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Talk of the town

Brian Reade, Larry Neild, Dean Sullivan and Margi Clarke join Pete Price, Phil Easton and a host of big names to launch CityTalk

Published on November 1st 2007.

Talk of the town

It's new, it's different and already it's lured a whole host of names that are bound to get the city talking. It's CityTalk, Merseyside's newest FM radio station, which will beam out from St John's Beacon in Liverpool come the New Year. Liverpool Confidential put some questions to the station's director, Richard Maddock. Where did this all come from then?
A few years ago the radio authority as was, that's now Ofcom, announced that there would be a new radio station for Liverpool and it was one of the few remaining FM licences that they were going to issue. Eleven companies applied for it, and we applied, as Emap, with City Talk. And the reason we went for talk is there was an obvious gap in the market.

Liverpool is a great big village, and what you get is a great community spirit that you don't get in a London or even Manchester. Everybody knows everybody, and everyone has an opinion on everybody

You've had a go at this before, haven't you?
We operated a talk station, many years ago, and we only did it for about a year. It was called City Talk and it was on in the late 80s but, just as it went on air, we went into an economic recession and we had to take it off because it became too expensive to run. But what we saw was the audiences were working, it was getting a good, loyal listenership, even though the signal was on AM and it wasn't great quality.

You've already got Radio City and Magic FM. So isn't music really your bag?
When we applied for a talk licence we thought the odds were stacked against us because we already had the two stations, but we wanted to put together an application that was very brave, that tapped in to what we really know about the city, and the fact that we've been broadcasting here for 33 years so we know what makes Liverpool tick. Radio City has always had strong journalistic values. It has always done documentaries, it has always done sport. So if anyone can make it work, it is, hopefully, us.

What makes this station so special then?
We put our application together based on what we thought Liverpool didn't have in a station. We won it, I think, because Ofcom do see that talk radio is a genre that works everywhere around the world commercially, but here in the UK there are only three commercial talk stations: LBC, Talk Sport and Talk 107 in Edinburgh. You look in America and there are 2,300 of them and they are market leaders. The UK isn't really doing it yet because the BBC kind of takes care of it. I also think Ofcom sees that if there is a city that likes to talk and have an opinion and have a debate it's Liverpool. So if it's going to work anywhere, it's here. What do you think makes this city so opinionated?
It's ingrained in the people. It's a vocal city, it's an extremely passionate city. I don't think you really understand Liverpool until you've been here a long time and then you get it. We've been here since 1974 and what we don't know about talk radio, we absolutely do know about Liverpool.

Liverpool is a great big village, and what you get is a great community spirit that you don't get in a London or even Manchester. Everybody knows everybody, and everyone has an opinion on everybody. And it's a city of extremes. There's nothing average about Liverpool. No shades of grey. Everything, just like our logo, is black and white. They are the funniest breed in the UK, but they also seem to have more tragedies than anywhere in the UK.

City Talk is not just going to be phone-ins, is it?
One of the things we are avoiding is the random phone in where one caller talks about the price of a season ticket and the next one talks about their bin being emptied. All the shows are going to be topic driven, there is going to be a lot of interaction.

So how will a day's programming work?
Each show will have a very different feel to it. We will say “the big story of the day is this. We will talk to this expert and that expert and we want your views on it. So now come and take part in the show.” In the space of the day we will make you think, make you laugh, we will probably have a good old argument with you as well and we will probably tell you some stuff that you didn't know. It is going to be entertainment based intelligent conversation. We have got serious issue shows, and politics and business shows, but then we've also got out and out comedy shows. There's nothing like it in the UK.

Will you be setting out to provoke people?
We don't care which side of the fence you fall on. We don't care which side of the fence you fall off. But you don't sit on it. We are going to push the boundaries.

On or off the record, who have you got working for you?
On the record, I can tell you Pete Price will be moving onto it. Phil Easton too. We've got people like Dean Sullivan on it, and Margi Clarke, and Larry Neild will be doing the drivetime show. Brian Reade will also be doing a show for us, at the weekend, but still working at the Mirror. We have the sport and news output from Radio City and we also have some really exciting national names but I can't reveal them yet.

How many people will you employ and what's all this costing?
If you include people who are just doing one-off shows, probably about 30. Emap have invested £1 million in it. Now all the sport and phone in content is moving off Radio City, what are you going to replace it with?
It's a great opportunity for Radio City to reinvent itself. City will become more about the music, so it's an exciting time for them as well.

Is this an experiment before it's rolled out across the rest of the country?
I think it's an experiment for the industry. But this is the place for it best to work. Can we come to the party?
Go on then.

Interview by Angie Sammons

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

HouseproudOctober 31st 2007.

Will Larry be allowed on the sofa?

Staggered Old Hall Street-erOctober 31st 2007.

"Hats off to Larry" There. Do I get a job too?

Sir Thomas Street (Demolished)October 31st 2007.

Shall I be able to receive this on my wireless? Is it that new-fangled VHF?

AnonymousOctober 31st 2007.

Congratulations on escaping the bunker Larry. Plenty of windows in your new office. Will they allow that whippet in the lift, though

Dog loverOctober 31st 2007.

Blimey, one minute Larry and Margi are being compared to Richard and Judy, the next minute Richard and Judy quit! Did they jump before they were pushed? Are Larry and Margi set to succeed them? Will the dog be allowed on the sofa?

Esther RantzenOctober 31st 2007.

No, he can only say "Sausages"

dothedoOctober 31st 2007.

Great. Looking forward to it. Will enjoy listening to Margi when I eating my cornflakes every morning. I heard her on Century when she did the Breakfast show and she was very entertaining.

leon kayOctober 31st 2007.

If it is aything like the flotsam and jetsum ,riff raff and sons and daughters of satan they have on for that show, Mr Price has on his wireless broadcast then god help us

Liverpool ConfidentialOctober 31st 2007.

Sorry about the missing comma, Larry and Margi. As far as we know, you're not the new Richard and Judy of the Drivetime show. Fixed now (it's an interesting idea though).

Larry FanOctober 31st 2007.

Good on you Larry! I'll be your no1 listener!

Mathew Street PorterOctober 31st 2007.

Who? Larry?

Mathew Street PorterOctober 31st 2007.

Is that dog presenting the show with Larry?

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