MEDIA: LBC - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. LBC has defied the thinking that FM speech radio does not work with its shows

I sacrificed my usual Monday morning languish last week to sample Capital's new breakfast offering on my shower radio - lucky old Chris Tarrant, eh? Having endured an advertising campaign heralding its arrival as an epiphany in radio programming, I have to say I was expecting something brave and feisty. I was slightly disappointed. OK, so Tarrant was in a good mood for the first time since 1994, but at the end of the day, it's still Tarrant.

His newly polished team are lacking the gel and cohesion demonstrated by Foxy during a recent Tarrant holiday fill-in. Everyone sounds a bit try-hard. Please can we have something different, like you promised?

Talking of something different, LBC made a date with London and brought a guest to the table on Monday 6 January: well produced and professionally crafted speech radio on FM. Who said that speech wouldn't sit well on FM?

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then the tongue can lash with equal force, as Nick Ferrari (pictured) demonstrated on LBC 97.3's first morning. LBC was the first radio station ever to hold a commercial licence in the UK, first issued in 1973. It is a tribute to the passion of some in the radio industry that it has survived, given the almost obsessive interest paid to FM contemporary hit radio. Many think LBC is tolerated for its legacy and consumed by those too deaf to have an opinion. I think we are about to be amazed at how enjoyable speech radio can be.

The daytime schedule is strong and varied; Ferrari encourages some mid-morning debate, Sandi Toksvig can sooth the furore, Dr Pam picks up the pieces of shattered tickers everywhere (any sexual problems?)and Clive Bull tends to the needs of London's legendary array of night callers.

Those who feared the stronghold of LBC would come from those among us old enough to have seen active service needn't have worried. Response and opinion came from people of all ages and it was great. One spunky gent even suggested we storm the house of the guy in the Hackney siege.

Last week taught us that the "sure thing" is not necessarily the good thing. Tarrant is the established king of breakfast radio, yet his time has come. Speech listening is supposed to flourish on AM, yet LBC has proved people want it, listen to it and respect it as a worthwhile venture on FM. Time will tell if the venture is a financial success but in a way it doesn't matter; people are listening and advertisers are taking notice - the rest will follow in good time. It's always good to talk.

Broadcaster: LBC (recently acquired by Chrysalis Radio)

Frequency: 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 97.3 FM

Key programming: Jane Moore and John Nicholson (6am to 9am), Nick

Ferrari, (9am to 12pm), Frank Partridge and Caroline Feraday (4pm to

7pm)

Advertisers include: Heathrow Express (sponsor of regular time checks),

Evening Standard, Paul Simon Curtain Superstores, GLA Congestion Charge

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