The game of musical frequencies on the radio is hotting up with the launch of a new talk radio network to challenge ratings leader NewstalkZB.

The commercial radio scene has seen some frantic manoeuvring over the past year as rivals CanWest's RadioWorks and The Radio Network go head to head.

On Monday at 5.30am, RadioWorks launches Radio Live. Commentators see it as the first serious competition to Newstalk ZB, with Radio Live going heavy on news and information.

Martin Devlin, ex-Radio Pacific and Radio Sport, will go compete with Paul Holmes, traditionally a ratings winner.

In the same week, The Radio Network is re-launching Easy Listening i as Viva FM, a lifestyle station aimed at women.

Radio Live has taken over Radio Pacific frequencies. Radio Pacific and Trackside Radio - live racing commentary - have moved to 1476AM in Auckland.

Non-commercial station BBC World Service, which leased the 1476AM frequency, has moved to 810AM, courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

It will be six months before the next radio ratings are out and Radio Live knows if the punt has worked.

AUT radio lecturer Matt Mollgaard said ZB had never faced a real competitor.

No one is quite sure if it will really hurt ZB or National Radio, or will grow the commercial radio listening audience even more.

"ZB is a 'traditional' or 'heritage' station which people tend to listen to because they always have and it's just part of their habits. At times ZB comes across as a bit white, middle- class, male radio station, whereas Radio Live seems to be aiming for females as well, the sophisticated, well-educated people, and it's not so much about talkback."

* Veteran newsreader and radio host Mike Francis died yesterday, aged 53, after a battle with cancer.

Francis' radio career spanned 30 years, from his beginnings at 4XO in Dunedin to reading news for Radio Sport, Hauraki, Easy Listening i98FM, Coast, Radio Rhema, Life FM and a host of stations around the country.