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back to article GCap reaches for DAB off switch

GCap Media said it will axe the home of Planet Rock and theJazz because the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) platform has not been a money spinner for the firm. The UK's largest commercial radio broadcaster will close the doors on Digital One's remaining stations and sell its assets to its partner Arquiva, which will take GCap' …

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A bad workman blames his tools

If GCap had actually put some innovative, interesting programming out, rather than formulaic trash, they may of actually won over some listeners and made a bit of money.

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"never really caught on"

This is a surprise?

They are over-priced, look naff and the broadcast quality is piss poor.

Plus, my Sony ICF 5500 that I bought in 1973 is still going strong.

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*sigh*

Planet Rock always boasted about how large their rock library was... and then played constant repeats of Alice Cooper, Guns and Roses and Yes only to wonder why people stopped listening.

theJazz is actually quite good as far as jazz stations go, and it'd be a shame to see it go - considering only 1 out of every 4 tracks is utter wank, I'd say they're beating the pants off every other jazz-orientated radio station.

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I'm reaching for the GCap off switch

I've become a recent member of the theJazz and PlanetRock audience with a personal DAB player at work (listening slightly skewed by the inability to pick up the BBC multiplex inside office!). But looks like that is going to end

So I'll need to shift to listening via internet .. hmm, corporate WAN is not going to allow this (and never mind fact that it emerges onto internet outside UK so they'd probably refuse a connection anyway for licensing reasons!)

Well, I can listen at home, ... hmm got DAB in kitchen but no PC there, got DAB in living room but no PC there - suppose could pull laptop out and carry that around as a portable radio ... could try freeview - nope, not broadcast there, try cable ... yes that's ok ... but that would clash with my TiVo recording TV.

So, looks like its time to wish GCap farewell.

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"never really caught on"

I think it depends on where you live - in my current home town, you get poor analogue tv reception (including no channel 5), and poor FM reception - however Freeview and DAB reception is brilliant. It's nice to wake up to a crackle free radio in the morning.....

We'd be lost without DAB radio in the home.

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Coat

Voting with their ears

> Fru Hazlitt said in a presentation that "listeners were not voting with their ears"

On the contrary, listeners ARE voting with their ears. OFCom have completely failed to impose any meaningful bitrate requirement on DAB broadcasters. GCap's stuff may be OK but the majority of DAB stations have gone so far down the quantity over quality path that FM sounds better.

OFCom have such a hard-on over mobile Internet that they seem to think of terrestrial broadcasting as a nuisance and want it to stop.

Why should listeners pay a premium for a digital receiver when it fails to deliver the quality the marketers have told them they should expect from something that is "digital" and is often worse than what they already have?

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IT Angle

SAVE Planet Rock petition

I'm really shocked at this move by GCap. What they are basically saying is that the formulaic"chart-based" radio stations (on FM) earn them money due to advertising (up to 9 mins per hour !!) while the "niche" stations on DAB (which the Radio Authority/OFCOM asked them to provide access to by way of them earning their license) can go to pot....and I sincerely hope that GCap are HEAVILY FINED by OFCOM for breaking the terms of their licence.

Planet Rock has authenticated audience figures of over 500,000....and for many, it's the sole reason why they bought a DAB radio in the first place.

Sadly, the "bit rate issue" is an OFCOM problem - the original BBC broadcasts were all at 192kb....and sound quality WAS the driving force to generate "public acceptance" of DAB. But due to a lack of fore-sight in terms of awarding plenty of multiplexes for radio stations to use, instead OFCOM chose to LIMIT the number of available multiplexes and thereby force the broadcasters to reduce bit rates to cram more stations in.....

So, blame OFCOM for this entire problem - if they had made the licenses available for multiple multiplexes, the "sound quality" issue wouldn't have arisen and I assume more people would have bought a DAB radio (although DAB is hardly a "Betamax vs VHS" issue - over 6.5 million DAB radios have been sold in the UK - and I doubt anything like even ½ million Betamax machines were even sold in UK).

As it is, the listeners are the big losers here....coz mainstream FM won't cover some of the niche markets that theJazz, Planet Rock, ONEWord (now closed) and others were aiming at.

If you want diversity and choice on DAB (and not foetting that Planet Rock is also available on cable, satellite and via IP), then click here and sign up to SAVE Planet Rock...

http://www.youchoose.net/campaign/save_planet_rock

...and PLEASE get everyone you know to sign the petition.

