BFM: The Business Radio Station

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In The Beginning...

Inspired by London's Capital Radio and LBC, Malek wanted to do radio since the early 90s. His opportunity came in 2006, when he somewhat fippantly applied ("the MCMC website said just apply...".) for a business radio station licence. To his surprise, Malek's proposal was received warmly by MCMC, leading to the issue of an FM radio licence in July 2007.

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Why Business?

The mainstay topics of talk radio stations around the world (sex, politics, religion) were off limits in the Malaysian political climate at the time, so something neutral like business seemed like the way to go. Besides, Malek was a former management consultant and thought a business radio station exposing Malaysian businesses to best business practices globally would be a good service to offer.

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The genesis of BFM...

Malek approached his long-time collaborator, Szu Hung Lee, then Creative Director of McCann Erikson (they won Malaysia's first gold Cannes Lion together almost a decade earlier with Malek's first entrepreneurial venture), with Business FM as a working brand. Szu was unimpressed. But what Szu proposed was much more playful, leave it simply as BFM, and let listeners decide for themselves what BFM meant to them. And so BFM, Business-Friendly Malaysia, Bribe-Free Malaysia, Bieber-Free Music, or whatever you make of it, was born.

Here's more in Malek's own words...

"Szu's first creative work was the tagline (The Business Station), and a simple, stark, black and white logo to go with it. But he then did something interesting with it - he started to play around with whimsical expressions to reinforce the letters, 'B', 'F' and 'M'. One of the earlier ones was Boyish Forty-Something Millionaires , and another was Big Fortune Movers, so you see where he was going with this.

So that was the birth of our somewhat whimsical branding campaign that play on the letters BFM. We've now put a business spin on it ('Bankers Flee Mortgages', 'Bernanke Funds Mergers', 'Bankrupt Fannie Mae'), a political spin ('Barack Foils McCain', [censored Malaysian version]), and a female perspective ('Behind Famous Men'). We also managed to incorporate the essence of BFM's brand ('Best For Money', 'Business, Finance and More') and even an anti-corruption message ('Bribe-Free Malaysian'). Then we added the various permutations on air, (and our first set was voiced by Szu himself). and they sounded good, and so, on the radio waves it went, together with visual reinforcements on the back of taxis (see pics above), polo-shirts and car stickers."

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BFM Takes Shape...

The test transmission also had recruitment ads, and one person responded with this: "Hi, I'm Diana, I used to work for AMP Radio (now Astro Radio), where my husband was the former CTO, can we help?". What luck, studio, systems, music and programme structure sorted! Then it was the programming team (Noelle Lim, Christine Edwards), presenters (one, Norina Yahya) office manager (Crystal Ch'ng) and production engineer (Steven Tan).

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...and We're On Air!

The first few weeks after being officially on air was actually quite frustrating. We were thick in the middle of a global financial crisis but there was just a handful of us trying to cover the stories. We had a lot of feedback from listeners who wanted more on the Global Financial Crisis and expected full coverage from the get-go, but we weren't able to fulfil it. The nadir was when we had singer Atilia on the Breakfast Grille to discuss the entertainment business, in an environment where global banks were falling like dominoes. We must have sounded really tone-deaf.

1) No slapstick at BFM
2) BFM takes segmented approach
3) BFM’s Barclays EPL matches not meant to compete with Astro, says CEO Malek

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