Women in battle for airwaves: Radio station launches bid for London licence

IT IS called Viva and claims to be the world's first radio station for women. It might be nicknamed PCR, politically correct radio, for that it surely is.

Viva, the radio station for women - one of many bids for one of the eight Greater London independent radio licences to be allotted by the Radio Authority in October - formally announced its application yesterday and described its programming, its presenters and its backers.

If it is a station for women, then it doesn't seem to include Conservative women among its estimated 1 million would-be listeners. They might have mixed feelings about the objectivity of Glenys Kinnock, signed up as education correspondent.

Lynne Franks, the fashion publicist and part-inspiration for the comedy series Absolutely Fabulous, who is chairing the consortium that has put in the bid, did not see this as a problem. 'We've got Carol Thatcher (reporting on special issues) at the other end of the political spectrum . . .'

She added hastily: 'But that's their relatives rather than themselves.' When launching the world's first women's station it doesn't do to define women in terms of their relations. Ms Franks's press release announcing that the board of directors includes 'Deborah Owen, the literary agent and wife of Lord Owen', is also ideologically suspect.

Not so the programming though, which looks set to have the world's first politically correct gardening coverage. 'There will be gardening,' Ms Franks said, 'but it will be ecological gardening in an urban environment.'

Also joining Mrs Kinnock and Ms Thatcher as presenters will be Dr Wendy Savage and Dr Miriam Stoppard; Leslie Kenton, a health guru; Sally Brampton, a journalist, Fatima Whitbread, the former javelin thrower; Michel Roux, the chef, and Claire Rayner, the writer and broadcaster, among others.

A rival bid from London AM, headed by Joan Bakewell, the broadcaster, also includes women aged between 30 and 50 among its key target group, though it says it is not a station specifically aimed at women. There are more than 40 other applications, ranging from London Arabic Radio to Christian Radio to business radio to all-sport radio. But that sounds dangerously male.

The radio gravy train, page 21

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