There are also a few Facebook groups that have been set up to make more people aware of this. And likewise a few musicians (Fish, Rick Wakeman) are now getting involved so that perhaps someone with an interest in the genre will buy the station and keep it going.

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Overcompressed shite

Expensive.

And so many things had a built in analogue tuner.

Why did it fail???

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Crap

Maybe, it's down to the fact that all of GCAPs digital radio stations are utter drivel. The repetition of content is unbelieveable. I listened to Capital Life for a while as there's no DJ, but my goodness me it was the same songs day in day out. I became convinced that they had a 6 disk CD player with a few compilation cds set to random play.

I'm no Jazz fan so I wouldn't listen to The Jazz and Planet Rock was dull and miserable.

Good riddance to bad rubbish!

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Anonymous Coward

The format is definitely in trouble

Judging by the prominence it has had on Radio 4 lately, and the propagandising manner in which the BBC has handled it. The consumer choice argument has been shown to be dead in the water. It would not surprise me if the authorities were now to shut down analogue broadcasts out of spite.

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Anonymous Coward

Bye bye DAB

You were crap anyway.....

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Unhappy

Bugger...

Yup, add my name to the more-than-a-little-bit-pissed-at-this-decision list. Living in an area with dire FM and AM reception but great DAB, I'd much, much rather listen to repeats of Guns N Roses than the piss churned out by the BBC which are the only viable alternatives. GCap - you myopic bastards.

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Pirate

I was torn before...

... between 2 new Sony head-units for my car. The choice was down to a DAB/MP3 unit without Bluetooth, or a MP3/FM unit with Bluetooth.

I was prepared to forget the BT compatibility to gain more radio stations, but seems like the choice has been made for me.

I think that is where the problem lay though... I only know of one manufacturer that did (Vauxhall, don't know if they still do) offer DAB head units as a standard option. Most after market manufacturers products were also overpriced (often a £50-100 markup on standard FM units and a generally poor selection of products).

Given that 'in the car' is where most people listen to radio, I think it has been a major oversight of the powers that be in the medium to overlook such a valuable market.

Let's call it a day, and turn the DAB spectrum over to mobile TV.

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Pirate

Women and children and anoraks attack!

What planet are you on? Planet Rock has been steadily growing since it launched and is currently enjoying its highest ever audience figures:

Planet Rock RAJAR History.

563,000 - Q4 2007

548,000 - Q3 2007

530,000 - Q2 2007

498,000 - Q1 2007

424,000 - Q4 2006

422,000 - Q3 2006

417,000 - Q2 2006

461,000 - Q1 2006

325,000 - Q4 2005

341,000 - Q3 2005

382,000 - Q2 2005

286,000 - Q1 2005

Why do radio anoracks always say "we" when they mean "I", and claim the listeners are all deserting a station when all they really mean is "I personally have got bored with the play list and am annoyed that the figures were lower when I liked it, indicating I have abnormal tastes"?

As explained by gCap, Planet Rock is closing (and the same applies to The Jazz) because despite relatively healthy audience figures for a DAB station, the cost of running it is too high and their niche audience, which is largely made up of older, more savvy listeners, is not an attractive target for advertisers. Therefore they've never been able to take on enough adverts to outweigh the operational costs and make a profit.

There's many a website that has closed down over the years because it simply became too expensive to run, despite its popularity and quality of content. So, it isn't the playlist that is a problem, it's the £800,000 lost every year by keeping each station going. Playing more obscure rock tracks will only attract even more middle aged listeners and make the advertising situation even worse.

If it was a local station with 563,000 listeners then it'd be fine, but as a national it has to pay money for bandwidth on many more transmitters across the UK and the feeds to them, etc.

As for sound quality, it's not all bad like some people make out but it is a very mixed bag, with the big-name stations often sounding reasonable while the niche stations sound dire. See http://www.blip.tv/file/597632 as an example.

I always thought it ironic that it's the stations you can already pick up in better sounding FM which hog the bandwidth on DAB to sound the best, while the digital-only stations that can't be heard any other way (or at least ways that don't tie you to a livingroom TV or broadband internet connection) are most often left with crappy mono sound. It should be Heart and Radio 2 that are on 64 mono while BBC7 and Smash Hits are on 192 stereo.

Anyway, never mind about two gCap stations. Is this going to trigger the fall of a DAB house of cards?

