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Despite opening with startling interview with Boris Johnson, launching Times Radio was a comfortable affair



Launching a new voice radio station in the middle of a pandemic sounds courageous, but at least there should be a lot to say. It is clearly the hope Times Radio, which began broadcasting on Monday from Rupert Murdochs Wireless Group, in connection with the newspaper The Times. It is chaired by TLS editor Stig Abell and started with a breakfast presented by Aasmah Mir, out of Radio 4, and Abell himself.

The station was christened with an exclusive interview at 8 a.m. with Boris Johnson, firmly parking the tanks on the lawn of The Today Programs. The interview itself did not, however, give rise to any major discoveries. In the company of the PM on their first day of work, Mir and Abell, interviewing together, sounded a little star struck. The atmosphere was really delicious, as comfortable as a knitted blanket on a rainy June morning. Just to make it not too fluffy, what is the biggest mistake you have made? was about as difficult as the questions arose, and Mr. Johnson could comfortably avoid saying anything in particular that he did not want.

To date, Times Radio has borrowed freely from Radio 4, particularly on programs presented by colleagues from Mirs, BBC runaways, John Pienaar and Mariella Frostrup. There’s also a pinch of the more laid-back vibes of 5 Live and a hint of LBC all-day news. It’s a compelling combination, even if it’s all wrapped up in some sort of metropolitan liberal package in North London, and the feeling that at any moment the conversation could move on to where to buy the best pomegranate molasses.

There is no advertising as the whole station is itself advertising for subscriptions to The Times and other News UK products. The broadcast hours are filled with journalists from The Times and newspaper articles from the business section to the obituaries.

I hated the deployment of reporter Luke Jonesto’s report of intermittent maternity throughout the first day, in a metaphor of the hammer for the birth of a new radio station. It could have been an interesting report on the impact of Covid-19 on NHS maternity benefits, and sometimes almost successful, but it mainly turned out to be a pointing and looking exercise at the sound of women screaming and babies who were vomiting. Jones provided such delicate journalistic information as asking the new fathers what they were for when they were born.

However, one of the most serious problems is that all of the program slots are very long. Sometimes this gives a welcome space for further analysis, but at other times it seems that broadcasters are desperately trying to shorten the time. Frostrup sounded like she was heading for the end of her first three-hour show, rehearsing material earlier in the day, and when, the second morning, Aasmah Mir said: Welcome to the second day two million, she sounded intimidated by the task ahead.

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