MEDIA: LONDON RADIO - Targeting Londoners with more talk. The BBC’s local London station GLR aims to have greater appeal by rebranding as London Live and dropping music at breakfast and drive time

Radical repositionings in the radio industry are relatively rare. Successful stations tend to stick to a working format, and commercial stations are restricted by their licence terms in what they can offer.

Radical repositionings in the radio industry are relatively rare.

Successful stations tend to stick to a working format, and commercial

stations are restricted by their licence terms in what they can


Much to the chagrin of commercial broadcasters, the BBC has no such

contractual obligation, but most are unlikely to be concerned by the

corporation’s move this week to adjust the format of its local London

station, GLR.

Previously a ’full service’ station mixing music and speech, GLR is

rebranding as London Live and dropping music from the most important two

radio slots of the day - breakfast and drive time.

If the BBC simply wanted to win listeners this would not be the route to

choose. Capital Radio’s breakfast DJ Chris Tarrant has successfully

fought off the Virgin challenge to retain his position as London’s

preferred breakfast listen - a position he has enjoyed for more than ten

years with a mainstream music format. Tarrant’s continued dominance

underlines the static nature of the London radio scene. Despite an

increase in the number of stations from five public and two commercial

in the 1980s to six public and more than 15 private today, Capital still


GLR had never been among the most popular in terms of listeners in

London and the switch is unlikely to change that. Instead, the move is

an attempt by the BBC to increase station distinctiveness , by

concentrating on providing Londoners with the best news and information

about their city.

The move will pitch the station against the commercial speech-based

service LBC, rather than music stations such as Virgin and X-fm. A fact

underlined by the recruitment of Harry Beer as editor of the London Live

breakfast show from LBC’s programming company ITN where he was morning


At the BBC, Beer will find himself better resourced than at LBC and will

be in a position to target young Londoners - as opposed to the 35-plus

age group which are the core of LBC’s audience - with a speech-based

service. The question is, do they want it?

Although GLR’s audience had never been huge, it was successfully

providing an alternative to the more popular mainstream commercial

stations and had a loyal listenership. London Live will be seeking to

carry these listeners and add listeners from the other BBC speech-based

services Radios 4 and 5 that want a more London-centric service, and

listeners from LBC who want a younger feel.

LBC - Nicholas Wheeler

Position: Chief editor

Programme: Breakfast Show

Presenters: Simon Bates and Sandy Warr

Time: 6am to 9am

’It is hard to talk about a typical listener to the show - we appeal to

everyone between 35 and 50. And it is an extremely balanced audience

between men and women and ABC1 and C2DE.The audience is growing witha

weekly reach of up to 450,000.

’We have Simon Bates and Sandy Warr presenting the show - they provide

light and shade, a man and a woman, a familiar voice who has now

established himself as a credible journalist and serious reporter since

he left Radio 1.

’We look to cover London’s agenda in a way which is much the same as

ITN’s philosophy overall - being accessible, authoratitive and

informative -similar in target to the Daily Mail newspaper, which is a

shareholder in the channel.

’The show has been running since ITN revamped LBC programming last


It is a comprehensive news and information service with travel and news

headlines every 15 minutes. I suppose it is for people who think Radio 4

is too crusty and do not want either the non-stop sport of Talk or just

entertainment like you get on Capital.

’It is witty, intelligent and lively with a mix of features and news so

that our listeners go to work well informed.’

LONDON LIVE - Harry Beer

Position: Editor

Programme: Breakfast Show

Presenters: Paul Ross and Clare McDonnell

Time: 6am to 9am

’The breakfast show is a priority for London Live. There will be no

music now in breakfast or drive time on the station; it will be all

news. Overall the station will have the same amount of music but it will

be at different times.

’I cannot think of a breakfast show at the moment which reflects what a

fantastic and great city London is to live in. We will be trying to do

this and will be interested in real life and real people.

’We will be younger than the LBC service which is far more concerned

than we will be with national and international issues. We have at least

two reporters on the road each morning bringing stories in - which the

competition does not do.

’We have not laid down rules for the format - it will depend, to some

extent, on the news. Because we have taken the records out we have been

able toput more structure in.

’We will have the travel junctions at 20 minutes past and 20 minutes to

the hour, then we have news on the hour and the half hour and headlines

every quarter of an hour.

’Outside that rigid structure anything goes, but there will be four to

six items an hour. We want to be an information service but more

entertaining than others.’


Position: Executive producer

Programme: Chris Tarrant Breakfast Show

Presenter: Chris Tarrant

Time: 6am to 10am

’Our target audience is really just everyone in London. We had a

five-year-old and a 100-year-old on a recent programme. The only thing

that distinguishes the audience is that they like to be woken by the

bright and chirpy, friendly voice that is Chris.

’We give them all the important things in the morning - news, travel and

weather - and we mix them with good music and Chris’ personality. It is

him that makes it unique.

’Everything he does is designed to get you going, it is so inclusive it

has become an integral part of London - people say he should run for

mayor. He has been doing the show for 12 years and people are used to

him - there is a comfort factor.

’The show has not changed very much over that time. The format is a

three-way partnership, with Howard Hughes who does the news and Russ

Kane in the flying eye. We used to have a weather girl in the studio,

and have also had the zoo format with lots of people in the studio, but

we find it works best how it is now.

’We have also have a team of researchers who use the newspapers to pick

up gossip. We mix that with current music, some competitions and Chris

does the rest’.

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