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Alien

Not just Planet Rock

There were some great Digital only stations, seems the only time I can listen to the music I like is on a Friday night on BBC6, the rest of the week I'm stuck with CD or MP3 player. Give me a station with old and new rock music any day, it was the reason my old car had DAB in it. The other main problem is that the portable DAB players for the house have crap reception, I used to have one in the kitchen and I think the ONLY stations that worked were the BBC stations. The car radio was fine...

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Stop

Internet Radio

Well the only station I listen to on DAB is Planet Rock, despite that it's playlist could be better, and this will irk me somewhat. I have DAB in the car to drive to the train station listening to Alice (I'm outside of London so there is no viable public transport to get there). Annoyingly I was an early adopter of it and got mine when there were only 2 models of DAB car radio on the market. I have managed to get Shoutcast working over 3.5g in the car but the signal isn't there to be usable for a journey. Is DAB likely to be yet another white elephant?

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Dare we hope...

...that the BBC will be able to pick up the multiplex being vacated by GCAP?

I'll kind of miss Planet Rock, but if it means the beeb can crank up the bit rate for 6 Music a bit then it won't be entirely bad news :-)

--

JG

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and you still can't listen on the move

(without carting 1 tonne of steel and [plastic with you)

If DAB was meant to be the future of portable radio, why did they not spec the system to work on portable devices? You still cannot listen to any radio station in the UK reliably on public transport or while jogging/cycling using DAB or anything else.

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Alert

every 10 years ..

some piece of technology comes along that take so long to gain momentum that it is outdated outmoded and obsolete before it ever has a chance.

the seventies saw the advent of ISDN ... ( yes ! invented in 1978 by the way ! . its deathknell has lasted for 30 years ...)

In the eighties there was video2000 ( some oddball video system that only philips had ), in the nineties there was .. euh .. euh .. well lots of stuff, and now we have DaB.

while the underlying technology is ok the introduction is totally and utterly executed bass ackwards !

first of all :

- no equipment besides some outrageously overpriced and UGLY receivers with no connectivity to your existing equipment ( tivoli anyone ? )

- no stations ( besides a few national stations and a couple of commercial ones.)

- very short transmission range. Move 50 miles and you lose access to your station ...

- needs new transmitters all over the country. costing a lot of money , and requiring often new towers.

- crappy audio quality , overcompressed , bandwidth limited

Why don't they just install something like XM or Sirius radio in europe ? With 1 sattelite transponder ( they don't even need a complete sattelite! One of its 16 to 32 transponders is enough . I'm sure Astra or Hotbird have a few spare transponders that are itching to become 'hot') they can transmit 150 to 200 chanels in cd quality. And the stations would be accessible all over europe !

- lots and lots of stations

- cheap receiver ( 30 to 50 $ ) that you can take everywhere. home,car,office

- time shift programs , record them for later playback

- millions of subscribers.

- low cost subscription

So ? what are we waiting for ?

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Tom
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Not surprised

GCap radio stations are crap, but they seem to get everywhere, and play the same three or four songs over and over again.

The local radio stations claim to be local, but apart from the breakfast and evening shows, everything seems to be syndicated. Used to live in Bristol and work in South Wales and GWR Bristol and Red Dragon, both GCap stations, would often have the same set of songs on even if there were different presenters. Once they even had the same questions for a completion on the breakfast show and because you can pick up GWR Bristol in parts of SE Wales people were complaining that you could hear the answer first on GWR Bristol.

On top of Red Dragon you now have XFM South Wales which isn’t much better. Not so much a problem of playing X-factor losers and crap boy bands, but it is the same songs over and over again – with a large amount of advertising.

Arrow Rock is a much better DAB station than Planet Rock ever was. I know it is broadcast across South Wales and around Bristol, not sure where else it is broadcast.

Unfortunately I have near zero digital radio reception in my house - the only station I can get with my DAB radio is Virgin.

All of that said, anything has to be better than Valleys Radio!

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DAB is great

I moved from London to near Bristol a year ago, and was worried about not being able to get my favourite radio stations, XFM (a GCap brand) and Virgin. But I can get them on DAB. Admitedly XFM's just launched in South Wales on FM and we can pick it up, but I really don't want to have to listen to them banging on about Wales beating England - I'd much rather have the London station! Also my wife can still get LBC, which she got addicted to ages ago.

So with that, and 6Music, and that you either have a signal or you don't (no crackling when you walk in front of the aerial etc), I think DAB's great...

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Black Helicopters

To: enquiries@culture.gov.uk, again.

FAO: James Purnell

Re: The "Digital Radio Working Group

To: enquiries@culture.gov.uk

Date: 4 Feb 2008

Reply? Nope, just another stock confirmation of reciept email.

