Not impressed by new Classic FM schedule

Following the news that GCap Media are to scrap their theJazz and Planet Rock digital radio stations, it seemed that Classic FM, as an analogue station, would emerge unscathed. Unfortunately, the closures have had a knock-on effect that has changed Classic FM for the worst.

In the week, I’m only really able to listen to the station in the evening. Changes at this time of day include the scrapping of the 6:30pm Classic Newsnight programme. While this was not the best news programme imaginable, it was the only news bulletin I could catch after work, having usually missed most of Radio 4’s news. Instead, Smooth Classics at Seven has been extended by an hour, becoming Smooth Classics at Six. Smooth Classics, presented by John Brunning, was always one of my favourite programmes. Unfortunately, they have now pushed John out in favour of Margherita Taylor, who apparently used to present a programme called Easy Jazz at Six on theJazz. I’m afraid I am so far unable to get used to Ms Taylor’s voice. I don’t know if she’s supposed to be a celebrity because she’s been on TV; I’m not interested in celebrities. I liked John Brunning’s smooth voice presenting this programme. Margherita Taylor appears to have a “trendy” voice with an end-of-sentence intonation I don’t appreciate.

In turn, John Brunning has displaced Nick Bailey as the presenter of the Evening Concert programme, which has been renamed The Full Works. For around five years, Nick has presented the programme live, enabling him to read out listeners’ e-mailed comments as he received them (including several of mine over the years!) This gave the programme a much more personal touch, and meant it was better company for anyone listening alone. Early indications are that The Full Works is no longer presented live. Nick Bailey has now been pushed into the overnight slot, starting from 2am, displacing Mark Griffiths who has now left the station. I’m quite certain Nick isn’t happy about losing the Concert and having to present overnight.

One aspect of the new schedule that has proved most controversial is the introduction of two hours of jazz each night, starting at midnight. The programme is presented by Helen Mayhew, who is also a refugee from theJazz. Lisa Duncombe, the young violinist who was given a job after complaining that the station didn’t promote young artists enough, has also been given the axe. Classic FM used to promote itself as the country’s only 100% classical station, as opposed to rival BBC Radio 3, which has always played jazz. That distinction has now been lost. I should probably go to bed at midnight anyway, but I have to say that, despite my reservations, the jazz programme is the change I mind the least. The music is still quite relaxing, and at that time of night the music is only background to reading or whatever, rather than being for serious listening.

The station has responded to complaints about the introduction of jazz by claiming:

Radio stations periodically change their programming line-ups and our research shows that there is a very strong cross-over between listeners to classical music and jazz.

That is implying that they introduced the new schedule as a result of careful audience research. I would contend that they have done no such thing. The new schedule was introduced in a hurry after GCap decided to pull out of DAB. The evidence for this is clear. In the past, new schedules on Classic FM have been the subject of much fanfare and promotion for weeks beforehand. Now they are calling this the biggest change in 15 years, yet there was no mention of the new schedule until just before it started this week. In the just-released April issue of the Classic FM magazine, they have just managed to get the new schedule in there. But there is a detailed listing of the music that will be played on the Evening Concert in March, with an accompanying article by Nick Bailey who it says, “presents the Classic FM Evening Concert every weekday night from 9pm”. That shows these changes to the schedule weren’t carefully planned as the result of audience research. They were rushed through for commercial and contractual reasons as a result of theJazz closing, after much of the magazine had already been produced.

The jingle that accompanies the new programmes can only be described as naff. I don’t believe it was created by David Arnold, the composer of the famous Classic FM jingle, and of the many arrangements that are heard on the station. It was no doubt recorded in a hurry, again because the schedule change wasn’t planned very far in advance. And what on Earth is the slogan “We raise you up” supposed to mean?!

It seems GCap needed to find a job for Margherita Taylor as a matter or urgency. Perhaps she had some sort of contract that would have been expensive for GCap to terminate – more expensive than sacking Mark Griffiths anyway. Perhaps the contract also specified that Ms Taylor’s programme should be at a time when decent numbers of people are listening, not in the middle of the night. So to make way for her, they have shunted along two long-standing presenters on the station who had presented their respective programmes for many years extremely successfully. The same may be said for Helen Mayhew replacing Lisa Duncombe, although there the motivation is probably also an attempt to appease jazz fans: they can still listen to jazz, as long as they don’t mind staying up until 2am!

