talkRADIO’s Launch Reviewed

Post length: 497 words, just over 2 minutes.

Note: this review was written before the Brussels attacks of 23rd March 2016.

There is no doubt that launching a radio station is a difficult thing to do, especially a poorly promoted talk station with no callers. That’s what Paul Ross was battling against yesterday morning on the launch day of Wireless Group’s talkRADIO. But the Paul Ross Full Set Breakfast really struggled to find its identity jumping from current affairs to gossip, staying with no topic long enough to do it justice. Backed by male-dominated, shouty idents, adverts clearly lifted from sister station talkSPORT and impeded by terrible sound quality from poorly tuned compression and the shoebox of a studio the station launched with a whimper rather than a bang.

The station’s lineup also leaves something to be desired: women. There is currently only one female presenter on the station’s weekday schedule, two on Saturday and one Sunday, although Katherine Boyle is not credited in the title of her “7 Days of talkRADIO” programme.* (Arguably this isn’t a problem unique to talkRADIO. The station’s closest competitor, LBC, also only has one female weekday presenter although they do have two on each of Saturday and Sunday.) But talkRADIO’s male focus is very much palpable in the style of the output and perhaps it is unsurprising given the genus of the station.

No more so was this style evident than with Sam Delaney’s drivetime program. Sam’s work as a journalist has seen him write for The Guardian, The Telegraph and Grazia. He was editor in chief of Heat magazine and has written a number of books focusing mainly on advertising and politics and there were occasional flashes of knowledge in his interviews with the pre-arranged guests. Delaney has also presented talk radio before — he’s a recruit from talkSPORT — but perhaps this is the problem: attempting to transfer the same style from talkSPORT to talkRADIO doesn’t make for comfortable listening. Whichever way the station wants to go, either news- or gossip-based, it has to move away from the macho style of its sister sport stations to find its own personality and, fundamentally, it’s own audience.

Putting aside the technical issues of over driven levels and the studio’s apparently poor acoustic performance which also marred Sam Delaney’s show, talkRADIO’s first day really missed the mark. No doubt the controllers of talkRADIO will have their own feedback following the station’s first day in the wild but it seems that it has a long way to go to meet its aim of being “witty, intelligent and funny.” It does take time for a station to get into its stride and perhaps in a couple of weeks, once the station has worked out who it really is, it will be worth giving another try. Because I’m sure that the art of talk radio has moved on from that presented by talkRADIO during the station’s first day on air.

* Thanks to Penny Carr for correcting my first observations around presenter lineup. See comments below.

Posted on Tuesday 22nd March, 2016 at 7:48 am in Arts & Ents, Obiter dicta.
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It’s worth mentioning that since launch day the station have changed the compression in use for the online stream from MP2 to MP3. This alleviates some of the sound quality problems which plagued day 1.

Posted on 23rd Mar 2016 at 1:07 pm by Jonathon.

“There are no women presenters on the station’s Sunday schedule.” That’s factually incorrect. There’s Katherine Boyle at 3pm. She is also on air for very large chunks of Iain Lee’s show.

Speaking of Iain, when you say” it seems that it has a long way to go to meet its aim of being “witty, intelligent and funny.”” Did you not listen after 10pm? It was some of the best radio comedy I’ve heard in years! Jon Holmes’ first show for them was also very funny. And that’s coming from someone who had not heard him before Monday.

Posted on 23rd Mar 2016 at 1:40 pm by Penny Carr.

You’re absolutely right about Katherine Boyle on Sunday. Apologies I missed that in the schedule and I’ll correct that in the post.

That does however beg the question as to why the title of her Sunday afternoon slot is not “7 Days of talkRADIO with Katherine Boyle” given that virtually all other shows are headlined with the presenter’s name. I wouldn’t, however, class an unaccredited co-presenter, as she seems to be on Iain Lee’s programme, as being part of the station’s advertised lineup. It’s worthy of note that the programme which Iain and Katherine did on 3CR was toted as Iain Lee and Katherine Boyle while talkRADIO appear to have decided not credit her in their schedule.

I don’t deny that Iain Lee is an excellent talk radio presenter and may well fulfill the “witty, intelligent and funny” brief however I would question if Lee, with his personal irrelevant style, fulfills the stations other stated aim to tackle “the hottest topics of the day.” I’m unsure as to how he handled the news events of yesterday as I didn’t listen to the station after 7pm yesterday evening. I also feel that, however unfair this might seem when looking at a talk stations with stronger after-dark following than conventional radio stations, a radio station doesn’t live or die by it’s post-10pm output. (That said I would acknowledge that, for digital only stations, it’s likely that drive concedes some ground to later night programming in significance.)

Posted on 23rd Mar 2016 at 2:20 pm by Jonathon.

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