Viva! 963 hits the airwaves with a promise not to rant

RHYS WILLIAMS

Media Correspondent

Man in apron holding a frying pan asks woman: "How would you like your eggs, honey?" "Unfertilised," she replies. Cut to second poster - Woman One: "What's the best way to balance your budget?" Woman Two: "A credit card in each hand."

Chris Burns, programme controller of Viva! 963, says that if anything sums up the attitude of Britain's first radio station for women, which launches today, it is this poster campaign.

"There are two things people expect us to be if we're a women's station. One is a lack of a sense of humour; and secondly, there's an assumption that you'll be very worthy and earnest," she said.

"It's very important that we don't sound like we've had a humour bypass. The station is not going to be ranting or wagging its finger. It's not going to be a bad-tempered station." Viva!, she adds, is determined not to be seen in any way as "anti-men". One of the station's favourite statistics to support her thesis that Viva! will attract the chaps in thousands is the fact that 30 per cent of Cosmopolitan readers are men.

With financial backing from Golden Rose, the company responsible for J(ne Jazz)-FM, and spiritual guidance from Lynne Franks, PR guru, Viva! won a licence to broadcast in London and the South-east at the second attempt last year. It aims to reach 400,000 listeners each week, aged between 25 and 44, with a 24-hour mixture of "soft adult contemporary" music (Oletta Adams, Phil Collins et al to you and me) and chat, providing a woman's perspective on men, sex, shopping, news, politics and the environment.

Which means? Ms Burns points out, for example, that in all the coverage of the National Lottery, the one question that no one asked, but every woman was bursting to, was "is the woman entitled to half the winnings?". "It's a subtlety in difference of approach," she explains.

On top of the standard studio output, Viva! is promising community-based events, such as women in business conferences, theatre and seminars for work returners.

Ms Franks. in addition to discharging her flag-waving duties as the station's "chair", will present a weekly interview called Frankly Speaking. Early targets include the Dalai Lama, the pop musician Chrissie Hynde, and, apparently, a Nigerian woman who has been circumcised. Also on board are the Rough Guide veteran Magenta Devine, Carol Thatcher and Eve Pollard, the former Sunday Express editor turned novelist and BBC chief hat watcher at Royal Ascot.

Ms Burns, a former Radio 1 producer and managing editor of Radio Kent, believes that the female listener is underserved at the moment, with key issues consigned to broadcasting "ghettoes".

She praises the quality of Woman's Hour on Radio 4, but adds: "I don't want to find that I didn't set my clock for 10 o'clock and then missed the programme. What I want to see from a radio station is something that is going to be relevant 24 hours a day. Magazines have been doing it for years. Why not radio?"

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