London radio station 'Choice FM' has been criticised by the black music industry for not playing enough UK music, and for focusing on American rap and R&B. At the Black Music Congress summit entitled 'Where Is British Black Music On The Radio?', held at London’s City Hall, Choice came under fire for marginalising black British artists. Root Jackson, a musician for 25 years and business partner of British soul artist Omar, who has released records since 1990 on Phonogram and RCA, complained: “Choice is saying that, on Omar’s new album, there is not a track on there for them to play.“ Choice FM managing director Ivor Etienne responded: “That’s what music is all about. Is it good or is it not good? In the end, it’s all about whether we like or not. It’s subjective.” He told Jackson: “Release good music and we will play it.” Entertainment lawyer Kienda Hoji, who is head of commercial music at the University of Westminster, said: “I was at a meeting fairly recently at the Cabinet Offices where a number of people confronted John Deacon, the then head of the British Phonographic Industry, with the question: ‘Why is it that record companies don’t sign black artists?’ The answer he gave was ‘Because radio doesn’t play them’, which indicated how important radio is to the whole cycle of success of black music in the UK.” Etienne explained that his station did promote British black music: “We do [the show] ‘UK Cuts’ which is two and a half hours a week and champions British music that is either on the [play]list or not on the list. People come to us with stuff and either we put it on or we don’t put it on. We look to champion some of these acts and make them mainstream. Some people have a problem with [the word] 'mainstream' but what we do is mainstream, and I think we have to get over some of those things.” Hoji complained that Choice’s weekly show was insufficient: “It seems ridiculous to me that we have a two-hour slot for UK black music in the UK, whereas I don’t know how much [time] American radio gives over to UK black music. I don’t think it’s going to be two hours. I find it hard to understand why it is that we come from a history where there have been black radio stations and radio stations formatted for black music in the UK, but even they haven’t taken the position of focusing on UK black music.” Etienne defended his playlist policy: “At Choice FM, we play anything that’s good. I’ll stick by that. If it’s good, we play it. We champion black music and British black music. But, so many times, we get stuff that is not ready. Sometimes we get stuff that is not properly mastered or not properly produced. Sometimes you have artists and management who kind of know what they are doing, but they don’t grasp fully what the business is about.” Etienne explained why American music dominates Choice’s playlist: “You ask a young person what they want to hear, and they want to hear 50 Cent.” He added: “The record companies don’t support British acts. They drop them very

News: London Radio Station 'Choice FM' Criticised For Not Playing Enough British Black Music ©2006 Grant Goddard

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quickly. We do support British acts on radio, but [sometimes] they don’t get past an album. Some of them don’t get past their second single.” Etienne went on to claim that, whilst a producer at 'BBC Radio One' in the early 1990s, he had “brought to them the first soul show.” His comment ignores the fact that the station launched the Dave Simmons soul show on Saturday afternoons in 1972.

[First published in 'The Radio Magazine' as 'Choice FM Playlist Under Fire', #744, 12 July 2006]

Grant Goddard is a media analyst / radio specialist / radio consultant with thirty years of experience in the broadcasting industry, having held senior management and consultancy roles within the commercial media sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Details at

News: London Radio Station 'Choice FM' Criticised For Not Playing Enough British Black Music ©2006 Grant Goddard

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