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‘Choice FM did not sell out!'

Appealing to the more mature listener: radio DJ Jerry

CHOICE FM held a very special place in the hearts of the black British community when it made history in 1990, becoming the first licensed 24-hour independent black music radio station.

The then Brixton-based station covered south London and eventually spread to Birmingham and north London, amassing followers and awards alike.

But controversy struck the brand when in 2003 it was taken over by Capital Radio Group and moved from south London to Leicester Square in London’s West End.

Unhappy with the move, many community members arranged a protest march against what was perceived as a ‘sell-out’ move by the UK’s leading black music radio station. But according to former Choice DJ Jerry Bascombe, who spent 14 years at the station, it was not an issue of selling out – it was strictly business.

“Choice FM didn’t sell out, it was a business transaction,” said the presenter. “It’s a commercial radio station and it’s about making money. Choice can’t survive without making money so they have to appeal to the wider audience.”

The station’s buyers, Capital Radio Group went on to merge with GWR group, forming new company, GCap Media. Bascombe recalls how this move led the originally community-based station to become a marketable commodity – which no longer needed some of its staff.

“When Choice first started, it was about old school music as well as current tunes. But sadly, we all know that it has now taken another route. After it was in the hands of GCap, they decided to get rid of some presenters and I was one of them.”

Still, the DJ says he holds no ill feelings towards the company.

“I have nothing bad to say about Choice FM. They wanted a new target audience and they got that. They now appeal to the 13-23 year olds and that will make them money. The younger audience is easier to manipulate with the music, so if that means repeating a song 10 times a day, that is what’s going to happen."

“I know that the original listeners were upset because they grew with the presenters, but it’s business.”

After parting company with Choice, Bascombe decided to step out on his own, creating the online radio station The Soul Of London Radio, which plays the best of old school soul and gospel.

“After Choice, I worked for Colourful Radio and Solar Radio, but in the back of my mind I always felt that I could do something myself. It was the feeling of there not being enough old school music out there that made me create my own online radio station about three years ago.”

Since its creation in 2010, The Soul OF London Radio has become the home of classic soul music. And Bascombe insists it’s not in competition with Choice FM.

“It is definitely not a rival [to Choice FM today]. I’m trying to do what we did back in the ‘90s, which was appeal to the more mature listener who wants to hear presenters that are knowledgeable and passionate about the music that they play.”

The Soul Of London Radio is online 24 hours of the day. For more information, visit: www.tsolradio.com

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