When Jenny Abramsky gets her feet under the desk again as the
director of BBC Radio, one of the first things she’ll do is look around
to see where her previously loyal Radio 4 listeners have gone after the
latest round of programming changes. Or she may ponder how best to
maintain and grow the stable Radio 5 Live listenership.
And if she tunes into the Big Boys’ Breakfast on Talk Radio, she will
rest assured that whatever they’re now listening to, it’s probably not
Highbrow this show is not; but then it’s not meant to be. The
co-presenters and Kelvin cronies, Nick Ferrari and David Banks, use
their heritage of employment in tabloid newspapers and TV to produce a
show of opinionated topical debate mixed with the standard breakfast
fare of news, traffic and weather.
Added to this is worldly-wise controversy from Andrew Neil and some
banal but fun entertainment from Mystic Meg.
When MacKenzie bought Talk Radio, critical debate centred on how a man
whose experience was mostly gained in tabloid media was going to address
the rather grand designs for taking the audience upmarket.
For now, however, this is not the Big Boys’ Breakfast’s job - it has to
gain a critical audience mass that can be fed through into the rest of
the day. Such has been the relative weakness of Talk’s breakfast segment
in the past that at the moment any large audience will do.
This show is new and, like all new breakfast shows, will take time to
work. At the moment, it falls between two stools. Banks and Ferrari,
when addressing universal issues, are no John Humphreys and, when
spouting controversy, are no Richard Littlejohn.
But they deal well with callers and this augurs well - a lively
interactive audience is essential to a speech station, making it sound
fresh and a forum for debate rather than dogma. If this can be harnessed
daily, then Abramsky may just start to worry.