Media: Lifeline - Xfm

The former pirate radio station is in danger of being sucked into the mainstream.

1997: Xfm, formerly a pirate station serving Camden and Islington, goes legit when it wins a London-wide FM licence. Following a launch campaign in which it mocks the blandness of Capital Radio, it launches on Monday 1 September with a brief tribute to the recently deceased Diana Princess of Wales, followed by The MC5's Kick Out The Jams. Its early stars include a certain Ricky Gervais.

1998: With listening figures falling short, its backers accept an offer from Capital, under the chief executive, David Mansfield (below), to buy up their equity. Fans are dismayed when the new owner closes down the station, leaving a tape loop of Alanis Morissette in its place.

1999: Having relaunched the station (after only a week off air) as a pale imitation of Virgin Radio, Capital has stirred up a storm of protests, petitions and a successful campaign of complaint to the Radio Authority, which hands down a fine for breach of licence conditions. Its response includes a flirtation with laddish formats and football but, in late 1999, Capital begins re-introducing specialist shows and left-field music.

2001: With indie music now entrenched once more in the mainstream, Capital realises that Xfm may be a brand it can develop into a nationwide property - especially now that digital distribution is on the agenda. It also seeks to reinforce the brand in London with the launch of a magazine spin-off called X-Ray, produced in partnership with the publisher of Sleazenation. X-Ray closes in 2004.

Now: The Xfm team beats a record number of local radio franchise bids to win an FM licence in Manchester. The station promises to show the provinces a thing or two about "guitar-led music with attitude" despite its star DJ, Christian O'Connell (below), moving to Virgin.

Fast forward - 2007: In a renewed wave of radio industry consolidation, Capital's new holding company GCap buys Virgin Radio. It creates a newly merged network, taking the FM from Xfm and adding it to Virgin to create Virgin fm. Headed by the Virgin managing director, O'Connell, it promises to play "guitar-led music" but delegates the question of attitude to an exhaustive programme of focus groups.