Paul O’Grady’s former BBC colleague Ken Bruce has paid tribute to the radio and TV star – after Radio 2 fans slammed the corporation over its ‘shameless’ tribute months after he was ‘pushed out’.
Tributes have been pouring in for the trailblazing comic turned broadcaster after he died ‘unexpectedly but peacefully’ on Tuesday night aged 67.
O’Grady left his Sunday afternoon slot on Radio 2 in August last year, after more than a decade, due to a scheduling change that saw him asked to share his slot with comedian Rob Beckett.
His departure came just two weeks after fellow broadcasting veteran Bruce amid a push to attract younger listeners.
Appearing on ITV’s Lorraine today, Bruce described O’Grady as ‘a natural communicator’ who found it easy to ‘connect with his audience’.
Tributes have been pouring in for the trailblazing comic turned broadcaster after he died ‘unexpectedly but peacefully’ on Tuesday night aged 67
Appearing on ITV’s Lorraine today, Bruce described O’Grady as ‘a natural communicator’ who found it easy to ‘connect with his audience’
He said: ‘He deserves it (the tributes following his death). When people are alive, we don’t tell them enough that we love them. It is a shame that Paul is not able to read these (tributes).
‘I think it was easy for him. He was a natural communicator, and he was being himself. I think that is what connected him with people – they knew they were hearing the real Paul.
‘Especially on radio, as soon as he got into the radio studio he absolutely connected with his audience.’
He was joined on the show by Carol Vorderman, who echoed Bruce in recalling O’Grady’s warmth both on and off camera.
She said: ‘I haven’t seen as much outpouring of grief for a very long time. Normally people are very respectful and they say “oh that was a nice person, he or she had great talent”.
‘But Paul had a connection that very few on screen have and I think it was that raw honesty – obviously he was really funny, really talented and all of those things – but he was something more than that.’
O’Grady admitted he left Radio 2 in August because he ‘wasn’t really happy with the 13 weeks on, 13 weeks off business’ that would have seen him regularly swapping with Beckett.
He announced he had joined a rival radio station eight months after quitting, confirming he would be reprising his show on Boom Radio and was due to host his first show on Easter Sunday alongside regular sidekick, long suffering producer Malcolm Prince.
It came after a push by Radio 2 to attract younger listeners by recruiting younger talent sparked an ageism row and triggered an exodus of older talent including the also popular Bruce and Steve Wright.
Speaking last month, O’Grady confirmed the schedule’s shake-up was the reason behind his departure.
He told Metro: ‘I was disappointed because I’m a great believer in continuity. If you go off for 13 weeks and somebody else comes on, the listeners don’t know when you’re back on.’
He also questioned Radio 2’s desire to appeal to younger audiences, saying: ‘Radio 2 has changed, it’s not what it was. They’re trying to aim for a much younger audience, which doesn’t make sense because you’ve got Radio 1.’
Bruce was joined by Carol Vorderman on the show as they spoke of their memories of the broadcasting icon
Paul O’Grady with producer Malcolm Prince in a publicity photograph released on March 21 ahead of their planned one-off Easter Sunday radio show on Boom Radio
Radio 2 fans accused the BBC of ageism after a string of older DJs stepped back, including Paul O’Grady, Steve Wright, Ken Bruce and Simon Mayo
A schedule shake-up on Radio 2 saw O’Grady regularly swapping with Rob Beckett (pictured) in 13-week slots
He added: ‘Radio 2 was always for an older audience’.
Bruce has been replaced by presenter Vernon Kay, 48, as part of Radio 2’s bid to rejuvenate the station’s line-up.
The BBC subsequently faced a backlash yesterday when it paid tribute to O’Grady following his death.
Other veteran stars including Vanessa Feltz, 61, Craig Charles, 58, and Simon Mayo, 64, announced their departures over the past months, having been replaced by younger stars, sparking complaints from listeners, accusing the station of ageism.
Steve Wright, 68, also left his weekday afternoon show last year, replaced by former Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, 49.
In a tweet, the corporation said: ‘We’re incredibly saddened to hear about the sudden passing of Paul O’Grady.
‘Paul was a brilliant broadcaster and incredible comedian. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. We’ll miss you Paul.’
But amid a series of angry responses from his listeners, the BBC has been accused of ‘crocodile tears’ over the tweet after ‘pushing him off air’.
One said: ‘Unfortunately this doesn’t feel so heartfelt from the BBC considering he lost his brilliant show. He was a genuine real entertainer and he will be greatly missed.’
Another added: ‘Crocodile tears from a station who treated him abominably. His Sunday night audience loved him, so what did you do, in the name of ‘progress’? Cut his broadcast time and make it impossible for him to stay.’
A third said: ‘You’ll miss him? We’ve missed him since you pushed him off air. Paul was a wonderful broadcaster and deserved much better than the shabby treatment he received from Radio 2.’
Speaking yesterday, David Lloyd, co-founder of Boom Radio, told MailOnline: ‘Paul loved his radio – and it suited him so well. Following the Easter show, we had every expectation that he would have started a more regular commitment with us later in the year.
‘Many of our listeners are already asking if we will re-run his Christmas Day show on Easter Day. It may well be the most fitting tribute to a broadcaster who was at the top of his game.’
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