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May 18, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:18am

Times Radio to shun public phone-ins and ‘adversarial’ interview style

By Charlotte Tobitt

Times Radio will shun listener phone-ins and avoid the “old fashioned adversarial approach” to interviews seen elsewhere, it revealed today.

The comments from the new station’s flagship presenters and programme director shed some light on how they plan to distinguish themselves from the likes of BBC Radio 4 and commercial rival LBC.

Aasmah Mir (pictured), who left the BBC last month after almost 20 years, said her key aims with the station were “warmth, authority and flexibility”.

Speaking at a virtual launch event for the station today, Mir said: “I am really looking forward to not introducing ‘in the red corner we have this person and in the blue corner we have this person’ and then they just kick ten bells out of each other.

“I don’t think that informs us in any way and I think our listeners want to be informed. I think they can have people who have different views, but there’s no point in setting people up in that very old fashioned adversarial approach.”

Former BBC deputy political editor John Pienaar, who stepped down in February, shared a similar view.

He advocated interviews “that leave the listener feeling better off afterwards and don’t sound like an angry row in the house next door, and interviews that don’t sound like an interrogation in a bad cop movie and at the end there’s no confession”.

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Mir revealed that there would be no listener calls or phone-in shows like those favoured on LBC, saying: “I’m not saying there’s no value in calls, but I think that’s properly catered for elsewhere and I think we want to have a more considered approach to the news.”

Programme director Tim Levell added that the station will still look to speak to listeners who have direct expertise or experience with the issues being discussed, alongside expert guests and contributors.

“What we want with Times Radio is we want it to be warm and well-informed… We absolutely want to hear from people who can contribute to our coverage and make it richer.

“What we don’t want to do is have those pure phone-ins which can be sometimes a bit simplistic or knee-jerk. So we’re not a phone-in station, but we absolutely want to harness the expertise of our listeners.”

Mir also favoured greater flexibility, with less pressure to end an interview quickly to get to the news on time and not having a certain type of interview at a certain time.

Pienaar revealed that he was first approached by Wireless controller Liam Fisher a year ago, and they had a coffee together in Soho, London. He said his first question was about guarantees of editorial independence.

Rupert Murdoch’s News UK owns the Times titles and Wireless Group, which also owns Talkradio, Talksport and Virgin Radio.

Levell said the ad-free station’s launch date will be announced in the next few weeks, with more detail on its schedule to come soon.

Find out more about Times Radio and its full presenting line-up here.

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