In My Opinion: John Collins: A good week for talkSPORT

WHAT a good week it has been for the radio station, talkSPORT.

Its rise hasn’t been a speedy one. When the station was born over ten years ago, its mix of soccer and opinionated phone-in hosts left many cold. But rather than panic, it quietly built the brand, developing a unique sound, always being bigger than any of its presenters.

Last year saw it land the rights to the Rugby World Cup. A big coup. Long a mainstay of the BBC Radio 5 live sporting firmament, the RWC has delivered some of the most iconic commentary moments of the last ten years. The story goes that Moz Dee, talkSPORT’s programme director, was ahead of the game when it came to ‘pressing the flesh’. He saw the opportunity to grab the live rights before the BBC had learned they were even on offer.

And yesterday, Richard Keys chose to use talkSPORT to issue a Mea culpa following the sexism row at Sky Sports that engulfed him and co-host, Andy Gray. His lunchtime interview the day after the ‘shock’ dismissal of Gray was filled with remorse and a series of big news lines; among them his belief that there were ‘dark forces’ at work and the revelation that he had considered tendering his resignation, which was to happen soon enough. Explosive stuff.

So strong that even BBC Radio 5 live was playing clips from it on every following show. Every time they did, they were forced to say where the clips came from: their biggest radio competitor. It can’t have felt good to give so much airtime to telling their audience that their competitor had scooped them.

It would be foolish to suggest that one event will have had an immediate effect on audience figures. The strength and depth of the BBC is world-class – as is its budget.

But it faces significant challenges in its bid to establish itself in Manchester while covering stories this size. And all the time its smaller, chippier neighbour is getting some traction with the audience while picking off Radio 5 live’s presumed superiority as the ‘station of note’ when it comes to sport.

John Collins lectures in radio broadcasting at Reid Kerr College in Paisley, following a 25-year career on both sides of the microphone in both BBC and commercial radio in Scotland. He still pops up on the radio at Central FM on a Sunday morning.

Pic: Michele Dillon.