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BBC plugs public service in favour of popularity

September 8th, 2009 Posted in Culture by

chris-evans-and-woganThe BBC (which seems to have even less of a finger on the pulse of the nation than our Prime Minister ….if that is actually possible) seems to have gone and done it again.

Let me give you a bit of background…..

Radio 2’s remit is to cater for those aged 35 and older. Now, Radio 2 has been under considerable fire recently for chasing younger audiences. RadioCentre, (a group representing the BBC’s commercial rivals) has already made a formal complaint to the corporation’s internal watchdog that listeners aged 15 to 34, represent the fastest-growing group of Radio 2 listeners. Note this is with Terry Wogan (aged 71) hosting its breakfast show (the average age of a Terry Wogan breakfast show listener is reckoned to be about 52).

In contrast, Radio 1’s remit is to cater for 15-34 year olds. Radio 1 has also been under fire. Just last month it was identified as a possible sell off target by the Tories for not fulfilling its obligation to the 15-34’s. It’s average age appears to be creeping upwards. Chris Moyles (age 35) presents the radio 1 breakfast show.

With that in mind, the BBC is now faced with the problem. Who to put into Terry Wogan’s seat when he steps down from the most high profile radio breakfast show in the UK. Its a big decision. Radio’s 1 and  2 each attract about 8 million listeners. Thats quite a few people.

So, the BBC’s choice to replace beloved Wogan? erm… Chris Evans (age 43).
I don’t know if this Mandelson-esque arrogance or just pure incompetence on the part of the BBC. Moyles vs Wogan – reasonable choice for the 16million (licence fee-paying) radio listeners that tune in each morning to one or other show. Moyles vs Evans – no choice. Go away oldies and find some other station to listen to.

What we clearly have  are two purportedly public service radio stations both moving inexorably toward the middle ground of those in their thirties. Public Service plugged in favour of popularity.

Personally I object to an enforced tax handed over to an organisation that cant control its budgets, its presenters, or it seems its station controllers. But when it actually falls measurably short of meeting the remits under which it is charged to operate, its time to say enough. If it has got too big. If it has lost sight of its purpose. If it cant carry out something as simple as run two complimentary radio stations without cocking it up, then it really is time to undertake some drastic surgery.

6 Responses to “BBC plugs public service in favour of popularity”

  1. Stu Says:

    Chris Evans isn’t young any more, and he’s only getting older.

    Terry decided to retire. The BBC need to fill a gap. You haven’t offered any suggestions for other presenters who would make better choices, nor elaborated on what exactly the ‘correct’ age for a Radio 2 presenter is, in your opinion (Terry Wogan himself was 34 when he first started presenting Radio 2 in the mornings, you know). To be honest I can’t think of a better presenter who plugs that age gap, has such popularity and is still working in radio; with the possible exception of Simon Mayo, who seems to be rather enjoying his 5Live slot.

    Besides, Chris Evans’ target demographic IS 35-50 year olds. The same people who used to listen to Radio 1 15 years ago when, erm… Chris Evans was presenting!

    Storms and tea cups. Unless, of course, you’re just being ageist…

  2. GF Says:

    Actually, if you only own a radio and not a television then you don’t need to pay the licence fee :) But of course the TV licence funds BBC radio, so your point stands. [I listen to Radios 3 and 4 despite being in my 20s, and I’m not the only one].

  3. Angela Harbutt Says:

    Thanks for your comment Stu – other presenters might have been Lisa Tarbuck, Simon Mayo, Richard Madeley, Stuart Maconie or Mark Radcliffe, Jonnie Walker, Chris Tarrant etc etc…… Some may not be available/willing to do it of course – but there are many excellent radio broadcasters whose style would be a more appropriate alternative to Chris Moyles. And i dont buy that Chris Evans should get the job because he is “popular”- yes he is famous – but that comes with exposure. Picking the biggest name you can find to hang on a programme is an over-used shortcut to grab ratings.
    My main concern as I hope i made clear is not the appointment of Chris Evans but the constriction of choice that offers the millions of listeners currently loyal ot radios 1 and 2.

    If, as you say, Chris Evans target audience is 35-50 – and Moyles most loyal fans are 30-40 then something is going horribly wrong if you decide to pitch them head to head.

  4. Angela Harbutt Says:

    GF- I am a Committed radio 5 live listener myself x

  5. Stu Says:

    “Moyles most loyal fans are 30-40”

    Are they? I confess I haven’t seen a breakdown of Radio 1 listeners but it would seem mighty strange to me for the BBC to keep Moyles on the Radio 1 show if he isn’t appealing to the target 15-34 age group. If what you say is true, it seems it would make more sense to have Moyles take over from Wogan on Radio 2 and find some fresh blood for Radio 1.

    As for Evans, popularity is exactly the issue. An alternative presenter that people don’t like is not an alternative at all. Fame may come with exposure, but greater exposure comes with popularity. Evans’ drivetime show has been very successful and he’s proven himself very capable of appealing to Radio 2’s target audience.

    I guess I just don’t see how the BBC is failing to meet its remit of having a station for over 35s and a station for under 35s by putting these two presenters against each other. They are the exact target age groups, respectively, of Chrises Evans and Moyles.

  6. Angela Harbutt Says:

    Stu – i am pretty sure of his age bias audience-wise – i did quite a lot of radio presenter research awhile back and recently got a sneaky peak at an updated version of my original piece. If i am being totally accurate about R1 remit by the way it is to target 15-29’s ! the 15-34’s i quoted (incorrectly) is the rough brief now used by the boys and girls at R1 – shows how easy it is to slip into the internal shorthand if you are not careful.
    you are at perfect liberty to disagree – but it strikes me as wholly wrong for a state brodacaster to ignore the over 50’s in its breakfast offerings so blatantly by choosing two presenters with very similar (almost indiscernable) audience appeal.Neither of them seemingly with any appeal for the older audience.
    Time will tell i guess – when we see the audience profile of the R2 show once Evans has settled in.