Ricky Gervais returns to radio but only online

LONDON - Ricky Gervais' next radio show will not be on Xfm and will only be played on the internet, in a move that will heighten the profile of podcasting.

Gervais has signed with Guardian website Guardian Unlimited to do 12 weekly shows, the first available from next Monday, together with his writing partner Stephen Merchant and their producer-turned-sidekick Karl Pilkington.

The trio have previously had a show on Xfm, but Gervais has now said he would rather do a radio show "where I can say what I want... rather than a huge samey ineffectual broadcast".

The decision is a blow to Xfm, which has been earmarked by GCap Media for national expansion, but will boost interest in podcasting.

This year saw several traditional media owners trying to appeal to the iPod generation by making broadcast shows available to play and download via the internet. These include the BBC with the Radio 1 'Chris Moyles Breakfast Show' and Beethoven symphonies, as well as Virgin Radio with the 'Pete and Geoff Breakfast Show'.

However, Guardian Unlimited is the first to dispense with the broadcast element and go straight to the internet.

The Guardian Newspapers site is part of the Guardian Media Group, which owns radio stations including London's Smooth FM and Scotland's Real Radio. Podcasting still has problems with overcoming music licensing rules, meaning that songs have to be removed. The Gervais show will not feature music, just talk, because, according to Guardian Unlimited, Gervais wanted to do a purely talk show.

Emily Bell, editor-in-chief of Guardian Unlimited, said: "Guardian Unlimited has been experimenting with podcasting over the past year, but this represents the start of a much bigger commitment to using different digital formats, which give our users the best content in the most convenient way."

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