THE OWNERS of the radio station formerly known as Choice FM are facing new pressure after a Government minister wrote to Ofcom questioning whether there has been a breach of licence with the new format.

MP Stephen Williams—

Global Radio, the United Kingdom’s largest radio company, launched Capital XTRA with the slogan ‘Dance. Urban. UK’ in October.

However, the media giant insisted the changeover was simply a name change and the move required no prior authorisation from the broadcasting watchdog.

But many longstanding DJs playing reggae, soca, gospel and hip hop, such as Martin Jay and Daddy Ernie, were axed and replaced by those who specialise in electronic dance music, prompting listeners to complain.

Earlier this month, Global Radio announced it had also signed DJ Fresh, a well-known drum and bass DJ and producer.

Choice FM, founded in 1990, was granted a licence on the provision that it catered to an African-Caribbean audience with a commitment of 21 hours of ‘specialist’ music each week.

Daddy Ernie

Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams, the minister for communities and local government, last week wrote to Ofcom’s chief executive, Ed Richards, to demand answers.

In his letter, Williams questioned whether Global was in breach of the station’s licence conditions after reading about the issue in The Voice.

Williams, who represents Bristol West, the home of St Paul’s Carnival, said, “I was appalled to hear about the changes to Choice FM. I wrote immediately to Ofcom to ask if Global are in breach of their licensing conditions in changing the content of Britain’s first-ever licensed black radio station. Choice FM is a mainstay of the black community in Britain and this is brought home by the fact that The Voice were [inundated with calls] in protest at the change of programming.

“I hope to reassure those [readers] that I am doing all I can to challenge what seems to be a breach of Choice FM’s licensing conditions.”


Complaints by listeners to Ofcom about the shake-up at the station prompted the regulatory body to start monitoring the musical offering, after which it will decide whether or not to launch an official investigation.

A spokesman for Ofcom said the agency has received the audio output it requested from Capital XTRA and it is continuing to monitor the output.

The minister’s intervention was welcomed by Janice Turner, diversity officer at the broadcasting and entertainment union, which is part of a campaign to ensure the station’s licence is used for its intended purpose.

“Global Radio’s unilateral changes to Choice FM’s format without any consultation with the black community shows that for Global, Choice/Capital XTRA is nothing more than a business. They seem to care nothing for what the station represents, nor its place in the culture of London’s black community,” said Turner.

She added: “Dropping reggae, gospel and soca will close the door on talented musicians who play this music; it will close off a critical route into the mainstream and it will narrow the range of commercial music played to mass audiences in the UK.”

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