It is a challenge that even most radio stations in France struggle with: making French people like French pop music. But yesterday, undaunted, a group of British Francophiles announced plans to set up French Radio London, the capital's first ever French language terrestrial station.
To be launched in early November with an 80 per cent French music quota, it will be "aimed primarily at London's 400,000 native French speakers" as well as the large number of British Francophiles in the city.
"I am happy to take on the considerable challenge of introducing French pop music to Britain," said Pascal Grierson, who set up the station, adding: "Its reputation has taken something of a battering for a long time, but there is quite a lot of decent stuff out there."
He described the station's target listeners as "25-50 year-old ABC1s", adding: "French radio has a 40 per cent quota; we want to impose an 80 per cent quota here. We will not ignore English-language music but we want to give our listeners something they will remember from their childhood.
"Most of them are educated, cultivated people and we will provide music which is easy to listen to as well as chat shows because everyone knows how the French like to talk."
Mr Grierson said he was close to appointing a breakfast show presenter and was on the lookout for a female co-presenter. "We have someone lined up who has been a good, solid broadcaster on French radio for a number of years, but who is probably not so well known in the UK," he said.
The station will also prove useful to students of French, many of whom find it difficult to find up-to-date references to French culture. Others radio stations broadcast online and some people can receive French terrestrial radio, notably in Brighton. But for many of the 14 million British people who visit France each year, tuning into the station will be a rare chance to brush up on their linguistic and cultural knowledge in their own living rooms.
"The view of France is very often akin to how it looked in the early-1950s. French Radio London (FRL) will reflect a post-colonial France, with all of its influences from French-speaking nations," said a spokesman for the station.
Mr Grierson added that FRL will have music from Africa and Belgium as well as other countries. "If there is a new song from Charlotte Gainsbourg we think will interest our listeners, we will definitely play it, but I am considering who to employ as a specialist in African music because that is an important part of French identity now.
"For the French, this will be news, traffic and travel, music and chat, all in their native language. These are people who try hard to assimilate into the local culture but who want a reminder of their own."
FRL secured a channel slot with the digital radio company London II. It is taking over that released by Smooth Radio, which recently moved to a rival company. It will also be available online and on Smartphone apps.
Mr Grierson, the station's CEO, said: "We look forward to broadcasting a unique French voice on London's airwaves. This is an exciting development for listeners as well as UK- and French-based commercial partners who will benefit from a dedicated platform to reach French-speaking London residents and the wider Francophile community."
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