A willingness to take risks will serve well in battle with RTÉ
Published 29/06/2016 | 02:30
If one thing has defined Newstalk since its inception back in 2002, it's been a willingness to take risks. Now that it is nationwide and seriously challenging RTÉ Radio 1's dominion over the broadcasting landscape, it is still doing it.
Yesterday, they announced the autumn line-up, and we can see some pretty seismic changes.
Forget the schedule for a second, though, and look at some of those names - how untested they are in this medium and these types of shows, but also how fresh and inventive a choice each is. But these are gambles worth taking, in my opinion, both from an editorial and a commercial viewpoint.
The rolling roster of presenters at 'Breakfast' is, presumably, an attempt to match 'Morning Ireland', Radio 1's flagship show.
They'll continue to have a one-hour jump on RTÉ at lunchtime, and with 'Newstalk Drive' beginning at the earlier time of 4pm, they'll also have a half-hour head-start on Radio 1 and Matt Cooper's 'Last Word' on Today FM. Small margins, perhaps, but potentially significant.
It's also good to see more women in primetime. Newstalk has long been criticised for an aversion to female voices during daytime and midweek. Now the station's two key shows will be co-hosted by women.
These new faces and formats may not work out. It's hard to tell yet; as the man says of Hollywood, nobody knows nothing.
I mean, who could have foreseen that bookmaker and ex-government minister Ivan Yates and a rugby analyst and former caterer George Hook would be such roaring successes in primetime radio?
But even if this radical realignment proves a failure (and my gut instinct says it won't), it's still a punt worth taking.
Newstalk can't compete on resources, but it can use RTÉ's bureaucratic inertia against itself. Newstalk is in direct competition with RTÉ Radio 1, and its greatest selling-points are vitality, innovation and risk-taking.