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Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 18:45 GMT 19:45 UK
Radio 'faces radical overhaul'
Feargal Sharkey
Feargal Sharkey: A string of hits in the 1980s
Former pop star Feargal Sharkey has told a gathering of Britain's top radio and music executives that radio faces the most radical overhaul for a decade.

Mr Sharkey, who had a string of hits in the 1980s and now is a member of industry watchdog the Radio Authority, said the radio and music industry had an uncertain future as both come to terms with the advent of digital technology and the internet.

The future is digital

Feargal Sharkey

Mr Sharkey was speaking at the Music Radio conference, in central London, on Tuesday.

He told BBC News Online: "The digital revolution will take a couple of years to come off and at the minute all we have is a rough outline as to what shape, size, colour and description the radio industry might be.

"This does cause uncertainty."

He added: "It's possible to say now that the future is digital.

'More stations'

"Already in London there are more [digital] stations available on digital than could ever be made available on analogue.

"Digital radio, as a mechanism for delivery, is far superior to analogue."

Radio 1 is not about drive, reach and share - it is about supporting UK music

Andy Parfitt, Controller Radio 1

Mr Sharkey told the gathering of senior music and radio figures, including Andy Parfitt, head of BBC Radio 1, and Tony Wadsworth, president of EMI Records UK, that the two industries had to "stop strangling each other".

"There is a classic dynamic between the radio industry and record industry," he said.

He added: "They have to co-exist. They cannot exist without each other."

He said that both radio stations and music executives had to work to encourage diversity and not to strangle playlists with the same artists and same songs.

'Difficult position'

Mr Sharkey criticised BBC Radio 1 for sounding too similar to commercial radio stations during the daytime.

He said: "Radio 1 is probably in the most difficult position of any radio station in this country.

"It does have an obligation to those people who pay the license fee every year.

"It is not unreasonable for those people to demand a fairly mainstream, popular service. At the same time Radio 1 does have a public service obligation.

"For me that also includes a platform for developing new and up and coming talent.


"Radio 1 is impeccable after seven o'clock and more than fulfils its public service remit.

"During the daytime, personally, I think there's a little bit more room for manoeuvre."

BBC Radio 1 controller Andy Parfitt said it was part of the BBC's duty to be popular.

He said: "Forty per cent of our play list, week in week out, is not replicated widely on commercial radio.

"We are doing our bit for the UK music industry and for diversity.

"Radio 1 is not about drive, reach and share - it is about supporting UK music."

Feargal Sharkey
"There is uncertainty in the industry"
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