LBC shouts louder in the battle for talk radio

The London station is taking advantage of the BBC's move to Salford

On Wednesday evening in a hotel near Trafalgar Square, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, will make radio history by taking on the leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, in a live debate on Britain's future relationship with Europe.

For LBC, the radio station hosting this unprecedented political joust, the event is a statement of intent as it challenges the BBC, the broadcaster that listeners might previously have expected to stage such an occasion.

For James Rea, the young managing director of LBC, which became a national network this month, the BBC has left "a gap in the market" for his station to fill. It is doing so with a relentless diet of news and politics. In his first interview, Mr Rea, 33, told The Independent on Sunday that the BBC's decision to move Radio 5 Live to Salford offered an opportunity to LBC, which has forged strong links with Westminster and broadcasts weekly shows by Mr Clegg and Boris Johnson.

"Most people involved in the cut and thrust of politics are in London," he said. "It is this city, and not Salford, that in the main sets the news agenda."

He aims to be quicker to the story than BBC Radio 4 with its schedule commitments to cultural matters and reliance on a schedule packed with "built" programme packages. "We don't have poetry slots or someone reading a book or a review of a film. The fluffy stuff is absolutely not what LBC is about."

Radio 4 is often "locked into expensive documentaries", while Radio 5 Live is "increasingly sports driven", he says. "LBC is not a place where we would interrupt the Prime Minister because of a wicket in the cricket."

Mr Rea, who left Radio 1's Newsbeat programme seven years ago and is someone the BBC would love to lure back, concedes that he has no evidence that such an interruption of a prime minister has ever occurred on the BBC. But his point about the market opportunity is a fair one, as Radio 5 Live prepares to clear space in its schedules for the World Cup.

Gill Hind, a broadcasting expert at Enders Analysis, said: "LBC should be a credible alternative to the more sports-focused 5 Live. However, it will need to find the correct national/London balance to ensure it doesn't alienate some of its existing listeners while attracting those from outside the capital."

LBC was founded 40 years ago as Britain's first commercial radio station. It is now owned by Britain's largest radio company, Global, and is part of a stable of broadcasting brands that includes Classic, Heart, Capital and Xfm.

There is a cliché that LBC is the favoured station of the London cabbie but Mr Rea – who is from Middlesbrough but did work experience at LBC 20 years ago when he was 13 – argues the politics-driven output has never been parochial. "We have never been Radio Local."

Even with its current financial restraints, 5 Live can draw on the BBC's army of journalists and Mr Rea recognises that he will need added resources to cover the whole country. Global (for which Mr Rea is also head of news) has built up a team of 100 journalists across 20 newsrooms ("from Cornwall to Glasgow"). It will prepare for its Europe debate with reports from Paris and Brussels.

This weekend Mr Rea introduced a series of new LBC presenters in the form of Daily Mail journalist Andrew Pierce (Saturday mornings) and the Sunday pairing of the obstreperous Sky News stalwart Kay Burley and Stig Abell, managing editor of The Sun. Mr Rea will be hoping to take advantage of 5 Live's weekend commitments to sport.

But with two recruits from the Murdoch media empire and the other from the Mail, Mr Rea is open to criticism that the station – unconstrained by the restrictions followed by the obsessively neutral BBC – favours voices from the right of the political spectrum. He rejects the accusation. "If you spend an hour listening to the station, it certainly doesn't sound like an endorsement of the coalition." An offer to broadcast on LBC has been made to the Labour leader but so far not accepted. "If Ed Miliband wanted a share of that microphone, then the invite is there."

The studio audience for the live Europe debate, which will be "refereed" by veteran LBC presenter Nick Ferrari, will be selected by the market researchers ICM. But Mr Rea argues that it is LBC's listeners – and the risk they pose of "skewering" politicians – who ensure the station's balance and mark it out from its rivals. "We don't give politicians a free ride," he says.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee