Hard breakfast


It’s a big month for breakfast radio. Seemingly every major station has seen its breakfast line-up change in the past few months.

The biggest change of them all comes tomorrow, when Europe’s biggest radio station gets a new presenter — and the first female host in its history, Zoë Ball.

Andy Walmsley has offered up a history of the breakfast show on Radio 2, which goes back further than you might think. There are also some interesting archive clips on the Media Show.

One of the news reports featured at the beginning of that edition of the Media Show talks about Chris Evans “returning to Virgin Radio, the station he bought 20 years ago.” Which isn’t actually true. Because the station he bought 20 years ago has since, via three different owners, become Absolute Radio.

The current Virgin Radio is actually a three-year-old station that up until now has struggled to gain traction. Much of that is down to the fact that it is quite difficult to listen to it.

I wonder how many people will attempt to listen to Chris Evans next Monday by tuning into 1215MW, the former Virgin Radio — and now Absolute Radio — frequency. They’ll be in for a shock. The breakfast show there, presented by Dave Berry, is already the most popular commerical breakfast show, with around 2 million listeners. Perhaps they will benefit further from this confusion.

Virgin Radio can currently only be heard on DAB radio or online. It has recently been added to Sky, with a cheeky channel number as spotted by A516digital — 0215. They certainly appear to be trying to capitalise on the confusion.

The station is run by News Corp, owned by Rupert Murdoch, the founder of Sky. Chris Evans’s new Virgin Radio breakfast show will be heavily sponsored by Sky. Which makes me wonder what on earth the Liberty Global-owned rival to Sky, Virgin Media, make of all this.

Meanwhile, we’ve been listening to Lauren Laverne’s new show on BBC Radio 6 Music. I was expecting big things, and I know I should give it time to bed in, but I have found it strangely flat so far. It still sounds like a mid-morning show.

It sounds like they aren’t yet comfortable broadcasting to people who aren’t already at work. The main feature involves inviting listeners to text in with a song request if they’re the first in to work. Just now, waking up to Lauren Laverne feels like I have massively slept in.

I also find the late start time of 7.30am rather odd. Our alarm is set for 7.15am, so it feels weird to be hearing two different shows in the morning. On the other hand, 7.30am was when Terry Wogan’s show started. And from Andy Walmsley’s post I learnt that Ken Bruce’s breakfast show didn’t start until 8am! So maybe I should get over that.

Perhaps the whole point is that it doesn’t sound like a breakfast show. 6 Music is an alternative station after all.

It can be done. Previous presenter Shaun Keaveny was decidedly the antithesis of the sterotypical bright-and-breezy breakfast show host (and I wasn’t particularly a fan). But the prorgamme itself was still shaped like a breakfast show, acting stealthily like an alarm clock. I’m sure Lauren Laverne and her team will find their way.

The cards are up in the air in the competition to wake up the nation. It’s a time to experiment with different stations. It’ll be interesting to see how many listeners Chris Evans can bring across, how many Zoë Ball can retain (or gain?) — and whether or not I’ll finally find a breakfast show I can stick with.

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