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'Rally for music you love in Leicester Square tomorrow'

UNITED FRONT: Former Choice FM DJ Daddy Ernie, left, campaigner Lee Jasper, centre, and DJ 279 (Trevor Raymond)

I RECENTLY heard an interview with Global radio’s Richard Park in which he quite rightly praised the hard work and great knowledge of the programmers at Classic FM and stated that it’s very important to have that. As I said, he is right. But he left me feeling a bit confused and angry.

If he truly believes in what he said about Classic FM, then why did that belief system not include another of his stations Choice FM?

Let me elaborate. At Choice FM, why remove the programme director Ivor Etienne a black man with a wealth of knowledge and experience and replace him with someone with little knowledge of the music Choice played.

Why did they remove the second in command Kirk Anthony again a black man with incredible knowledge and experience and replace him with a white man who thought SWV was a club in Victoria? (No mate that was the SW1 club).

Why was the head of web design a black woman who took the Choice FM site to number one in the group replaced by a white man who jumped for joy when he heard a Lady Gaga song?

Why was the head of marketing a black woman with years of experience replaced by a white man who shared the same love for Lady Gaga as the web designer? And why was the head of production a white man in his 30s with incredible knowledge of RnB and Hip Hop replaced by an 18 year old whose only knowledge of the culture is a Jamaican patty? (You get my point). They all might be wonderful people but do they know 'the culture'?

In my opinion these are all valid questions. If Richard Park who I have the greatest of respect for really believes in what he said about Classic FM, then why did he not leave in place the right people with the right knowledge and understanding to programme Choice FM? If it’s important for Classic FM it should’ve been important for Choice FM.

Let me be clear. I’m in no way suggesting these changes were motivated by people’s ethnicity, no, far from it, but if you’re going to replace individuals then surely replace them with the right people, regardless of their race or colour. For me, the most important thing is to have the experience, knowledge and belief in the genre you’re programming. I believe it was a case of ego and the ‘I want to do it my way, because I know best’ approach. Or perhaps Global radio really had no interest in owning a station aimed at the African Caribbean community. Whatever the reasons, Richard Park has left himself open to scrutiny.

So what can we do now? For me it’s easy. We lobby Ofcom and Government to re-advertise the two London FM frequencies. It’s obvious to see that Global have no intention of following the character of service for these two licenses, and if Ofcom had a back bone they would do as I have suggested.

With Ofcom looking to relax the rules for format change, meaning a radio station can change from a Pop station to a Rock station or whatever they choose overnight, it’s important the pressure is put on Ofcom before it’s too late.

If re-advertised, these two London FM licenses could be under the control of organisations that know, respect, live and understand the culture of the audience Choice FM was here to serve. There’s no guarantee the winners of these licenses would be black owned, but at least there would be a chance to have black owners or owners who actually believe in the Afro-Caribbean culture, lifestyle and music, in radio once again in London. Let’s remember, it’s not just about the music, it’s about news, debate and entertainment for a very underserved demographic.

The sad thing is we have actually gone back 30 years. I feel like I’m living my childhood again when I used to spend my summers with family in New York listening to WBLS and WLIB thinking ‘we need to have stations like this in London’.

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The campaign to reinstate specialist black music as broadcast by Choice FM continues tomorrow (Jan 25) with a protest in London's Leicester Square from 2-4pm.

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