MEDIA: Why Mackenzie’s latest move may be good news for PR

’I love celebrities,’ said Kelvin Mackenzie recently. ’There is nothing as interesting as famous people.’

’I love celebrities,’ said Kelvin Mackenzie recently. ’There is

nothing as interesting as famous people.’

Nor is there a better way to hook audiences, although commercial

stations have been surprisingly slow to lure stars onto their


Mackenzie’s remark is one pointer to the kind of direction he expects

Talk Radio to take if his bid to take it over from majority shareholder

CLT, and the current management, succeeds. For the PR industry, his

fixation with prominent people from all walks of life offers a guide to

his plans for hyping Talk.

Last week, as the Talk Co team entered exclusive negotiations to buy

control, it coincided with the annual Radio Festival in Birmingham,

where key industry figures gathered. Mackenzie’s move was uppermost in

everybody’s minds: established networks, including BBC Radio, regard him

as dangerous, capable of upsetting the status quo - which currently sees

commercial and publicy-funded radio taking equal shares of the audience

- unchanged since Talk began three years ago.

The BBC has sewn up Radio 5 Live’s Premier League football rights for

three years and, earlier this month, the Scottish Premier League, to

prevent Mackenzie’s Talk mounting an early sports challenge. So his

immediate options are narrower than he’d like. The only way his large

bid of pounds 25 million can be justified in the short term is by

dramatically and rapidly raising audiences from the current 2.3 million

- thus attracting more advertising from the big brands at enhanced

rates. Radio may be harder than he imagines, though Talk will gain an

immediate high profile if he moves in at the end of August.

Currently the national station with the smallest audience, he wants Talk

to stand out and be talked about. But the first ’shock jock’ Talk

format, flaunting rude, often nasty comment, lasted all of three months

before the Radio Authority got tough. Mackenzie won’t repeat that

mistake. In fact the Radio Authority is relaxed about his foray. So, if

you are running a showbiz/promotions agency launching anything and

handling stars from Bruce Willis to Michael Owen, Talk will want to be

on your list. It will not trash guests but it is keen to let ordinary

people quiz celebrities, especially politicians.

That’s why Mackenzie has no intention of quitting its Oxford Street HQ

and believes the BBC will rue the day it forced its radio news out of

central London to White City.

At the Radio Festival Bob Geldof, whose Planet 24 also wants to run

radio stations, spoke of the ’deracinated half wits of hum drum England

clogging the airwaves’. There was a broad murmur of approval for his

notion that fresh blood is needed.

It’s why many radio experts are hoping Mackenzie’s Talk Radio will spice

up their lives.

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