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Blog: Bob Shennan on BBC Radio 2 changes

BBC Radio 2 controller Bob Shennan has explained his decision to cut Alex Lester’s overnight show on a recent blog.

Bob writes to listeners:

“A number of listeners have expressed concern about Radio 2’s recent announcement regarding forthcoming changes to our overnight schedule. Those changes will see the creation of a new, live, seven nights a week show called After Midnight, from midnight – 3am, but a reduction in the overall number of live hours broadcast through the night. I wanted to take this opportunity to explain a bit more about the reasons behind these changes.

The last licence fee settlement has meant that all parts of the BBC have faced substantial cuts to their budgets, with all areas across the business having to make substantial savings. Radio 2 has been making significant savings for the past two years both on and off-air through changes to our schedule and redundancies for a number of staff. But despite our efforts, this has not been enough. We have had to take additional tough measures including further staff reductions and merging departments across the radio stations.

Our programming is always the last place we look to make savings as we strive to maintain the distinctiveness of the schedule, through the UK’s most popular presenters, award-winning documentaries, live musical performances and the most diverse range of music played on any radio station in the UK. However, to maintain that distinctiveness with less funding we have had to look at all areas of our output to see where extra savings could be made. This has led to us to making the tough decision to reduce the number of hours of live programming overnight and this includes, regrettably, losing Richard Allinson’s two weekend programmes. A decision like this has been incredibly difficult to make, as live programming across the station is hugely important to me – as I know it is to Radio 2’s overnight audience. That’s why I have also taken this opportunity to create the new show, After Midnight, retaining two of our much-loved presenters, Janice Long (Mon-Thurs) and Alex Lester (Fri-Sun), from midnight – 3am.

I would like to assure Richard’s loyal listeners that he will continue to deputise on key shows across the network as well as continuing to produce and present documentaries for Radio 2. He is an excellent and versatile broadcaster and did a sterling job standing in last week for Chris Evans who was unwell.

Wherever possible, I try to avoid repeating programmes, but the shows that will be airing on Monday to Wednesday from 3-5am – Sounds of the 60s, Sounds of the 70s, and Sounds of the 80s – are of the very highest quality. They are presented by three first class broadcasters in Brian Matthew, Johnnie Walker and Sara Cox, and feature some great music, features and interviews. Thursday and Friday night programme details will be confirmed at a later date.

I do understand why listeners are disappointed to hear that these programming changes are being made and I hope After Midnight becomes one of the network’s most popular shows.”

Bob Shennan is Controller, BBC Radio 2

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