJ’s and music. However, it could simply be that the station is truly adapting in an attempt to respond to the criticism it has received in recent times for it’s role as a public service broadcaster. When the axe faced BBC 6 Music, many of it’s fans and supporters were irked by claims that it encroached on the territory of the commercial sector. They were quick to fire back with the same criticisms about Radio 1, far more relevant in that context they were to. Since this time, it seems as though a substantial proportion of Radio 1’s motivation for change has been less resemblance to Capital FM, not just to appear contemporary and trendsetting, but also to fulfill it’s obligations as a public service broadcaster by giving a platform to music that needn’t necessary receive the attention it deserves on commercial stations.
This is not something i’m averse to. I love BBC Four! But I think it’s clear that Radio 1 need to stop being quite so harsh on themselves. I am aware that the days that they would playlist Jessica Simpson are well and truly over, but they need to cease the highly convoluted cynicism that has become synonymous with their playlisting. They also need to banish the notion that those aged 16-35 are incapable of relating to a DJ outwith that age group, and they need to realise this before they decide to fire Sara Cox for that very reason. Let your hair down, Radio 1! After all, this bizarre stringency is not what being young is about.