I am quite unimpressed with the changes to Classic FM’s schedule. Because of what are ultimately business decisions by the owners, they have spoilt my favourite station quite a bit. Now I can’t listen to the news, I can’t hear “Mr Smooth” present his classics, and I can’t enjoy listening to the concert with Nick Bailey. I hope some of these changes can be reversed when theJazz’s former presenters’ contracts expire. I know that other listeners are unhappy, particularly with the jazz programme. Yet they are unlikely to abandon the station as there aren’t many alternatives. Unless, that is, GCap’s own internet broadcasting strategy turns out to be the way forward, in which case people may well discover that there are many good classical music stations around the world (from countries without draconian copyright laws) and so they can consider abandoning the station that puts business before its listeners.

249 responses to “Not impressed by new Classic FM schedule”

Showing comments 101 to 120

  1. Jonathan

    Nick said he was going on another cruise. According to his profile, he’s a regular host on P&O musical cruises, so it must be that:

  2. Jan

    Thanks for the information, Nick. I was away at a course for my work the week Nick must have announced that he was going on a cruise: I came back to find Nicola Bonn overnight instead (not too pleased) and have been waiting a fortnight for Nick to come back. Looks like it’s going to be another week of Nicola with her bee-yoo-tiful music.

    In the meantime, I wonder if there is any chance Ms Taylor’s contract will be allowed to expire? I had the misfortune to listen to her programme briefly on Saturday night and was reduced to turning the radio down every time the music stopped so that I didn’t have to listen to her. Yet did someone say the ratings for her programme were up? Does she have a large family? 😉


  3. Nick Finch

    Never mind Ms Taylor (bad, very bad I agree) but for most of the day Classic FM seems to only have one DJ: that smug, goody two shoes so-and-so Mark Forrest – why don’t they just have done with it and call the station MarkForrestFM? Can’t bear the way he pronounces ‘mAsterclAss’ and ‘pAst’ – so phoney… for heaven’s sake get him off!!

  4. Brian Bonn

    Just to add one more comment on Margherita Taylor. She must have the world’s most irritating voice, OK for M&S food ads but terrible for a classical music station. Why is every sentence ended by a little excited gurgle? I just don’t believe that she is doing anything but reading a script. I just turn the radio off when she comes on.

  5. Jan

    It seems we all have a lot to say about the most annoying CFM presenters – and I do my own fair share of commenting unkindly on them! – but what about the best ones? Who has the most relaxed manner, or is the most informative, or just the most pleasant to listen to? Of the past presenters, sadly no longer broadcasting with them, Mark Griffiths gets my vote; but of the others I think I am coming to appreciate John Brunning more these days than I ever did (I always used to think him rather clinical and lacking in warmth) and of course Nick Bailey is always very welcome. Talking of Nick Bailey, where’s he gone to now? He has only just had time off for his walk along the Andes (or wherever it was he went with CFM listeners), his cruise and Christmas: and now, this morning, he was being replaced by Ms Bonn again! My mornings are never quite the same when he isn’t on the radio. Ms Bonn is nice enough, but her excessive use of adjectives such as ‘bee-yoo-tiful’ can grate sometimes.

    Oh dear. I am back to complaining again.



  6. Maurice O'Riordan

    Miss Taylor has an extremely soothing voice if you please Sir, and is not a celebrity but an accomplished radio presenter from Capital Radio, and has been for many years. Please don’t put all of us in your smug little ‘box’ together. Classic fm is trying to appeal to the masses by not appearing ‘up itself’ like radio 3, but you seem to view miss Taylor from down your nose in a very Radio 3 manner. Don’t put down what you don’t understand sir. Research what your about to tear apart before you do it. Please and thank you!

  7. Jonathan

    @Maurice O’Riordan: What rubbish. I’m sure most of the commenters here listen to Classic FM specifically becasue they don’t like Radio 3. John Brunning and Mark Griffiths are quite un-Radio 3-like in their manner of presenting. What we don’t like is the way GCap (as was) messed about with Classic FM as a result of their decision to close theJazz. Margherita Taylor and others were brought over becasue of their contracts with GCap – this has been confirmed by people with inside knowledge.