Further to your stock email of 26/11/2007, and absence of a follow-up, what is the latest news from the "Digital Radio Working Group"?

A summary of the points I made previously:

* 1Xtra, FiveLive, 6music, and BBC7 only command 10% of radio listeners at present (as a generous collective approximation). But they are, for all intents and purposes, the only stations that realistically offer a reason for investing in a DAB radio until such time as FM/AM/LW signals cease.

* The aforementioned stations (amongst many other non-FM stations) are all freely available on Freeview/Virgin/Sky and available via the internet. Therefore, a DAB radio is only of any real use in a car (or one of the dwindling numbers of rooms without digital TV or PC with internet connection).

* Pausing and rewinding live radio is not in any way a compelling USP. Individuals bloody minded enough to record DAB can use a DVB-T USB PC stick (and then pass out due to acronym-itis?). DAB Display info is little more than that provided by FM RDS.

* For those that want real choice beyond current analogue services, Wi-Fi internet radios offer a much more compelling option, compared to DAB in it's current format.

* With all of the above being blindingly obvious, the government is still wondering why sales figures for DAB radios are meagre when DAB-only stations can only attract a 10% or so market share.

Please confirm whether the taskforce has formally accepted any of the above points as facts. Please also explain, in simple terms, what the aims of future "Digital Radio Working Group" discussions are and how I am able to follow its progress.

Yours sincerely,

XXXXX

PS: In case it wasn't looked into, I refer you again toward comments made to recent news stories on the "Digital Radio Working Group" as a reminder of further public opinion on the matter: TheRegister.co.uk (at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/23/dab_working_group/) and the Channel 4 News Forum (at http://community.channel4.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/503603557/m/6530046049 ).

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kinda off topic

My favourite radio station also closed this week (for me anyway). It was a MW analog station broadcast from holland - i think it has moved with the 80s and got into fm but I dont know dutch so am not sure. Long Live arrow - http://www.arrow.nl/rock/

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No more DAB adverts - hooray!

As a regular Classic FM listener (on FM!) I'm so tired of the incessant adverts for DAB, and the presenters promoting digital radios all the time. Hopefully that's going to stop now.

Then again, they've just launched "My Classic FM" which is now taking the place of DAB when it comes to annoying adverts. That started a few weeks ago, and now I know it was an early sign of GCap's change of direction.

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Anonymous Coward

Who are GCap anyway?

Never listened to any of the GCap stuff (and never heard of them until now).

But I'd be lost without my DAB set - no telly in the house, so R4, BBC7 and 5Live Sports Extra keep me entertained. Quality stuff.

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@I'm reaching for the GCap off switch

On reflection I've spotted the upside ... if they really want me to listen via internet then I **need** an eee to carry around the house!

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Anonymous Coward

a crying shame

DAB is being screwed up with piss poor programming and some rubbish radios (avoid anything covered in mock leather) its not a technology problem but an imagination problem - the station controllers need a good kick up the arse.

Planet Rock is not to my taste but I know a lot of fans of PR fans that are rather upset. I rather liked OneWord (once you figured out their complete lack of advertising of their schedule) and was rather put out when that got canned. So if you want spoken word in the afternoon you are stuck with Radio 4 as BBC7 goes over to CbloodyBeebies. Not what you call great choice.

If GCap do drop DAB in favour of web streaming then they are going to get a kicking in the market which frankly they deserve. Firstly all those planet rock fans I know listen on personal DAB radios because their workplaces don't allow the use of internet access for media streaming. Also if you can access radio over the web you don't have to restrict yourself to UK stations (e.g. the output of CBC Radio in Canada is amazing and the BBC could learn a thing or two about podcasting from them), and you can get hold of podcasts and all the listen again stuff. And once you discover that you don't have to restrict your web radio choice to the UK , the world is your oyster.

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Unhappy

DAB & theJazz

DAB certainly hasn't gone the way it was meant to, poor quality sound, expensive hardware, and an apparent failure to get into the in-car market. BUT, I wouldn't be without my DAB tuner. Why? I live in North London, capital of pirate radio, (big shout going out to all you pirate DJs), and DAB has allowed me to listen without interference to every station I want to.

theJazz seemed to have done everything possible that would allow a jazz based station to survive. An easy-listening week-day schedule, but keeping within what all jazz listeners would recognise as jazz, and a more specialist weekend schedule. Programmes like "The Jazz Jury" and "The Cutting Edge" are simply not available on any UK broadcast stations, (if anyone know of internet radio I could listen to, please tell me). I find it astonishing that DJ's such as Helen Mayhew and Mike Chadwick are going to be without a platform. 6Music could widen it's rock based horizons a bit.

