Radio 4 plans create new avenues for PR fans of Today

There can hardly be a PR person in the land that does not aspire to place an item, cause or client on the Today programme. It is the high-minded but lively morning notice board for Britain’s busy decision makers and opinion formers, a zone thankfully untouched by the petty breakfast wars of Chris Evans and Zoe Ball.

There can hardly be a PR person in the land that does not aspire to

place an item, cause or client on the Today programme. It is the

high-minded but lively morning notice board for Britain’s busy decision

makers and opinion formers, a zone thankfully untouched by the petty

breakfast wars of Chris Evans and Zoe Ball.



As the media proliferates, a slot on the programme has become ever more

highly prized as the one chance to drop a word into so many important

ears before the day’s toil begins: a stunning 46 per cent of listeners

belong to the top social classes AB. Anyone who has ever worked on a

national newspaper will know how often an editor insists on a follow-up

to something it has just broadcast. And it’s not just politics where it

makes waves.



When sports presenter Gary Richardson verbally assaulted the father of a

13-year-old female boxer, his aggression became an instant talking point

- but the fixture was cancelled.



As Paul Donovan’s new book, All Our Todays - Forty Years of the Today

Programme, confirms, it maintains its authority by largely eschewing

free plugs for books or dodgy, poorly researched surveys. Its staff of

just 41 are, naturally, deluged with standard press releases and

suggestions, but at best throw their energies into taking the programme

into fresh new territory, to land the interesting insights and

interviews which may shape the day ahead.



But what few in this industry realise is that Today is on the brink of a

substantial increase in airtime, due to the thorough overhaul in Radio 4

schedules now being planned in meticulous detail. The programme will

expand its airtime by 27 per cent from next April, starting half an hour

earlier at 6am, and running a full three hours. By colonising the

Farming Today slot, its current brisk mix of around 24 or so daily items

will be significantly expanded. It will become a much hungrier and

somewhat less fussy beast. Politics will remain at its core, but the

agenda and time for debate will broaden.



Crucially, Today will be beefing up one of its weakest areas, business

and personal finance. The current audience is very interested in these

topics and it should be able to add new influential listeners at this

time of day. There has always been a place for the chairmen and chief

executives of major FTSE companies announcing results that morning. Now

the plan is to add a substantial whack of business news before 6.30 am

and another burst, aimed more at investors and savers still at home, in

the later half hour of the programme. And the expanded airtime means

that the programme will have the opportunity to develop on air, with

much more freedom to carry follow up rapid response interviews to items

broadcast earlier. My conclusion? Today is bound to remain a tough nut

to crack, but there will be a lot more to aim for.



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