    As for putting whoever “you” are in a “smug little ‘box’”, nowhere have I or anyone else claimed to be doing anything other than expressing our own opinions. As far as I’m concerned, you are entitled to your view, even though you show such discourtesy to those with differing opinions. Having said that, I would note that yours is the first comment here (or in any other forum I’ve seen) to be pushing a different view in the two years since the changes took place.

  8. Jan

    Hear, hear to Jonathan’s reply to Mr O’Riordan. I have no doubt that Miss Taylor has some fans, but many of those posting on this forum would not count themselves among them. I dislike her vocal delivery to the extent that I rarely listen to her, and will hum loudly over her voice in between the music. And she suffers greatly from not wishing (or perhaps not being able) to broadcast live. On Saturday there was yet another mix-up on the recording so that listeners were given the incorrect information on the piece of music just played. I have noticed this happen several times, and I only listen to her on average for 20 minutes once a week! As she has a three-hour show every day, I shudder to think how many times this actually occurs. I am surprised and disappointed that she and Classic FM allow it to continue. I am firmly of the opinion that if someone cannot broadcast live at least most of the time on a station like CFM, then perhaps they are in the wrong job.

    Mr O’Riordan, I echo Jonathan’s comment that you are entitled to your view: but then, by the same token, so are we. Your view is no more valid than you think ours is.


  9. Phil Platts

    OK – can we start being civil to each other again please? Let me change the subject…

    Myleene Klass is driving me mad. I was lucky enough to be able to retire early and fill some of my time doing a soft music show on Sunday evenings for a local radio station. I learned lots of things – such as how naive I had been to assume all presenters were live in the studios. Now I know why John Brunning managed to do his Smooth Classics at 7 show all the year round whilst not doing the news programme that used to be on before it on certain weeks because he was evidently on holiday !

    Anyway, i discovered that many national radio programmes are what they call “voice tracked” – those of you who already know this please don’t call me names, I just simply never thought of this before I got into radio. For those who don’t know, the presenter gets a list of the music he’s going to be playing, then he records “links” between the tracks, or between the tracks and the news, etc. I am quite certain MK does this and that she doesn’t conveniently get up at some crazy hour to be in the studios Saturday and Sunday at 7 am. Nothing wrong with that. However, you can almost predict what she’s going to say. E.g. (music ends)… “The second movement of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by xxxxx. Coming next, a piano piece by a man who loved his umbrellas…”(music follows). If you haven’t heard it, just listen for a couple of hours – I’ll bet you hear that format at least 4 or 5 times. Yuk. There is no warmth in her voice, no drooling over the music (some of which, in fairness, is quite beautiful). But the show is listenable to despite her presenting, not because of it. Why, oh why, do they pay her obviously a fair amount of money ( because she is a so-called celebrity) when people like Mark are exiled to China?

    I will not even start on the other celebs – fortunately I don’t listen in when they’re on, but I do like to tune in on weekend mornings the same as every other morning early on. I’ve grown used to Jane now – at least she makes an attempt to sound warm and enthuses – maybe too much, some would say- but the cold fish style of Miss Klass means I have to keep putting my head under the pillow between tracks!!

    Best wishes to all. I’m glad this thread is being used again – I could never quite get used to that other site they shunted us off to!

    Cheers. Phil

  10. Jan

    Actually, most of us never stopped being civil to others, Phil.


  11. Jan

    So the Hall of Fame is upon us again. I find it quite fun, actually, but not to be taken seriously. Does everyone vote for ‘The Lark Ascending’ but me?

    What I wish, however, is that the CFM presenters would not pretend that they don’t know any of the results, or who has come top. They record the whole thing beforehand, so they must know. Last year I caught Nick Bailey on air half-suggesting he knew and then correcting himself, ‘of course I don’t know’.

    Of course you do, Nick Bailey!


  12. Nancy

    Hi Everyone

    I have de-camped to Radio 3 apart from the odd program on Classic FM. After being a listener since its inception I just cannot get on with the schedule they brought in a couple of years back; some of the presenters drive me nuts and their day time play list seems to be narrower than ever. In the past I have adjusted to changes in the schedule even if I haven’t really liked them but that last re-shuffle was too much for me. Some of the presenters they’ve brought in are just dire. LLB on a Sunday, please the man is a first class twit. I’m sure he’s a lovely guy but I don’t want to listen to his inane waffle.

