James Cridland

Nick Ferrari at breakfast on LBC - running order for Jan 24

After doing this for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and for RN Breakfast from Australia’s ABC, I was asked about LBC breakfast.

I have to declare a small interest. I’ve never met Nick (though been in the same room a few times); but used to enjoy his broadcasting when I lived in the UK. This was my breakfast show of choice in London.

It’s broadcast by Global, the UK’s largest commercial radio group. The LBC used to stand for “London Broadcasting Company”, but these days it apparently stands for “Leading Britain’s Conversation”. A station called LBC was the first commercial radio station in the UK in 1973; pedantically, this isn’t it (since that company lost its franchise), but spiritually it’s the same station, now broadcast across the UK. Ferrari has been hosting this show for twenty years. The station itself has a 7.4% share; Ferrari himself reaches 1.3mn listeners a week. (Today gets 5.8mn).

I analysed Wednesday January 24th’s show. His show airs 7am-10am, rather than the other two I’ve covered so far.

I ended up with 5,220 lines of text.

Types of output

“THROWS” is a new type of output for these analysis pieces; partially because it’s not a thing on the other stations I’ve heard: throwing forward to things that the programme will cover, with clips. There is a lot of this; you know what’s coming up in a way that’s difficult to miss. Nick constantly throws forward - when returning after ad breaks, when going into news bulletins, or even in the middle of a paper review.

The first set of interviews were put into context by some audio clips from the overnight US election results; helping us quickly get to speed about the story, so that the two interviewees could be questioned. This isn’t a technique I’ve heard from others this week either. Before the headlines at 7.15am, a very short clip in a story lasting just twenty seconds - pulling us out of US election mode.

The station also interviews its own people (and it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an over-staffed station). A report on the storms contains a report from “an LBC reporter in Oban” - Global own a number of radio stations in Scotland, but none in that part of the country. Later, Jon Sopel, a Global journalist and podcaster, is the US Election specialist for talkback.

And let’s talk about talkback. This is the first programme I’ve analysed that has “talkback” (a member of the public calling) as part of its output; and it’s not the usual arguments with listeners that you’d expect. Initially, talkback calls are placed right next to the story. Not one of the callers appeared to be filler: almost all are high quality and add to the discussion. Indeed, one was clipped and played an hour later to re-introduce the story. Another caller uses some slang, but the way Ferrari deals with it is humbling:

(Caller) … He’s been housed independently, which hasn’t worked because he’s been cuckooed by drug dealers.

(Ferrari) Sorry, I should know what that means. Oh, is this where they use the house to keep drugs?

(Caller) Yes.

(Ferrari) I’m sorry, I didn’t know. Go ahead.

I think he did know; but it’s a much nicer way to explain it than the usual “just explain what you mean by that phrase” that we’d normally hear.

An interview with the Postal Services Minister, airing between 7.52am and 8.00am, was clipped for the 8.00am and 9.00am bulletin, giving the listener the sense that they heard something newsworthy by listening. That was also referred-to in headlines later (“the postal services minister told Nick that…”). It’s a simple way to highlight the importance of the interviewees.

And - another paper review: but given Ferrari’s background in newspapers, it’s always an interesting and slightly catty part of the morning (and, very obviously, unscripted). “You’d have thought they’d have led with this story”, he grumbles at one point about the Telegraph. Notably, “the front page of the LBC website” is in the paper review. Very clever cross-promoting. Since it’s an important US news day, he also reads some of the front pages of the US press: opining: “Great as some American journalists are, I don’t think headline writing is necessarily in their skill set.” Ouch.

One more thing to mention for any US readers. This is on a commercial radio station; yet only 14% was adverts (an average of just 8 minutes an hour). There are three ad breaks an hour, never referred to, always after a short news bulletin. There are no pre-recorded station trails.

Living in Australia, I miss the pace and craft of this show. There’s nothing that really compares. It’s worth a listen.