> Radio Killed the TV Star

Radio Killed the TV Star

Posted on Monday, July 11, 2011 | No Comments


At various points in my life, I’ve came close to announcing that radio as a medium is dead to me; the moment when Chris Evans walked out on the Radio 1 breakfast show, then again when he and his team made their exit from Virgin Radio and finally once again when Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross made their infamous departure from Radio 2.

All three of these incidents made me think that the radio personality of the modern era had come to an end, especially after the Brand/Ross ‘Sachsgate’ incident left only Chris Evans as the last man standing of the radio celebrity era. Without Evans I’m pretty sure I would have tuned out my radio entirely (only very recently I’ve started listening every now and again to Fearne Cotton on Radio 1).

But the big news reported today is a rumour that self-made billionaire Richard Branson is in the running to buy back ‘Virgin Radio’ (now ‘Absolute Radio’), for an estimated £20 million and it seems that Jonathan Ross is also thought to be part of that deal, potentially lining up on the Breakfast Show.

First things first; if successful, the deal would be something of a coop for Branson having sold the station to Evans for £80 million in 1997 (ah I remember it well), before Evans was then forced into selling it on, including his ‘Ginger Productions’ company to the Scottish Media Group for £225 million just three years later. Branson would be picking up the station at a bargain price compared to what it was worth, but ‘Absolute Radio’ have been no-where in radio terms as the BBC seemed to have regained and strengthened their stranglehold on the radio airwaves in the UK.

The return of Jonathan Ross to the airwaves is also tantalising; Ross is a truly great broadcaster and very different from his TV persona, but the choice of the Breakfast Show is very strange indeed and could be the mis-step in this entire plan. Putting a personality and ego as big as Jonathan’s against the already established Chris Moyles on Radio 1 and the number one Breakfast Show on Radio 2 by Chris Evans could spell disaster.

In my opinion, it would make much more sense for Wossy to slot back into his Saturday mid-morning slot or even enter the fray with a gig on drive-time (Chris Evans’ former stomping ground prior to a certain Sir Wogan stepping down). The only problem I can see with a drive-time slot is that it may interfere with his TV commitments, but it would make more sense than trying to muscle in on the already crowded early morning slow.

On the other hand, of course, if the Breakfast Show slot was taken by Ross it would cause a stir and battle of “Radio 1 vs Virgin Radio” when Zoe Ball took over the Radio 1 Breakie show at the same time as Evans’ return to radio for Virgin (a battle that turned out to be a ‘no contest’ as Evans proved he’d lost none of his magic when it came to commanding the radio airwaves). The prospect of Wossy hosting the show in direct competition with his former employer (Evans), on the very station that he formerly owned could be an interest twist to the story.

Perhaps even more speculative and promising could be the return of one Russell Brand returning to the UK airwaves. Russell brilliantly put himself on the radio map with his stints at BBC 6 Music and then later a bump to the masses on Radio 2. His show was an instant hit and his weekly podcasted show dominated the charts much like Ricky Gervais had done earlier at the height of the podcasts success.

I still have no doubt that Ross feels still somewhat responsible for ‘Sachsgate’ and forcing Brand to quit the radio he loved to do. What better way for Brand to return to the UK airwaves full time (as opposed to one off shows on the bizarre choice of TalkSport), than his very own show on Virgin Radio alongside Wossy (perhaps not on the same show though eh)?


Being an independent station though, the pressures that arose when working for the BBC would be significantly lifted, although a return to the airwaves may be controversial at first, the press coverage couldn’t be matched. But would Brand be willing to return to the UK airwaves? Judging by the TalkSport one offs and his lengthy time away, the chance to link up with Matt Morgan and Mister Gee as well as Wossy himself on the airwaves without the shackles and public pressure of the license payer, I think Brand would jump at the chance.

Regardless of who will be hosting what show however is going to be the secondary problem to Absolute Radio/Virgin Radio, as the primary has to be securing that elusive FM license they have tried for so many times and failed to secure. Perhaps that won’t be primary objective however as I believe they should do something different on the re-launch; changing to be a more online station perhaps?

I’m not saying that they should give up their medium-wave and London FM frequencies at all – those should remain in place, but positioning the station with a strong online presence may be a smart move and it would certainly get around the hurdles of an FM license. Targeting online streaming directly into offices across the country and with the use of smart phones and creating their own streaming applications onto those phones would be unique and different and a major statement in the future of technology and where radio is ultimately heading.

It’d be a bit of a masterstroke if anyone could pull it off, and who else better to disrupt the radio industry than Branson himself?

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