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LONDON: The British newspaper group that owns The Times and Sunday Times launched Monday a news and current affairs radio station, aiming to position itself as a rival to the BBC.

Times Radio went live on digital radio, online and via smart speaker at 0500 GMT and had Prime Minister Boris Johnson as its first big-name guest.

Morning speech radio has traditionally been dominated by BBC Radio 4's "Today" programme, which has often set the political agenda for the day.

The new station said it aims to appeal to listeners who may have been turned off by what it called the "febrile tone of political debate" on other radio networks.

Instead of "unnecessarily adversarial interviews" and presenter interruptions, it wants to focus on "informed expertise", The Times said in an article to announce the launch.

It also aims to provide a "daily soundtrack" to people still working from home during the coronavirus crisis, said Tim Levell, a former BBC executive in charge of the new station. "Lockdown is still continuing, although of course it's easing, and we want to be a fresh voice... particularly (for) those at home," he added.

Some glitches were reported, however, with listeners tuning in via smart speaker directed to a radio station of the same name in Malawi.

The African station is based in the southern city of Blantyre, more than 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometres) from the British capital. Times Radio is a partnership between The Times, the Sunday Times weekly and its owners' News UK's radio division, Wireless, which also owns the Talksport and Talkradio networks.