News UK said to be mulling talkRadio rebrand as Times Radio

Jim Waterson Media editor

The Times is looking to expand further into radio amid speculation that its parent company, News UK, is considering rebranding the station talkRadio as Times Radio in the new year.

Staff at the station have been discussing the potential relaunch in recent weeks, with the speculation over potential high-profile departures increasing after the talkRadio presenter Matthew Wright publicly cast doubt on his future at the station.

Wright returned to air on Wednesday to say he did not know “[what] is going on, truth be told, whether it be the general election or Brexit or my own future”, following claims on MailOnline that he had been sacked.

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A spokesperson for the station said no decision had been taken on whether to rebrand the station: “TalkRadio has grown its audience and has presenters that are well loved by their listeners. The Times currently sponsors the Julia Hartley-Brewer breakfast show and we are exploring ways to work more closely with the Times across the station.”

They said the Times radio project was being overseen by Stig Abell, a former managing editor of the Sun and current editor of the Times Literary Supplement, who has experience as a broadcaster.

Wright has since told listeners he had been expecting to leave at Christmas but had instead been offered more work with the station. “We were told we were going to be signing new contracts. So we’ve not been fired with immediate effect. We’re not going our separate ways as I thought might happen at Christmas.

“We’re here into the new year and maybe even beyond. There’s never a dull moment on talkRadio.”

News UK’s chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, has made a substantial push into radio, relaunching stations including talkRadio and Virgin Radio and moving their studios into the company’s main headquarters in London Bridge, where they sit alongside the Sun and the Times.

News UK coaxed the former Radio 2 breakfast show host Chris Evans over to Virgin Radio, while also putting substantial resources into talkRadio and its sister station, talkSport. However, News UK’s ambitions were recently dented when talkSport lost senior staff to the audio division of the deep-pocketed sport startup the Athletic.

Other presenters on talkRadio include Eamonn Holmes, James Whale and Iain Lee. The station launched in its current form three years ago and its audience has grown by more than 50% in the past year. It is still only reaching a relatively small audience of 409,000 people a week compared with 2.6 million at its long-established rival LBC.

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