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In recent months there has been significant change at BBC Radio 2. There have been discussions about ageism, pay challenges and underlying issues forcing people and presenters out through.

There have even been ‘celebrations’ of the station losing listeners because of the changes.

But what is really going on?

BBC Radio 2, one of the UK’s most popular radio stations, has recently undergone significant changes. Here’s a rundown of the most notable developments at the station:

  1. New presenters and shows: In 2020, BBC Radio 2 introduced several new presenters and shows to its lineup, including a new Saturday morning show hosted by Trevor Nelson and a new Sunday afternoon show hosted by Clara Amfo. These additions have helped to bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the station. More recently, we have seen Scott Mills join the afternoon show.
  2. Expanded musical genre: Over the years, BBC Radio 2 has been known for its diverse musical offerings, covering a wide range of genres, including pop, rock, country, and more. However, in recent times, the station has expanded its musical genre to include a wider range of musical styles, including jazz, soul, and blues.
  3. Digital transformation: Like many media organisations, BBC Radio 2 has had to adapt to the changing digital landscape. In recent years, the station has made significant investments in digital technologies, including developing new mobile apps and websites to help listeners stay connected with their favourite shows and presenters.
  4. Increased focus on documentaries: In addition to its music programming, BBC Radio 2 has also increased its focus on documentaries, with new programs and series exploring a wide range of subjects, from history to science and more.
  5. Focus on diversity and representation: Recently, BBC Radio 2 has made a concerted effort to promote diversity and representation in its programs, focusing on showcasing voices and perspectives from across the UK and around the world.

Getting Older?

To understand the changes, you must focus on the station’s core audiences.

BBC Radio 2’s target audience is primarily adults aged 35 and over. We are now experiencing a ‘shift’ of the core audience of BBC Radio 1 moving to BBC Radio 2.

Most of the current presenter lineup were previously hosts on BBC Radio 1 in the last ten or fifteen years. People like Paul Gambaccini started on BBC Radio 1 back in 1974.

The target audience for BBC Radio 1 is young people aged 15-29. The station is known for popular music, including contemporary and alternative genres such as pop, dance, hip-hop, and rock. It also features a mix of music news, celebrity interviews, and lifestyle content designed to appeal to its youthful demographic.

BBC Radio 1, in recent years, has again adapted its programming to reach its younger audiences as talent like Mills, Cox and Whiley have moved to Radio 2.

In short, both stations have a duty – as bound by the BBC Charter – to create content which meets their audience. We all know the power of influencers – and presenters are a strong example of this – so presenters are a core part of the strategy for reaching audiences, which explains the changes.

Where Does The Audience Go?

Now, if the talent from Radio 2 is leaving to make way for BBC Radio 1 – it can be assumed that some of the current audience will leave too.

Some of the audience will follow talent (e.g. Greatest Hits Radio or TalkTV), but the question has to be asked – where within the BBC do they go?

BBC Radio 2 attracts listeners with popular music from the last four decades along with current affairs, discussion and celebrity-based interviews for a more mature audience.

BBC Radio 4 is known for its mix of news, current affairs, and cultural content, including documentaries, panel discussions, and dramas, which can appeal to an older demographic. It is perhaps hoped within the Beeb that audiences will move here.

But is Radio 4 known for popular music? Not really…

Elsewhere, BBC Radio 5 Live targets adults aged 25-54, focusing on news and current affairs. The station provides round-the-clock coverage of breaking news, sports, and political events, as well as in-depth analysis and discussion of the day’s top stories. It also features live commentary, coverage of major sporting events, interactive phone-ins and listener-led debates.

But it doesn’t play music.

An Age Gap?

With an ageing population, the BBC does need to consider its approach to an older demographic who are perhaps looking for more entertainment and the content they have been used to from BBC Radio 2 over the last 20 years.

The thinking is that the more mature Radio 2 listener will go to a mix of BBC Radio 4, 5 and Local Radio, but there needs to be a more considered strategy for meeting that audience.

Boom Radio – a station aimed at baby boomers, the generation of people born between 1946 and 1964, is the first radio station in the UK to target this age demographic specifically. It now has a listenership of over 500,000 – perhaps many coming from BBC Radio 2?

In conclusion, these recent changes at BBC Radio 2 demonstrate the station’s commitment to staying relevant and engaging with its audience in the 21st century. With its mix of music, documentaries, and expert presenters, it continues to be one of the UK’s most popular and trusted radio stations…

But could the BBC be doing more to meet the needs of older demographics?

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