Time for a revamp of Late Night Citytalk

Tucked away on a mainly forgotten Liverpool radio station called Citytalk, the late night phone-in show is still presented by the nearly 70 year old Pete Price. But, be honest, what’s the point?

Citytalk spends most of its time sequencing out old rockish/Elton John songs and, of course, commercials. By day it has a newscast (which is mainly a ‘sportscast’) that is recorded once an hour and replayed, fluffs an’ all, at random times during the rest of the hour, along with clips of random unannounced old rockish/Elton John songs that usually auto-fade inappropriately in order to start the newscast all over again.

Citytalk’s main function is to provide a secondary outlet for football commentary when both ‘local teams’ are playing. Citytalk has no other true function. When only one team is playing, the single commentary is usually broadcast via both Radio City and Citytalk for no obvious reason. I mean why would they do that?

Logically it would make more sense to leave the music playing on Radio City and stick the commentary on Citytalk, allowing for greater choice in Liverpool, but nope. One game and the single commentary on both radio stations. Makes no sense, does it?!

To add to the madness, when the Sunday networked chart show is on, it gets broadcast on Citytalk whilst the football talking stuff goes out on Radio City. Crazy. The chart shows is on the radio station that usually just plays old songs and does limited ‘speech’ programming, whilst the chart radio station is carrying football commentary and speech.  You couldn’t make it up!

Citytalk only reaches about 80,000 people, and that measurement is mainly based on the artificially high audience when the football is on.  When there’s no football, nobody is listening. It dips down to embarrassing figures.

The late night phone-in is broadcast between 10pm and 2am. It used to be broadcast by Radio City, and so would inherit an audience that had had the preceding ‘chart’ music on. Nowadays it remains tucked away on Citytalk which has virtually no residual audience of any kind.

The content of the phone-in has rapidly dried-up since it was shifted from Radio City.

The four hours is divided into sections. Between 10pm and Midnight it’s supposed to be a general phone-in. Then this is bizarrely broken up at midnight for an hour of songs. This is called the ‘peaceful hour’, despite it being anything but.

The songs are usually old dirges that sequence without any thought as to how they should segue out of the playout machine.  Apart from the jarring shouty repetitive adverts, the only break between the songs is for the reading out of names and dedications.  And there’s a supposed ‘letter’ (Who, truthfully, writes ‘letters’ these days?) which is akin to the old ‘Our Tune’ crap that Simon Bates used to read out on Radio 1.

The ‘peaceful hour’ sounds a nice idea until you realise that every single night the same names and same dedications are being read out. There’s no new blood, no new listeners.

No new listeners is a recurring theme.

Strangely, after the hour of music it’s one o’clock in the morning and back to talking for an hour before the station returns to an automated unannounced sequence of songs for the rest of the night.  What kind of a mixed up format is that?

If we look at the four hours of the Pete Price phone-in, why would you break a phone-in for an hour and then go back to a phone-in for the final hour?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to concentrate the phone-in into the first three hours and then do the songs with dedications as the wind-down ‘final’ hour of the show? Apparently not.

Instead, the final hour (from 1am) consists of a usually pre-recorded conversation between Price and somebody who has been watching the soaps on telly.  Not an ‘insider’, of course, just a person who watches soaps on telly!  Or it’s a ‘Scouser Abroad’. That’s a conversation with a random somebody living in a different country who once lived somewhere near Merseyside. Or it’s a pre-recorded conversation with regular ‘correspondents’ who have bizarre or conspiracy theory books they are flogging and want a free 30 minute advert for.

Half an hour later the airtime is filled with extracts of calls that have already happened and have been played out a million times before.  In desperation at the lack of ‘content’, random songs are also played.

Indeed, ‘desperation’ is probably the word that most dominantly describes the first two hours of the ‘phone-in’.  The show starts with up to 20 minutes worth of ‘menuing’, barkering for calls by throwing out ideas for topics.  Dozens and dozens of topics are badly read out in a confused and over complex manner (In contrast, LBC will throw out just one topic in order to generate calls, carefully elaborating on aspects of the single topic).

Most nights, nobody calls in to Citytalk’s Pete Price.

In order to appear to have callers, a regular collection of dreary groupies who have been calling him for decades are allocated a different day each week on which to go to air. The producer phones these people up on their alloted day and like the Duracell bunny they won’t shut the feck up.  Any proper phone-in would finish these calls off after 2 or 3 minutes. Instead, these regulars are allowed to spout predominantly ill-informed rubbish for 20 or 30 minutes at a time.

As there are no real or fresh callers, a collection of Sky News news-feature/interview audio packages are lined up and played, followed by Pete Price saying his catch-word ‘Interesting!’ as if he has the faintest idea of what was explained or explored in the audio, and as if saying ‘Interesting!‘ will generate callers.

Sometimes people who used to be on telly 50 years ago in ‘Liverpool’ soaps and who are now at the end of their career and so appearing in shows in some of the tiny theatres in and around Merseyside, get invited in.  They will laugh and chat for hours about nothing, with Pete Price making sure the conversation is in some way mainly about him rather than his guests.

There are occasions when a real caller will appear on air.  These moments are getting more and more rare, however.  During desperate times when all the Sky News packages have run out, a montage of real calls with an annoying drone beat playing in the background are played out.  Phew. That’s used up another 20 minutes.

Recently, entire calls started being played out ‘as is’ without being edited into a montage, and with no indication that they are ‘repeats’, as if they are a new live actual call. Maybe the hope is that nobody will notice. Phew. That’s used up another 20 minutes.

What audience there is must be feeling some awful deja vu about the show, which probably explains why the precious few that go to air sound completely in need of urgent mental health attention.

Why the owners of Citytalk allow this mess of a phone-in show to remain on the air I have no idea.  There is the potential to grow a late night talk audience, and this is proved by the responses that those ‘sitting in’ for Pete Price usually generate.

Roy Basnett often fills in when Price heads off to holiday in Dubai or other exotic places, and the show is instantly far more focussed and less rambling.  This, to me at least, points to the problem being that Price is tired and unable to deliver relevant and engaging programming, and that his once reasonable listener base is no more.  It’s time to start again. The potential for a successful and popular late night talking show in Liverpool is there.

It’s such a shame the opportunity is so wasted by not moving forward with updated fresh ideas for late night talking radio.

All too easily the whole show could be removed altogether because of its advanced state of decay.

Hmmm. Maybe that’s the idea.