BBC Radio 2 listeners got in touch to reveal why they are tuning out, with some saying they felt ‘abandoned’ by the shake-up which has seen the departure of DJ stalwarts.
Figures revealed the BBC’s flagship station lost 580,000 listeners during a year in which they ripped up their schedule with older stars shipped out for younger DJs.
Others said the mass exodus of their favourite presenters – including Ken Bruce, Steve Wright and Paul O’Grady – was ‘the final straw’, as many swap for commercial alternatives which have seen their audiences grow by up to a third.
Listeners David and Joanne Holder from Northampton said: ‘I can’t tell you how disappointed we are with the new woke management at Radio 2 and their efforts to get rid of us by trying to attract a younger audience’.
Former loyal listener Nicola McGiff said: ‘Without doubt Ken Bruce was the final straw for me, and I made the immediate decision to switch to Greatest Hits Radio.’
Radio 2 fans have accused the BBC of ageism as a string of older DJs step back, including Paul O’Grady, Steve Wright, Ken Bruce and Simon Mayo, replaced by ex-Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, RuPaul’s Michelle Visage, Rylan and DJ Spoony
Her reason for changing airwaves was echoed by others, including Helen Rowe, who said she was ‘appalled and mystified when Steve Wright was pushed out’.
She said: ‘I have no idea why you would want to axe a show like that. No-one can compete with that so I have just turned off.
‘After that I knew that Ken Bruce who I also listened to and think is brilliant wouldn’t be far behind. I’ll be switching to his new station when he leaves.’
Ian Hunter wrote to MailOnline to say he is ‘one of the radio 2 refugees’, adding: ‘the current line up leaves me cold’.
‘The morning show is nothing but empty headed drivel, then you get the one shining joy of Ken Bruce, then it’s downhill.
‘I am sorry to say Scott Mills is just totally boring and vacuous.
‘Greatest Hits Radio is now my station of choice, its presenters are a pleasure to listen to with good music, and guess what most are ex-BBC 2.’
Mia Akin, 71, has been a loyal listener of Paul O’Grady, Steve Wright, Ken Bruce and Simon Mayo for ‘many years’, but said she had stopped since they departed from the station.
She said she now felt ‘abandoned’.
Ms Akin added: ‘Boo to the BBC for spoiling the listening pleasure of pensioners like me. There’s a lot of us and we’ve all switched off.’
Radio 2 is still the UK’s most popular station, but its overall weekly audience has fallen by 580,000 to 14.29million.
Breakfast show host Zoe Ball has seen a drop in listeners, while Ken Bruce’s listenership is also down – although his show is still the most listened to on the station with 8.2million, according to the radio audience research group Rajar.
Radio 2 has seen a drop of 580,000 weekly listeners as BBC bosses revamp the schedule with new younger DJs replacing older stalwarts such as Ken Bruce
Radio 2’s breakfast show, presented by Zoe Ball , was down 359,000 in the last quarter of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021
Radio 2’s breakfast show, presented by Zoe Ball, was down 359,000 in the last quarter of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021. However, it is still the most listened to breakfast radio programme, with a weekly audience of 7.1million.
A BBC spokesman said: ‘Radio 2 continues to be the UK’s most popular radio station, and we’re hugely proud that Zoe Ball remains the most listened to Breakfast Show in the country.’
Meanwhile brand and culture expert Nick Ede told MailOnline: ‘Radio 2 has a problem in that it had such a loyal listener base that having their stalwart DJs all leave has seen that loyalty means the listeners have gone elsewhere to hear their favourite music and DJs.
‘This is why there has been an increase in listeners on commercial stations targeted for that generation.
‘The new Radio 2 DJs are all brilliant household names who have a strong fan base too but the BBC should have peppered their schedule with the older DJs and in doing so kept the old audience and engaged a new one which in turn would have seen an increase in listeners.’
Radio 4’s Today programme dropped by 282,000 to 6.1million in the same period. Radio 5 Live’s breakfast show also lost around 200,000, down to 1.6million a week.
The figures, published by Rajar, show all the major BBC stations saw a decline in listeners over the past 12 months. Radio 2 lost just over half a million listeners – down 3.9 per cent.
It came as Steve Wright, 68, was replaced in the afternoon slot after 23 years by Radio 1’s Scott Mills, 49.
Paul O’Grady, 67, who was at Radio 2 for 14 years, quit his show months after he was forced to share the time slot with comedian Rob Beckett, 37, while Ken Bruce, 71, last month announced his departure after 31 years on the UK’s most popular radio programme.
He is moving to Greatest Hits Radio which boosted its audience by nearly a third in the last year to 4.3million a week.
BBC insiders claimed feeling ‘unloved’ by bosses, who failed to reassure him over a new contract even though they wanted to keep him, was the reason for his decision to leave. He will move to Greatest Hits Radio on April 3.
Boom Radio, the station launched by veterans to target the ‘baby boomers’ born between 1946 and 1964, is also growing, attracting more than half a million listeners each week.
The station more than doubled its audience from 242,000 to 531,000 from 2021 to 2022.
Chief executive Phil Riley said: ‘As top DJs abandon the BBC it seems the listeners are doing the same, and Boom Radio is providing a new home for those listeners with their favourite presenters.
‘In fact, in our own research almost 80 per cent of Boom listeners say they are listening less to Radio 2.’
One listener recently thanked the broadcaster for ‘providing a decent station for the listeners that Radio 2 no longer wants’ and another described themselves as a ‘Radio 2 refugee’.
Boom Radio bosses poached O’Grady for a special Christmas Day show last year.
The BBC has lost more over-45s (798,000) than those aged 15-44 (479,000) in the last year.
Steve Wright announced he would be leaving his Radio 2 afternoon show last July
Commercial stations have gained 802,000 over-45s, an increase of 4.2 per cent.
Radio 3 has suffered the biggest station-wide drop, down 6.3 per cent to 1.8million, while Radio 1 – home to DJs including Greg James and Clara Amfo – is down 4.6 per cent to 7.7million listeners a week. Radio 4 has dropped 3.8 per cent to 1million.
Overall, the weekly reach of radio in the UK is up from 49.4million to 49.6million per week.
Vanessa Feltz accused the BBC of ‘ageism’ last month as it was claimed Ken Bruce turned down a contract and quit Radio 2 because of the ‘seemingly ever-younger DJs’ bosses had brought in and its ‘edgier’ playlist.
The star broadcaster is leaving the corporation after 45 years – and his mid-morning show after 31 years.
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 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 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 his PopMaster quiz 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.’
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 axed Steve Wright’s Radio 2 afternoon show last year after more than two decades and replaced him with former Radio 1 presenter Scott Mills, 49, sparking a backlash from listeners.
Ken Bruce said he has done all he could at the BBC 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
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.
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’.
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