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The Best Radio Stations in London

Published 31 May 2010

Be it in the office, on the go, or at home, deathly silence can make the day pass by that much slower. While some quiet time in the capital is usually hard to come by, when some does come along there are a few of us who simply need to have some noise.

Cue radio – the medium for those too busy to watch TV, and too lazy to navigate through the swamp that is his or her overfilled iPod library. Sometimes, music alone is not enough, and a friendly voice can make all the difference.  Whether you’re looking for some background noise or some quality music and company, here is a list of some of the best radio stations in London – just in time for the barbeque season. From Asian music to news commentary to easy listening to sports broadcasts, there is something for everyone!

> BBC Asian Network
One of the lesser-known BBC offshoots, BBC Asian Network differs very much from the rest of the corporation’s radio stations. Whilst the numbered national stations are geared towards general audiences, this station is very much targeted towards the Asian community. Although called BBC Asian Network, this station is focuses on Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan music and news – and not South East Asian/Oriental. Staples of BBC Asian Network include bhangra and Bollywood music, as well as more modern, western influenced music, such as music by Jay Sean.  After being earmarked for closure by the BBC, it’s best to have a listen to this station before it disappears forever.
Best when: taking a trip down Brick Lane. Listen to: Nihal, weekdays from 1–3 pm

> BBC London
BBC London station is great if you are around and about London Town and need decent up-to-date news and travel information. BBC London is very similar to the other BBC regional stations in the sense that the content is very much news and chat, and less frequent music than other well known stations. BBC London is also diverse in its programming – it’s one of the best radio stations in London for a good balance of sport and specialist programming (religious, world music etc.), as well as regular, mainstream programming,
Best when: stuck in the car in a traffic jam. Listen to: Vanessa Feltz’s phone-in show, weekdays 9-12pm and Saturdays 10-12pm

> 95.8 Capital FM
Capital calls itself ‘London’s hit music network.’ And rightly so – Capital FM is the station to head to for mainstream chart music. It is one of the bubblier stations, host to celebrity interviews and a variety of competitions. The station holds annual winter and summer concerts of epic proportions – the Jingle Bell Ball and Summertime Ball – at the biggest music venues across London, with this summer’s ball taking place at Wembley Stadium on June 6th. Headliners include Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Dizzee Rascal, JLS, and Usher. As well as getting the chance to see the cream of chart music perform at the balls, concert-goers can feel good in the knowledge that Capital donates a proportion of the ticket sales profit to charity (Help a London Child).
Best for: party music. Listen to: The Greg Burns Drivetime Show

> Heart 106.2
Heart is very similar to Capital, with more of a focus on family fun, especially during their breakfast shows.  Another defining feature is its good mix of popular oldies and newies. Heart have great features such as the Time Tunnel, in which the listeners must guess the release year of the music being played. Heart is also home to good presenters with great personalities – jolly and enthusiastic without being in your face.
Best for: a picnic at the park. Listen to: Heart Breakfast with Jamie and Harriet, weekdays 6-9 am

> Magic 105.4
Magic as a radio station is just like its adverts – easy-going, chilled out and full of love. For me, the station conjures up pictures of loved up couples, fun days at the park, chilled barbeques and homesick travellers and also heartbroken dumpees. With shows named Secret Songs, Mellow Magic, and Love Letters, you can see why. Magic’s Mystery Voices competition is fantastic – one of the reason to listen to the station when they are running it. Their music is much more geared to middle-aged listeners. And you can count on their slogan of ‘More music, less talk’ – Magic is the best station for long, uninterrupted runs of music, especially in the evening and through the night.
Best for: a candlelight dinner with your partner. Listen to: Danny Pietroni, Mon-Thurs 8-12 am

> Choice FM
Although advertised and often perceived as a station geared towards black music, this station has become more diverse in recent years, covering music from a range of artists of the urban, R&B and hip-hop camps. The station broadcasts the best in new and emerging urban styles and was the platform for introducing bashment and crunk to the masses. Expect mainstream offerings in the day and club mixes and dance beats in the evenings. Very much geared towards the under 30s.
Best for: urbanites cruising around town. Listen to: Abrantee, weekdays 7-10 pm

> Smooth FM (100.4)
Formerly known as Jazz FM, but rebranded Smooth Radio after listeners and radio executives decided that Jazz FM was completely the wrong name for it as the station plays a range of music including soul, easy listening and jazz. Even more mellow than Magic, Smooth tends to play older charts hits in years gone by. Think old-skool Lemar, Sade and Lighthouse Family. Smooth also play out documentaries on artists and music on Sundays at 1 pm.
Best for: breakfast in bed on a Sunday morning. Listen to: The Motown Show with Dave Brown, 6-8 pm on Saturdays

Head to LBC (London’s Biggest Conversation) to listen in on a good old chin-wag, on topics from the European Union to Eurovision. Initially abbreviated from ‘London Broadcasting Company’, this is the station to tune into when you’re not in the mood for music. LBC also has a sister channel dedicated to rolling news. Nice contrast between the extremely serious and more light-hearted subjects. You can hear some particularly funny talk, especially late into the night.
Best for:  riveting chit-chat and thought-provoking debate. Listen to: Nick Ferrari, weekdays from 7 am

> Classic FM
Classic FM is, without a doubt, the best classical radio station available in the capital. The disadvantages include irritating and repetitive adverts and lots of chatter, but its unique offering of a wide range of classical music makes the ads that tad bit more tolerable. Whether you’re looking for traditional baroque or contemporary minimalist pieces, Classic FM is for you. The station is particularly good for those new to classical music, as the presenters do not assume knowledge of previous listening.
Best for: getting ready for a night at the opera. Listen to: Relaxing Classics with John Brunning, weeknights from 11pm-1am

> Xfm
If you are of the indie, rock or alternative persuasion, you’ll love Xfm. Began initially as a pirate radio station, but is now one of the most popular stations in London. Think NME, Britpop, flower-twirling Northerners, and the quiz Never Mind the Buzzcocks and you’ve got this station pinned. Quite an exciting time as the genres mentioned are starting to split and intertwine with pop, electro, dance and even soul.
Best for: rocking out after the gig. Listen to: The Weekender with Marsha, Saturdays 6-10 pm

Do you have  favourite radio station in London that we haven’t listed above? Is there a new underground radio station making waves? Let us know by leaving us a comment below!

  • Neil

    The best radio is sunrise radio. Pepole say that sunrise is 100% of the best