A friendly voice after midnight 

4 April 2024 tbs.pm/81102

Thérèse Birch tells BOB REYNOLDS how she has worked her way up the ladder at LBC and also achieved her ambition of working in television

 

 

Cover of Radio magazine

From ‘Radio’ for March 1983

Thérèse Birch used to have a long-term vision of her career. She thought she would train as a journalist on local newspapers, progress through magazines to radio and, finally, reach television. But it has all happened much quicker than she expected and her LBC Reports Midnight show gets a remarkable 100,000 listeners, which is very good for a news programme at that time of day.

She is on the LBC airwaves from midnight until 4am every Tuesday and Wednesday. After the hour-long Reports Midnight, which is a summary of the previous day’s news, she presents Night Extra, a light-hearted amalgam of features and interviews.

Therese came to London’s all-news station after only a year on the Surrey Herald and shortly after her arrival was offered television work. She reached her present place in the LBC schedules after doing all manner of other work for the station.

She enlisted in 1974 to do production, then co-presented Jellybone, the Saturday morning kids’ programme, read the traffic flashes from Scotland Yard and reported on consumer affairs for the afternoon show.

At one stage, she presented Nightline, the Saturday evening phone-in. This is the type of programming she particularly likes doing. “I like the challenge of interviewing a guest and taking calls in the same programme,” she says.

LBC has reduced the straight phone-in output that so characterised its early days. This is a move that Thérèse applauds. The phone-ins now often have experts examining specific subjects with listeners then invited to ask questions or respond to points made. Previously, the policy was an open invitation to talk about anything.

Improved

Thérèse believes LBC has improved enormously since those early days. “We were regarded as something of a joke,” she says, “but now we can claim an audience of two million for the AM programme.”

Her own audience on LBC Reports Midnight is a mix of older listeners but also, surprisingly, some are youngsters who listen with their transistors under the bedclothes. Thérèse thinks it interesting that they do not tune in to Radio 2 or Capital, which offer music.

“I think people like a friendly voice rather than music during the night,” she says. And the listening figures seem to testify to that view.

Thérèse enjoys the night shift more than any other spot she has done on the station. She arrives at the studios between 11 and 11:30pm and chats with Dan Damon as a live promotional trailer after the 11.30 news headlines.

She reads the links between reports in the Midnight hour. Sometimes her task is extended to interviewing guests if a major news story breaks late in the evening or if important information emerges around midnight. Often, that guest will be an LBC reporter or correspondent, but sometimes it is someone at the centre of the story.

Then she has to experience a type of brain-shift to drop the more formal approach used for news and interviews. “I need to start unwinding immediately before the 1am news,” says Thérèse.

Thérèse Birch holding a dog

AT HOME: Thérèse and friend

She reads the IRN bulletins from 1 to 5am but adopts a more light-hearted, relaxed style for Night Extra. Some of the features have previously been transmitted between 7 and 9pm in London Life. Others are pre-recorded by Thérèse on Thursday afternoons.

Her experience has been widened in recent years by television. She presented Fun Factory, the Saturday morning children’s programme made by Granada, and Making the Most Of… for Yorkshire TV, shown on Channel Four.

“I enjoy both television and radio” says Therese. “I could not express a preference — I like them both for different reasons.”

Fun Factory was one of the attempts by TV companies to offer an alternative to the highly successful Tiswas. Although not one of the classic children’s television shows, it was an exceptionally fine breeding ground for some of the rising talent in kids’ broadcasting.

Making the Most Of… offered an entirely different challenge and was greeted with such enthusiasm that Thérèse has been booked to record a second, longer series later this year.

In the broadest sense, the programme has a do-it-yourself format. Presented with a given set of domestic limitations, Thérèse shows viewers how to make the best of certain problems.

One of the advantages she finds of driving up to Yorkshire TV in Leeds is that it gives her the opportunity to tune in to all the different local radio stations on the way. The variety of approaches and informal styles appeal to her.

She recalls a disc jockey on one phone-in programme broadcast on a Midlands commercial station bewailing that no one had called him and he was getting lonely. LBC is not quite as informal as that, she adds ruefully, and the stations never suffers from a shortage of callers who want to air their views.

 

Thérèse Birch at home

BIRCH: Her LBC Reports Midnight programme is listened to by 100,000 people

 

Opportunities

LBC gives Thérèse few opportunities to express her own musical tastes. She is a pop fan and her station rarely programmes popular records.

In the Sixties, she used to listen to Radio Caroline South and now likes Radio 1. Capital Radio appears never to enter her thinking and she says she rarely listens to it.

She welcomes the expansion of the ILR network. “The more stations, the better,” she says. “London could easily take more music stations, though one commercial news outlet is probably enough.

Living in Byfleet, Surrey, Thérèse keenly awaits the opening of County Sound, the ILR station about to start in Guildford. Perhaps we will hear her there as well.

 

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