Listeners will be able to hear the news ad-free when new nationwide news and talkback radio station Radio Live debuts on Monday - at least until the sports starts.

Traditionally exploited for peak listener numbers, the lead-up to Radio Live's news bulletins will be conspicuously devoid of ads. The customary slot between the headlines and the news will also disappear, with advertisements running only between news and sport.

Programming director Mitch Harris said whenever he had researched the issue over the years, listeners had been irritated by advertisements leading into and interrupting the news. Stripping out some of those prime advertising slots also made for good "forward momentum" with listeners.

"We're a commercial organisation, out to make a buck - but we want to make it work for everybody," he said. "I'm looking for smoother transitions. I want the station to sound smoother and slicker than other talk-back stations."

Limits will also go on advertorial. Harris said he was "very, very uneasy" with the model that saw hosts rewarded with percentage payments for advertorials and would steer hosts away from doing the advertorials themselves. Instead, a producer would be the voice of advertorials in most cases.

"We haven't got a hard-and-fast policy on advertorial ... but, when you've got hosts constantly endorsing products, it starts to reflect on when they have an opinion on something. Are they bought and paid for?"

Media buyer Starcom chief Paul Maher said putting boundaries on advertising around the news and host advertorial took out "two compelling reasons to spend money on the new station".

The move indicated the station's priority was drawing in listeners rather than advertisers.

"I think it will be made or broken in the first year in terms of how much audience they pull in," he said.

Radio Live's launch will be the first time a new talkback station has been launched in 18 years and the first time an attempt has been made to launch a station nationally in one hit - although technical issues delaying the debut in Northland and Tauranga for several weeks will cost it that crown.

It has already been a big investment for CanWest's radio arm, RadioWorks. The Auckland frequency alone cost $6.5 million last year and operating costs will likely be more than $2 million a year. More than $1 million will be spent on a three-month campaign to promote Radio Live - but not until May.

Among the new shows to debut are a Merv Smith-led game show, a morning slot for a dream interpreter, a sharemarket-oriented show with New Zealand Exchange chief executive Mark Weldon and a media discussion show. Former All Black Joe Karam had also been lined up to host some night shows.

RadioWorks' existing news team, Global News, has been expanded and moved in to surround the Radio Live studio, where they can go live to air from their desks. Global News will be rebranded Radio Live across RadioWork's other stations, which include More FM and The Breeze, further promoting the new brand.

* The Radio Network will also launch a new brand next week. Viva FM will be the first to actively target a female audience, replacing Easy Listening i on existing frequencies in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Rotorua and Tauranga.

"It's about time," Mediacom strategist Michael Carney said of the gender-specific station in his marketing digest newsletter.

"We'll be sad to see the Easy Listening i brand fade away - it's been a staple of Auckland radio for nearly four decades - but we're delighted to see that its replacement is so demographically correct."

Alive and talking

* A new national radio station will broadcast news and talkback.
* Radio Live hits airwaves on April 11.
* It will target 35 to 54-year-olds.
* Competitors are NewstalkZB, Radio Sport, National Radio and Radio Pacific.
* Hosts include Martin Devlin, Michael Laws, Kerry Smith, Paul Henry and Marcus Lush.