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Talksport are in a good place right now after surviving falling revenues. Their commercial rivals in the likes of Heart FM, Absolute and Capital Radio are not so healthy and the squeeze on advertising revenue in the recession is starting to hurt. The recent re-branding of local radios under the one Heart symbol was not only to make the product more profitable but the chance to erase the local radio tag and cull the poorer performers. If they could syndicate more chunks of the station to be played on more of the stations and so employ less staff then they can save what's left and hopefully leave local radio to the BBC. But Talk Sport are on a different tack, throwing up a spinnaker to actually take on the BBC on all levels now as Rupert Murdoch's tie in with Sky gives them more financial clout and confidence, the purchase of 64 Premier League games to be covered on Talk Sport this season a sign they are very serious on competing BBC Sport to try and pull the audience away and get them listening to commercials instead of Alan Greens rants. They have also broken the BBCs monopoly on rugby by getting the 'exclusive' rights to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, a real surprise if you consider the TalkSport audience demographic. The BBC have had to react this season to the more serious challenge from commercial rivals to start new programs and employ new 'racier' pundits like the excellent Robbie Savage to fill the gaps now they have no live games on Saturday evenings and the early Sunday 1:30pm slot, Alan Green effectively sacked from 606 for his rumbustious opinionated style. When he told a listener last season that he was wrong and should shut up live on air, and this a phone in show for the listeners opinion, I knew he was toast. Green has always been resentful he never got telly work and when the dreadful Jonathan Pearce got promoted above him to Match of the Day he seemed to self-destruct. Now the BBC are simply aping TalkSport with their after match coverage through the likes of the loveable knockabout that is Robbie Savage and the increasingly ubiquitous Colin Murray, and to be honest it's rather fun and needed, Fighting Talk a cracking hours radio on Five Live. Laddish is the way forward and football on the radio will never be the same again. Talk Sport isn't that greatest station on the airwaves and very blue-collar, but it's an alternative to an increasingly timid and politically correct BBC. Because Radio Five Live has been forced to move to Manchester as part of the punishment post Hutton Report because of ex Director General Greg Dykes stance on the illegal establishment war in Iraq many Five Live big name presenters are refusing to go north without
Pictures of Talk Sport
Melon headed presenters
huge 'resettlement incentives'. Big names like Simon Mayo have jumped ship and other presenters like the blousy Victoria Derbyshire (born in Rochdale) and Scottish public schoolboy Nicky Campbell have been given a month off fully paid as a bribe to move north. Talksport have seized on the precious unrest and stolen their opportunity to jump in to start harvesting their audience, Radio Five Live having the most working-class listenership of the BBC daytime radio audience. My radio listening... I dont listen to radio morning shows as they tend to try to be too manic to wake us all up and so Alan Brazil half cut and Ronnie Irani until 10pm doesn't appeal on Talk. My Talksport day begins at 10pm when I decide to either listen to the child like morning show with Mike Parry and Mike Graham, a silly double act, the show weakened a lot when the surprisingly good Andy Townsend (Parry's Ernie Wise to his Eric Morecombe) recently declining a new deal in the slot with the station so to concentrate on TV. Parry plays devils advocate in an idiot way to his mostly idiot audience but a very sharp operator underneath all the silliness. He knows who the stations core demographic is and isn't going to stray to far from that. Parry and company replaced the great John Gaunt, as near as you can get to a loud mouth right wing American style 'shock jock', but sacked last year after a series of incidents, the final one of calling a local councillor a 'health Nazi' live on air, one too much for the station. He was, of course, the victim of a feeble regulator and a big mouth and is currently appealing on human rights reasons to return, human rights layers he despised on air. The station hasn't been the same since and when James Whale was fired two weeks later in 2008 you knew Murdoch was more worried about losing advertising revenue than his best presenters. Radio Five have a vast array of male overweight stands in for Victoria Derbyshire on the late morning slot to go up against Mike Parry, Stephen Nolan the seediest. After 12 the sexy intelligent Gabby Logan delivers the lunch time slot on Radio Five, but her show rarely anything but boring and girly. Hawksby & Jacobs over on Talksport get the afternoon slot from 1-4pm, which, although funny in places, is too long at three hours, their droll double act a little bit too highbrow and spontaneous for their audience sometimes. But they were going up against Simon Mayo on Radio Five when they started and now have to take on Richard Bacon ( not everyone's cup of tea), and so always hard to build an afternoon following against Radio Fives unfair budget. Ian Wright