Big name guests, phone-ins and controversial conversation. Listening to LBC senior producer Thomas Danielian describe the station’s output, these are the characteristics of the now national station that most stand out. Thomas was recently the speaker at one of our regular Small Talks and even for us, who specialise in broadcast, his insight was invaluable.
Thomas is the lead producer of Overnights with Darren Adam & Steve Allen’s Early Breakfast. He says whilst the audience is smaller overnight and in the early hours, this does mean the content of his programmes can be distinct from the daytime shows. This can include more global stories, not least because time differences can make it easier to speak to guests in different countries during the night.
Other stories have a more natural fit for the middle of the night. He cites items on homelessness as an example of this, including the tale of a homeless man, who stays up all night to avoid being attacked, listening to LBC to keep him awake. Addiction is another classic overnight story that comes back time and again, as is mental health.
Often the content is dictated by the programme’s host. As Thomas says, you can’t make a presenter on LBC say something they don’t want to say….that’s the nature of the personality driven output.
What I really like about Thomas is that he’s very straight forward and tells it as it is. Asked if there’s a pecking order amongst the programmes he said yes of course – and given an opportunity on the much listened to James O’Brien show or his overnight/early morning slots, he says go for the former, no problem with him. Given you’re in that lucky position, with two opportunities on LBC, Thomas recommends being frank with the producers and letting them sort it out. Probably, no matter which programme airs first, the one with the highest audience figures gets to choose.
LBC is predominantly about live interviews and chat. It’s raw and sometimes risky, but the end result is more often than not riverting. Realistic that not everyone is willing to go on-air in the middle of the night, Thomas’ programmes will sometimes take a pre-recorded interview. But given the choice between two guests, one live and the other not, the live interview will get the slot every time.
And be warned, the truth will always out. There’s not always time to vet out an interviewee before putting them on-air, so if you claim someone is an expert and they’re not, you’re unlikely to get a second chance. He cites an author who’d written a book about the Royals….but he’d written a load of books on other topics too and was no more expert than the man in the street.
It’s interesting to hear that arguably one of the biggest stories of our lifetime, coronavirus, is beginning to bore even news hounds. Thomas says BLM took over the news agenda for a short while, and this was a welcome relief from talking non–stop about Covid-19. He says that whilst it’s horrible so many people have died and it’s still such a massive story, audience interest is waning. As a producer, Thomas is moving away from the topic as a phone-in subject because he feels people have made their minds up and opinions are now merely being repeated and that’s not what LBC is about.
Like all journalists, he’s interested in what comes next. In his view, post pandemic, this could be a mental health crisis, the further demise of the high street….oh, and Brexit. Yes, there’s that big story too. I, for one, can’t wait to hear how Thomas deals with it.