In Brief

What is Rupert Murdoch’s Times Radio?

BBC veteran John Pienaar joins the new station as poaching rumours grow

The BBC’s deputy political editor, John Pienaar, has left the corporation to front the new drivetime programme on Rupert Murdoch's new station, Times Radio.

“It’s been a huge pleasure and a great privilege to work at the Beeb,” tweeted the 63-year-old. “Now, I couldn’t be more thrilled about joining the greatest and oldest title in journalism – in such a new and ambitious project on the digital frontline.

“The guiding aim is to offer listeners high-quality discussion and analysis of the stories and issues of the day, and make it a compelling, enjoyable listen. I can’t wait to get started.”

The veteran journalist’s announcement came a day after The Sunday Times, owned by Rupert Murdoch, ran an anonymous Downing Street briefing which said the licence fee was under threat and that the government wanted to shut down or sell off every BBC radio station other than Radio 3 and Radio 4.

Reports of the government’s plans to take on the BBC have caused enormous controversy, including among some Tories. In a column for the Daily Telegraph, Conservative MP Huw Merriman warned his own party against “picking a potentially unpopular fight” with the corporation.

The Murdoch loyalist Stig Abell, the editor of the Times Literary Supplement and former managing editor of The Sun, is coordinating the launch of the new Murdoch station. He said he hopes to make it a “new destination for those people hungry for quality reporting and trusted, expert analysis”.

The Guardian says Times Radio is offering “stunning” financial incentives to lure BBC staff. According to reports, the Any Questions presenter, Chris Mason, and the Today programme presenter Nick Robinson had also been approached.

A source at parent company News UK said: “There are lots of conversations going on but any names are speculative at the moment.”

Some at the BBC are angered by Abell’s role in poaching BBC’s presenters while still presenting Radio 4’s flagship arts programme Front Row.

The new station will offer a “daily schedule of news, analysis and commentary with a lineup of high-profile presenters” broadcasting nationally on DAB radio, online and via smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Alexa.

Although there will be no adverts, brand sponsorship will be available for individual shows. Murdoch hopes the station will help promote The Times’s newspaper subscriptions to new audiences and boost its online visibility outside the website’s paywall.

“We want to reach people who don’t currently read the Times, people who don’t consider the Times,” said Abell last month. “We want people to think positively about the Times because we’re offering a high-end luxurious product.”

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