has long since been sacked from the 4-7pm slot and it's been taken on by Adrian Dunbar and ex player Jason Cundy and Alvin Martin. One thing Talksport have done that is positive is using ex players as hosts to get a more insightful view on things. But solid football talk is not my thing so I flick back to Radio Five in the summer or put a movie on in the winter for the evening slot. Now Talk Sport have live Prem games the controversial Stan Collymore has been moved there and to weekends to build an audience they hope to keep across the station. Talksports first three live games have all been 6-0 so the omens very good. 666. The number of the beast. The likeable and more intelligent Ian Collins takes you through the post football hour of 10pm until Ipm and then some dreadful night jock takes the 7 or so listeners through until 6pm and Brazil and Irani, the Scott notorious for late night drinking sessions and not showing up for work. Adrian Goldberg used to the grave yard slot but resigned to set up some other projects and work on Radio Five Live instead, the articulate Brummie the new Adrian Childs to fill the BBC' silly regional quotas, the Welsh Christine Blakeley's clone on The dreadful One Show an example. Weekends are Talksports growing strength with those Premier League games with football talk shoes all the way. As much as a bad boy Collymore is I find him engaging (although hectic) on the commentaries and a bloke who represents footballers and fans a like, be it he is much brighter than most, why he works well on radio. I say good luck to the bloke although lets hope Talk Sport don't offer Marlon king a show. -Controversies- April 2002: The entertaining Tommy Boyd (he of 70s kids show Magpie fame) and his production team were sacked from Talksport after a callers anti-Royal Family view went through on air. Boyd claimed he did not share the views of the caller at a disciplinary hearing. In the early days the station was called Talk Radio and feared being shutdown for not reacting to controversy. June 2006: Alan Brazil got in trouble with Ofcom for referring to the Japanese as "the nips" during the 2006 World Cup. Brazil is very Scottish and likes a nip of something himself. Slag the queen off sacked. Slag the Japs off no problem! August 2007: Mike Mendoza and Sun hack Garry Bushell made derogatory comments about gay people, and the station was subsequently censured by regulator Ofcom. Bushell left when his six month contract expired soon after. Bushell was a pretty good host to be fair. May 2008: James Whale was sacked by Talksport after urging listeners to vote for Boris Johnson in the 2008 London Mayoral Election. The station was fined twenty grand by Ofcom because his comments fell in the election cycle, a big no no in the media to back a particular party, even though it's obvious the station is a right wing Tory mouthpiece in North London. November 2008: Jon Gaunt was fired for repeatedly calling that local councillor a "Nazi". Gaunt has since pleaded unfair dismissal, but as yet no court case. His campaign has, rather ironically, been backed by tiny Liberty activist Shami Chakrabarti, she of the black eye shadow, who had previously been one of Gaunt's pet hates. November 2008: Rod Lucas was dropped by the station after he appeared on that leaked membership list of the BNP. The station clarified that this wasn't a sacking as Lucas was only a temporary member of staff. The presenter himself claimed that his membership of the party was part of a covert research project. November 2010: Talk Sport were censured by Ofcom for their anti terror advert, deeming the campaign too intrusive, all but asking its predominately white audience to report Asians who have their curtains drawn, don't go out much and buy pesticides. The challenge was upheld and the advert removed. We can't have radio stations upsetting potential terrorists now can we? Is the station any good? To be fair it's ok, but no more. The thing is we have no real alternative to the BBC and for me radio is just too safe in general. I listened to John Gaunt because he broke the silence and spoke for most people in this country and when he was sacked then I, the listener, was also sacked by Talk Sport. John lives in Northamptonshire and I have spoken to him a couple of times and he is not the right wing firebrand he is painted as. He is just very English and middle class and just like your mum and dad on issues like immigration and crime. Yes he went over the top and kept pushing it until he was sacked but free speech in moderation should never be gagged and the fact he got the stations highest audiences was probably the real reason Ofcom wanted him gone. Just briefly the nation had a voice and Talk Sport was the megaphone. Now the station is aimed at idiots and run by them, hours and hours of full football debate and presenters fearful of having an opinion. The naughty George Galloway was effectively forced out for his left wing views, especially on Israel, and Talksports strong North London Jewish roots soon saw him off. They don't seem to want a left wing balance and so no surprise Gaunt goes off on a right wing one. But as long as they have the rights to premier league games and grow their sport portfolio they will be a noise and have to be taken seriously, a champion of the working man who likes to go football and drives a white van. http://www.talksport.co.uk/ Summary: Bring back Gaunty!