Next time you watch a TV news report containing a press conference, look towards the bottom of your screen at the microphones. There’s one logo you’ll probably see more than any other – that of LBC. But this is not a story of anorak spotting – it’s about the almost unseen growth of an increasingly impressive and credible news brand.
Those within the radio industry have always given a nod of respect to LBC. Now on national DAB radios and Freeview, cable and satellite, accessing the station has never been easier. And even though its strapline comes with a certain sense of self-embellishment, it’s impossible to underestimate the impact of the brand and the name on our everyday news consumption.
Let’s start with LBC’s masterstroke. No other radio station has a weekly appointment with the Deputy Prime Minister. And although the topics on Call Clegg are sometimes on the verge of parochial, the phone in often makes headline news across the BBC, ITV and Sky.
Critics would argue that it’s giving a soapbox to one individual, rather than booking a contributor on their own merits. But Clegg was just one signing. Boris Johnson is another regular guest. As a result, LBC’s output is frequenlty featuring – complete with branding – on multiple outlets.
This cross promotion – and reciprocal sharing of content among rivals – is nothing new. Many big ticket events like political announcements and royal visits are “pooled” – with one camera crew serving all the broadcasters. Yet this is something else : providing ready made and badged content. Compared to the LBC logo, how many times do we see Radio 4 or 5 Live colours being flown on ITV or Sky?
It would be easy to simply scoff and say the stuffy BBC either doesn’t get the exclusives or – equally – is highly protective of its own material. But I’d contend that there is a much more subtle shift going on here. LBC has cornered the market because it has created a future proof format; and brilliantly branded it to ensure nobody can be in any doubt as to where those killer clips have come from.
What’s more, it’s doing all of this at a tiny fraction of the cost, training up a relatively young team of highly talented journalists who’ve been brought up in what the rest of us are now calling “platform neutral” production. In other words, it works seamlessly across radio, TV and online.
A few of my BBC colleagues might well be questioning where my loyalties lie here. I guess the conclusion I’d offer is is : never, ever be afraid to learn from your rivals.
And then do it better.