    I received a clock radio for Christmas and I cannot bear waking up to Jane Jones. She is so ingratiating and I find her intonations just unbearable. So Radio 3 is now my main channel and I’m loving it. Today at 11 am we had the whole of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #5 and it was wonderful. I can’t remember hearing the first movement on Classic FM. The woman who presents the Breakfast show on Radio 3 (Sara Mohr-Pietsch) is really pleasant to listen to and I enjoy her program.

    I never listen to Margherita Taylor mainly because I can’t abide her style but also because I want something more upbeat at 6.00 pm including a decent news bulletin not “smooth” classics. My evening starts much later than 6.00 pm! So if I don’t like what’s on R3 then it turn to R4.

    I will listen to the Hall of Fame over Easter as I agree with Jan, it’s fun and pleasant listening. I love The Lark Ascending (to a point) but cannot fathom how it sits at the top of the chart.

    Just thought I’d share my thoughts with other classical music fans.

  13. Jan

    Hi Nancy,

    Great to hear from you again! You know, I have been thinking seriously about defecting to Radio 3. I listen to it sometimes, but it does allow an intrusion of jazz which upsets my system! I do agree, however, that’s it’s lovely to hear the music in its entirety. You’re right, CFM hardly ever plays movements longer than 10 minutes, though I recall on a Saturday morning once I caught Mark Forrest actually playing the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto. I was so astonished I emailed to congratulate him!

    Funny you should mention about the narrowing of the playlist – I had begun to wonder that, too, but then recently it seems to have widened again. Only a couple of days ago I heard a movement from a little-known Mozart piano sonata, neither 11 nor 16, the famous ones that regularly get trotted out, so perhaps they are beginning to expand the playlist again.

    However, if you listen to Nick Bailey overnight you are certain to hear at least one movement from Rach 2 at some point during the course of a week, and occasionally you will get to hear the whole piano concerto split over 3 days in the same week! He must like it a lot. He often plays my favourite version, (Vladimir Ashkenazy), but not always and it’s good to hear the different interpretations.

    I can’t listen to Ms Taylor. I just can’t. I do listen to Ms Jones for the 20 minutes it takes me to drive to work because she always seems to play a piece of Baroque music (which I love) and Mozart (whom I also love) during my slice of listening so for the sake of that I can put up with her for that short period. But I am also going to give this Sara Mohr-Pietsch a chance, too, if you recommend her.

    The Hall of Fame will be a nice diversion this weekend, and if it drives the likes of Llewelyn-Bowen off the airwaves temporarily then it has to be a Good Thing. I can’t bear Alex James either.

    Please don’t let us have ‘Lark’ at the top again. It’s an ok piece of music, I suppose, quite clever even, but it’s not better than all the other 299 pieces that make it into the chart, and more besides which don’t. Well, it would be nice to have a new number one regardless.

    We shall know on Monday evening….


  14. Jan

    I have just read the new edition of the Radio Times and see that the schedule of presenters on Classic FM has changed yet again as from next week. Brighter Breakfast now has Mark Forrest, whilst Jane Jones is moving to present The Full Works from 8-10 pm, whereupon Ms Taylor of the dulcet tones takes over for four hours, yes, FOUR HOURS until 2 am. Jamie Crick’s programme in the afternoon is extended until 5 pm, when John Brunning takes over until 8 pm.

    No! No! Not FOUR HOURS! I usually listen to Classic FM nightly from midnight, but this will now have to be stopped forthwith.


  15. Jonathan

    Thanks for the tip-off, Jan. Strangely, they haven’t been advertising a change in schedule, and I can’t find any mention of it at all on their website. In fact, clicking on next Monday shows the same as this week. What are they playing at? The Radio Times website goes as far as the following Saturday, and that seems to be much the same as at present.

    I’m a bit sorry to lose Smooth Classics from the 7pm slot, but at least we’ll have John Brunning back. Full Works until 10pm is fine by me, though. Then I can switch to Radio 4 for The World Tonight without missing the concert!

  16. Jan

    Hi Jonathan,

    Having not heard any advance news either, I was astonished to see the new schedules in the Radio Times. But then this morning as I was listening to Nick Bailey’s show at about 4.50 am, Nick happened to mention that the times of his show would be changing from next week, in that he would be broadcasting from 2 am instead of from 1 am as now. So I guess the RT must be right.

