The Sunday Telegraph

Fans ‘split’ with station over AI song selection


LISTENERS to the station formerly known as Country Hits Radio are dismayed after its new owners filled the breakfast and drivetime slots with DJs on nine stations simultaneo­usly who do not mention country music.

The presenters have no idea what records they are playing. When it is time to select some, they press a button and music chosen by a computer programme – according to an algorithm that matches tempo and mood to songs from a master list – automatica­lly plays.

The genre is tailored to the audience of each station – country, classic rock, Sixties and others – owned by the Absolute Radio network.

During Dave Berry’s Breakfast Show and the Bush & Richie drivetime show, the songs are synced so they play for exactly the same length of time. In the case of Sixties songs, which tended to be shorter, two will be squeezed into the slot. It means that listeners who tune in to an Absolute station because they like a specific type of music are being given a show that, apart from the songs, makes no acknowledg­ement of that genre, with a DJ who never introduces records.

The system – dubbed “Project Banana” by Absolute Radio bosses, as shows are “split” between stations – has been in place several years.

However, complaints have been made after Country Hits Radio was taken over and rebranded as Absolute Radio Country last month.

“These guys have no clue about the music, they never talk about the artists,” said one. “I want DJs with knowledge, not generic for every station,” said another. In an online forum, a listener asked: “What happened to country DJs who love country? Where is the country news, intros and features?”

Listeners in recent weeks have heard Berry discussing Oasis and Euro 2020, but making no mention of country music.

Absolute said the majority of listeners were happy with the changes, as social media engagement has risen since the takeover last month and the station has enjoyed record figures for streaming.

‘What happened to country DJs who love country? Where is country news?

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