“We need to have an adult conversation.” Never words you want to hear from your boss. My first thought was: “Oh God, what have I said on Twitter now…” But it wasn’t that at all.
I’ve been presenting Drive on LBC for five and a half years now and have enjoyed every minute. I’ve worked with four superb producers, firstly with Matt Harris and Laura Marshall, and latterly with Jagruti Dave and Victoria Gardiner. We have had some amazing moments of breaking news, some memorable interview moments and a lot of laughs along the way too. Oh, and a couple of awards for Radio presenter of the Year. When I took over, the audience for Drive in the previous Rajar card had been 286,000. I had built the audience to 850,000. Admittedly I was helped by the fact we went national in early 2014, but even if you take the national audience out of the equation I’ve not done a bad job in terms of building an audience in a timeslot which LBC had never really had much traction in.
Anyway, back to that adult conversation. James Rea told me LBC had the opportunity to bring in a massive star of speech radio and when he could tell me who it was I’d understand, but he needed this person to present Drive. I can’t pretend it didn’t come as a bit of a shock. It did. A few days later James told me it would be Eddie Mair who would be replacing me.
In all honesty, if I’d been James, I’d have made the same decision. Eddie is, in my view, one of the top five names in speech radio. When you get the chance to recruit someone like him you’re a fool if you pass it up. And also, it would be a bit odd if he wasn’t put in the slot where he already has an existing audience, some of which will hopefully follow him. So, I completely get it.
All radio presenters know that at some point the day will come when your services are no longer required, or that you decide for yourself that it’s time to go. I have always said that when that day comes I will leave with my head held high and without any fuss at all. But that day has not come. I want to stay and more to the point James made it abundantly clear he and LBC wanted me to stay too.
So we discussed different options, but in the end agreed that going back to present the evening show was the best fit. I loved that timeslot when I first joined LBC in 2010. People listen for longer and there is more time for discussion and to talk and take calls. It’s also more intimate. You don’t get as much breaking news, but you can really get into the detail of a subject which is just not possible on a fast-moving Drivetime show.
The new programme will always be about the big issues that people are talking about but there’ll also be differences which I hope to play to my strengths and the time of day.
Our newshour at 7pm will be the only place on British radio where you’ll find in-depth coverage of the major news stories of the day and headline-making interviews with high-profile guests. We’ll also showcase LBC and Global’s reporting teams across the UK and the world. You’ll hear extended interviews with big personalities. And on a Wednesday at 8pm, I’m delighted to be hosting LBC’s Cross Question where listeners put their questions on the big issues of the week to a panel of politicians and commentators.
I should make clear that I will be presenting the show Monday to Thursday, at my request. But in addition to the four days on the radio I will also be launching a new LBC podcast - The Iain Dale Book Club. I’m really looking forward to this. Again, I’ve already booked some fantastic guests in the first month or two including Gina Miller, Sophy Ridge, John Simpson, Max Hastings, Amanda Prowse, June from Gogglebox, Michael Palin, Dan Snow, Ruth Davidson, Jeffrey Archer and Nick Hewer.
I’ll also continue to present the ‘For the Many’ podcast each week with Jacqui Smith.
Cross Question is going to be a particular highlight and my intention is to lure into LBC viewers/listeners who have grown a little tired with the BBC versions. Given the new LED screens in our revamped studio, we can bring in callers on Facetime or Skype video. We’re also looking at sometimes having an LBC audience member as a panelist. I’ve already booked the panels for the first two months and can promise you some very big names indeed. along with a few surprises.
Let me end by wishing Eddie Mair the best of luck and welcome him to the LBC family. One thing LBC audiences do like is someone with a bit of character and a good sense of humour. One or two people have asked why I have so enthusiastically welcomed Eddie, given he’s taking my show. Well, as I said above, if I had been James Rea and Richard Park I’d have done the same thing. I’m an adult. I’m also a team player, and Eddie’s signing makes our team stronger. I think we can all think of examples where radio presenters have let their egos get the better of them. It never does them any credit.
I want to make my new evening show a destination on UK radio for people who want intelligent news and chat. I hope that if you’re an existing Drive listener you will give me a listen in the evenings too. I more than doubled the Drivetime audience. My aim, over time, is to do the same in the evenings. No point in not being ambitious, is there?!
There are other changes to the schedule too. Tom Swarbrick takes over the 10pm-1am slot following Ian Collins’ decision to leave. At weekends Andrew Castle will present Breakfast, with Ian Payne taking over at Drive. Clive Bull will start a new early evening show. You can see the new LBC schedule in full HERE.
So, don’t forget - Iain Dale, Monday Thursday, 7-10pm, LBC. I’d love you to listen.