Commercial Radio industry body RadioCentre is claiming BBC Radio 2 is failing properly to serve older listeners, saying the present station service licence is so imprecise it could be anything from easy listening to dance music.
The comments are part of its submission to the BBC Trust, “Reach not Reith: How Radio 2 is prioritising popularity not public purposes” in response to the Trust’s review of Radio 2 and 6 Music. RadioCentre says in the last decade, Radio 2 has shifted its programming policies which have driven its audience younger to the detriment of older listeners, Commercial Radio and the fragile radio ecology.
Research also found an emphasis on new music and new presenters of particular appear to younger listeners, with programmes of appeal to older listeners marginalised in the schedule.
Said Andrew Harrison, chief executive of RadioCentre: “Over the last decade, Radio 2 has shifted its programming policies – nobody has intervened and this has been disastrous for Commercial Radio’s heartland audience and for the plurality and diversity of the UK’s fragile radio ecology. Had this kind of format change occurred in the commercial sector, Ofcom would have taken action, so it is welcome that the BBC Trust is reviewing the output of Radio 2.”
RadioCentre provided evidence that the present Radio 2 service licence is so imprecise that it could either almost exactly mirror the output of the London easy listening station Magic 105.4 or of the London dance music station Kiss 100.
The station is also missing its target for news and current affairs output. Added Harrison: “Only if items such as newspaper reviews, a discussion about snoring, a monopoly championship and discussions about teleshopping were categorised as “news and current affairs” did the station achieve its 16 hour target.”
The industry body also states that the BBC Trust needs to improve how it assesses the value for money of BBC radio services. Added Harrison: “There is no apparent reason, for example, why 6Music should cost almost five times more than Planet Rock to run, why Radio 2 should cost more than six times more than 6Music to run, or why the typical cost of a Radio 2 programme should be 54% higher than a similar show on Radio 1.”
The submission goes on to highlight the drift of 6Music to a younger audience and calls for it to be repurposed as a station playing popular music of particular appeal to older audiences.
Added Harrison: “We think the BBC urgently needs to rebalance its portfolio of popular music radio. You've now got Radio 1 targeting 15-29 year olds, 1Xtra targeting 15-24 year olds, 6Music with more than 80 per cent of its listening hours coming from 15-44s and Radio 2 becoming increasingly younger. That could be construed as an obsession with youth”.