Minor British Institutions: Classic FM

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The Independent Online

Classic FM is the popular classical-music station that has been trained like an Exocet missile at the engine room of middle-class musical tastes for the best part of two decades. But is its thriving existence as a commercial entity with an apparently loyal audience of four million listeners reassuring proof that civilisation is not yet dead? Or is it just unchallenging pop music for oldies, chocolate-box sounds?

It is no surprise that the first piece played, at 6am on Monday 7 September 1992, was "Zadok the Priest". Listeners' preferences are exceedingly important, with regular polls of classical pieces conducted to ensure that the station remains in touch with its core audience: the current favourite in the "Hall of Fame" is "The Lark Ascending" by Vaughan Williams. Hardly less antique are some of its presenters: refugees from the past include Simon Bates, Henry Kelly and David Mellor. Still, they're fine broadcasters and the music is, well, Classic. It hasn't killed Radio 3. Yet.