Classic FM

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This is from a recent edition of Private Eye. This sums up so perfectly the reasons I can’t stand Classic FM, (apart from the predictable choice of repertoire, adverts, and patronising presenters of course), that I thought it worth reproducing in full:

The formula of screaming ignorance, kitsch and smug self-satisfaction that is Classic FM isn’t new. But it’s intensified since BBC Radio 3 won Station of the Year in last month’s Sony awards. The CFM bosses weren’t happy at all; and so to divert attention they increased sharply the volume of their hymns of self-love.

To select one absurdity among many, they’re advertising a new, double CD with the title “Made Famous by Classic FM”. And what are the pieces CFM has made famous? Well, there’s The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams, who of course owed his career to CFM. There’s Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, which did get briefly a bit of exposure on some film or other, but it was a long time ago. Then there’s the Clarinet Concerto by an unknown called, er, Mozart (but only the second movement: Wolfgang will have to wait for CFM to make the rest of his effort famous). And Handel’s coronation anthem Zadok the Priest – what’s a royal investiture, after all, without a Classic FM soundtrack?

As if this guff weren’t bad enough, the CFM website (which incidentally commends the theme from Star Wars as a wedding anthem) also catalogues the Classic FM empire. There, music lovers will be interested to learn that the station has its own orchestras: the LSO, the Philharmonia, the RLPO (“CFM’s Orchestra in the North West”) and the Royal Scottish National (“CFM’s Orchestra in Scotland”). It also has its own opera company, apparently, Welsh National Opera, and a music college. Very impressive – and great news for hard-pressed taxpayers who were under the illusion it was they who propped up these institutions.

The bad news for Classic FM is that several legally-minded music lovers, not amused by the station’s absurd claims, are considering a test case under trade descriptions legislation. If it goes ahead, it will be interesting to see what evidence CFM produces to verify its ownership of the LSO and its gift of celebrity to Mozart. Even if the case is thrown out as frivolous, the sight of CFM in court won’t be wasted on its many friends at Broadcasting House.

We as a nation are not exactly popular anyway in many (sorry, most) parts of the world. And I bet our continental neighbours are now laughing their heads off at this attempt by CFM to demonstrate our so called musical enlightenment. What this sham station can’t see is, that what is routine and standard fare for them is somehow a highbrow excursion for us, a lacking we are blind and deaf to. A bit like the little kid that lectures grown-ups from the benefit of his greater knowledge. And so they laugh.

I don’t like Classic FM and I agree that it’s not aimed at me. What a shame though that one of the best presenters of music on radio, Natalie Wheen, fell out with BBC Radio 3 and is now only on Classic FM. I would just add, for the benefit of those who never listen to it, that much of Classic FM is no worse than BBC Radio 3’s more populist output.

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