Shame on GCap for pulling the plug so early.

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IT Angle

@Nigel R

>>If DAB was meant to be the future of portable radio, why did they not spec the system to work on portable devices? You still cannot listen to any radio station in the UK reliably on public transport or while jogging/cycling using DAB or anything else.

Err....they DID spec DAB to work with portable devices, mainly for cars, hence why the DAB signal is vertically polarised and hence why all these "portable" radios have aerials that need to be extended vertically, to pick anything up.

The main reason why you can't pick up the signal RELIABLY, is the lack of transmitters - most of them are the old 405 line TV transmitters and thus far few of the old relay transmitters have been pressed into action, as it is claimed that DAB radios will work best if they can pick up the signals from 2 or 3 different transmitters and the signals are then "summed", to make the need for local relays immaterial.....except this assumes the land is perfectly flat.....

As a result, local topography causes issues, but no-one wants to pick up the bill for equipping and enabling more transmitters (to fill in the gaps.....

Net result is a carbuncle of a "system" which is fine if you are in a major conurbation, and can receive the signals from 2 or more transmitters....

But if you are reliant on just the one transmitter, then it's a question of keeping your fingers crossed....

I once tried out a PURE PocketDAB1500...it was great, but I hurt my ears when the signal strength dropped suddenly, as I walked in front of a tall building, and all I got was a loud distorted signal as the radio tried to cope (and "correct" itself) with the much lower signal.....and I was listening to a quiet piano sonata on Radio 3 at the time....

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RE: A bad workman blames his tools

"put some innovative, interesting programming out, rather than formulaic trash"

They did, and they've closed them

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IT Angle

@ Jonathan Green

>>...that the BBC will be able to pick up the multiplex being vacated by GCAP?

GCap have DAB stations on various multiplexes.....with Planet Rock and theJazz being on the "Digital 1" (aka National 1) national commercial multiplex.

As such, the multiplex is still being used by some other stations, such as Classic FM (sic), Virgin Radio, Talksport. So, the BBC would have to "buy" the space freed up by Planet Rock and theJazz being switched off.....

This is unlikely to happen as the Digital 1 multiplex has been under utilised for some time, since various other radio stations such as ONEWord, Primetime Radio (aka Saga radio), ITN News, Bloomberg Radio all stopped broadcasting....indeed Digital 1 now has two "strange" choices of radio stations on it's multiplex, consisting of "birdsong" and "BFBS" (the British Forces station).

So much for Digital 1 also carrying out it's promise to give variety and choice to the national audience......although for bird twitchers and those in the armed forces serving overseas (who can't pick up DAB either) I'm sure it's great.

You can see here the various different multiplexes (otherwise known as "Ensembles") and their incumbents here:

http://www.wohnort.demon.co.uk/DAB/uknat.html for the national multiplexes

and

http://www.wohnort.demon.co.uk/DAB/ukloc.html for the local multiplexes

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Heart

RIP Planet Rock

Me and my 19 month-old daughter will miss Planet Rock a lot. Its about the only station which plays rock album tracks, and made any attempt to fill the gap left by Tommy Vance. And what choices have I got on the south coast ? Just a line up of tedious commercial channels spouting the "best of the 80s,90s and today". Yeah yeah, that's probably why you play so many adverts (hows about 12 minutes/hour?).

And for about 12 months, it was the station that was used to rock my crying daughter to sleep.

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DAB sounds appalling

I had a DAB for a week and returned it. I listen mostly to Radio 4 and on FM it's in stereo and top quality, however via DAB it was 80kb/s and mono ffs!

DAB is a step backwards.

Listening to radio on Freeview is much better quality wise but not many (any?) Freeview boxes have a display that allows you to see what station you're listening to without the telly being on...

:-(

I'm sticking with FM and recording Radio7 using a PVR, until the quality of DAB improves.

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IT Angle

SAVE Planet Rock campaign

Hi,

Despite GCap's negativity about DAB and Planet Rock & theJazz specifically, there has been a surge of interest in Planet Rock, not least because some listeners have set up an online petition here:

http://www.youchoose.net/campaign/save_planet_rock

and a SAVE Planet Rock website here:

http://www.saveplanetrock.co.uk

and there are now quite a few Facebook and MySpace groups supporting the campaign.

regards

Tim

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