Vanessa Feltz today accused the BBC of ‘ageism’ as it was claimed Ken Bruce turned down a contract and quit Radio 2 because of the ‘seemingly ever-younger DJs’ bosses brought in and its ‘edgier’ playlist.
The star broadcaster is leaving the corporation after 45 years – and his mid-morning show after 31 years – taking his beloved PopMaster quiz with him to Greatest Hits Radio.
Fans were left in tears and have vowed never to listen to Radio 2 again when Ken’s contract ends in March.
But his exit has left the BBC at the centre of another ageism storm as another of its biggest stars for decades walked away.
Ms Feltz claimed that she was cut loose by the Beeb after she passed 60. She said today that older presenters are ‘not valued in the same way’, adding: ‘The music isn’t as appealing because they’ve changed it to appeal to a younger crowd they’re so desperate to get’.
She added on ITV’s This Morning: ‘Think of all of the people who have left: Paul O’Grady’s gone. I’ve gone. Steve Wright’s there, but not much. Chris Evans has left. Graham Norton too’.
Vanessa Feltz today accused the BBC of ‘ageism’ as it emerged that Ken Bruce will join Greatest Hits Radio later this year after it was announced he is leaving his mid-morning weekday slot on BBC Radio 2 after 31 years
Ken, pictured in the studio in 1984, was said to have been unhappy with the direction Radio 2 was headed – and is taking PopMaster with him
Ken Bruce was said to be pondering staying before deciding to jump ship to a commercial rival.
One insider said: ‘Ken is still hugely ambitious and the BBC actually offered him a new deal. But after some months of negotiations, he decided the time was right for new opportunities’.
The source told The Sun: ‘The music has become edgier and more modern and the DJs seemingly ever-younger, which is a bit concerning for the old guard’.
A BBC spokesman confirmed Ken was offered a new contract.
He said: ‘Ken explained his reasons for deciding to leave Radio 2 in his quote and on air yesterday; we respect his decision and wish him the very best of luck in the future as he’s been a much loved part of the Radio 2 family.’
‘Radio 2 is hugely proud of having a range of presenters from their 30s to 80 years old on the station, an age range which hasn’t changed in decades, in fact Ken Bruce started presenting on Radio 2 at the age of 32. Radio 2 will continue to be a multi-generational radio station that serves a 35+ audience with listeners tuning in each week to our brilliant range of programmes, hosted by some of the UK’s best loved presenters We continue to play a wide variety of the best music from the past seven decades, including from the 60s and 70s.’
The much-loved Glaswegian is joining rival commercial station Greatest Hits Radio from April. Bruce told listeners ‘the time is right’ to leave after being in the same weekday slot for 31 years.
Rylan Clark and Gary Davies are being touted as his replacement on the mid-morning show he has run since 1986 – aside from a short gap between 1990 and 1992.
Radio 2 is trying to modernise – playing less music from before the 1990s and bringing in younger DJs, including from Radio 1.
Ken is expected to obtain a significant pay increase from his BBC salary of nearly £400,000 by moving to the station owned by media giant Bauer. Bruce’s current 9.30am to 12 noon programme, including the daily PopMaster quiz, is the most popular show on British radio with more than 8.5million listeners a week.
His departure comes after the corporation last year axed Steve Wright’s Radio 2 afternoon show after more than 20 years and replaced him with former Radio 1 presenter Scott Mills, 49, sparking a backlash from listeners.
Sources had claimed at the time that 68-year-old Wright’s departure was part of moves to cut the average age of the main presenters on Radio 2.
Other older hosts who have left over the past year include Paul O’Grady, 67, and Vanessa Feltz, 60. O’Grady’s slot went to comedian Rob Beckett, 37, while Ms Feltz is handing over the reins to 38-year-old Welsh broadcaster Owain Wyn Evans. Previously Radio 2 star Graham Norton, 59, quit to join Virgin Radio and his Saturday morning slot went to Claudia Winkleman, 51.
Radio 2 fans have accused the BBC of ageism as a string of older DJs step back, including Paul O’Grady, Steve Wright, Ken Bruceand Simon Mayo, replaced by ex-Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, RuPaul’s Michelle Visage, Rylan and DJ Spoony
Ken Bruce said he has done all he could at the BBCV and wants a fresh challenge for the end of his career
Ken Bruce (pictured with his good friend Rod Stewart) is leaving the BBC after 45 years, quitting Radio 2 for Greatest Hits Radio
Last night the BBC said it was ‘categorically untrue’ that it had decided not to renew Bruce’s contract.
However, an industry insider said there was a ‘massive reinvention of the network’ going on at Radio 2.
A senior station source described Bruce’s departure as a ‘seismic event’ as he was the ‘heart of the profession’.
Among top names being touted as replacements are Rylan Clark, 34, DJ Spoony, 52, Dermot O’Leary, 49, Jason Manford, 41, Matt Lucas, 48, and Ms Winkleman.
Listeners reacted with frustration and dismay to Bruce quitting yesterday. One wrote on the station’s Facebook page: ‘Sadly the continuing demise of Radio 2.’
Another added: ‘Absolutely gutted. Ken is the only daily show I listen to now on R2 since Steve Wright’s departure.’ Bruce, who will leave in March, joined the BBC in 1977 when he worked for Radio Scotland. The father of six told his listeners yesterday: ‘I have now decided that the time is right for me to move on from Radio 2.
‘I’ll reach the end of my current contract in March… nothing stays the same for ever.
‘It has been a tremendously happy time for me here. I’ve made so, so many friends and worked with many, many wonderful colleagues.
‘But, I feel that after 45 years of full-time broadcasting on BBC Radio, it is time for a change.’ He added: ‘I really must stress that this is entirely my decision. However, some new opportunities have come up and I would like to continue my career in just a slightly different way, if that’s possible, in the next few years.
‘We’ll be revealing the details of those opportunities in a little while. I will always be tremendously proud of my association with the BBC and in particular with Radio 2…
‘I would like to thank absolutely everybody who has helped to make the mid-morning show the success it is.’
Three times-wed Bruce had hosted his first regular slot for Radio 2 on the Saturday late show in 1984. The following year he presented the breakfast show, taking over from Terry Wogan.
Greatest Hits Radio said Bruce would host a show from 10am to 1pm. Former Radio 2 star Simon Mayo already presents the drive-time show on the station.
Bruce said of the new role: ‘What better way to celebrate my 45 years in radio than with a new adventure and a brand new show on Greatest Hits Radio? I say brand new but there will still be PopMaster, me and my musings and all the great records you know and love from the 70s, 80s and 90s. I’m looking forward to getting started.’
Clark, who already hosts a Radio 2 show on Saturday afternoons, wrote on Twitter of Bruce: ‘A beautiful man who’s always been so lovely to me at Radio 2. Going to be so missed on-air, but personally I’ll miss having a beer in a foreign country discussing anything and everything whilst at Eurovision. Thanks for always being so lovely.’
Lorna Clarke, of BBC Music, said: ‘Ken is an extraordinary broadcaster with an exceptional career over many decades. He has been part of every significant occasion marked by BBC Radio 2 and we, his faithful audience and the Radio 2 all-star line-up will miss his warm humour and wit. Congratulations on a brilliant career.’ Ben Cooper, of Bauer, said: ‘Ken Bruce is a broadcasting legend, with the biggest radio show in the UK… It is a hugely significant moment for the industry.’