    So why are they changing?

    Whereas I welcome Ms Taylor’s removal from the 6-9 slot, I do think that inflicting an extra hour a day of her onto us is rather unfair. And what about the weekend? Will she still do the 6-9 slot then? I suppose I will have to wait until the RT for 3-9 July is published and distributed to find out. It would be nice if CFM would tell us though.


  17. Jonathan

    Jan, take a look at which now has schedules up until 7 July. No sign of Ms Taylor at the weekend as far as I can see. On Satruday there’s Howard Goodall’s weekend concert from 7pm, Myleene Klass from 10pm then Jane Jones doing the nightshift. On Sunday, David Mellor has moved to 8pm, followed by Myleene, then Nick from midnight as at present.

  18. Barbara

    WHERE is Mark Griffiths?

    With the exception of Natalie Wheen and Margherita Taylor all the female presenters on Classicfm have ‘sweety-sweet, little girl’ voices and sound about 12. They all speak too quickly and drop their voices at the ends of sentences; and can somebody tell them that there is a’T’ in the middle of Scotland?

    Why has nobody commented on the strange, jerky style of David Mellor’s speech? I find it most off-putting.

    Of all the changes, the one I find most upsetting is the loss of Simon Bates’ film programme. He knows more about films old and new and the film industry generally than anyone else in broadcasting. PLEASE, please bring it back in its two hour format which could include listeners’ queries such as whatever happened to or who starred in or what was the remake of ……. called? It was a wonderful programme.

    Definitely miffed Barbara

  19. Phil Platts

    I just loved Barbara’s email for one reason. I am so delighted to find there is at least one other person in this world who is irritated by today’s pronunciation of Scotland. I know it is irrational and there are far more things worth getting annoyed about than that, but every single time it irks. My Mother taught me to get that little soft “t” sound by putting the tip of my tongue behind the upper front teeth, but obviously Jane Jones’s Mum to name but one didn’t tell her that!!

    Well now, there is a saying about being careful what you wish for because you might get it. I, like others, didn’t like Jane’s ingratiating tones for a long time, but I have to admit that in general I now find her voice quite soothing first thing in the morning. At least it is warm, whether falsely or otherwise. Now listen out for Mark Forrest’s little clipped and organized voice when you wake up. Ugh, no thanks, at the risk of being controversial I’d rather listen to the now-grown-up Chris Evans and I’ll save the classical music till later. Mind you, it could be worse; if listeners found Jane a bit too warm, they could always contrast with the pre-recorded ice of Myleene Klass. They broadcast the wrong bit of her recording last Sunday, did anyone else notice? She said she’d be back tomorrow morning! Obviously someone put Saturday’s clip in on Sunday. Come Monday morning I was lying in a cold sweat till I was relieved to find Jane show up for work as usual!

    Best wishes to all. Phil

  20. Jan

    I have my irrational moments too. Generally I like Natalie Wheen’s style of delivery (though not necessarily her choice of music) but I hate the way she refers to Mozart as ‘Mozza’, which makes him sound like some kind of sportsman (viz. ‘Becks’). How would Ms Wheen like to be called ‘Wheenie’?

    Now there’s a thought.

    I gave Chris Evans a try but oh! he’s too fast and frantic for me, so back to Jane Jones again. Thankfully my journey to work is only short so she can only get in a few of her most irritating vocal habits, like ‘toe-tapping’ and the very long ‘e’ in ‘ease’. And the multiple instances of ‘good morning’. This morning she managed two in the space of about 30 seconds. Only she can annoy me by wishing me good morning.

    David Mellor? Perhaps I am in a minority of one, but actually I like him. He speaks as if he isn’t sure which word is coming next but what he says often makes a lot of sense, and I give it some weight, especially his ‘New CD’ show. But this show from 3 July is slipping an hour to 6 pm so other household stuff I have to do will probably mean I will miss it. And I never get around to ‘listening again’.

    So, does anyone think that the moving of Margherita Taylor to the later slot means that she is on the way out? If she’s no longer presenting ‘Smooth Classics’ every single night, her total hours of broadcasting have been reduced by one per week (not much, but it’s a start), even though we will have to put up with her for four hours at a stretch during weekday nights.

    Well, we can hope!


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