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
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
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.’
CAPITAL RADIO - Annie O’Neill
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’.