BBC to create single role to Control Radio 1 and Radio 2

The BBC is to create a new single role of Controller of its pop music stations Radio 1, 1Xtra, Asian Network, Radio 2 and 6 Music.

Heads of each station, plus BBC Music and the Music TV commissioning heads, will report to the new Controller.

A source tells RadioToday that Ben Cooper, currently Controller of Radio 1, 1Xtra and BBC Asian Network is expected to be appointed to the new position across all five services.

Bob Shennan, the former Controller of BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music, is moving to a new role of Managing Director of the BBC

In an email to staff today, seen by RadioToday, James Purnell, Director, Radio & Education, said the move is a great opportunity for the pop music stations to work more closely together and for the BBC to maintain its effective voice with the music industry.

Another new position, Controller of BBC Sounds, is also being created and advertised externally.

The BBC recently advertised for the new Controller of Radio 4, and an announcement is expected next month.

Here’s the email in full:

Hi everyone,

I hope you had a good Easter.

With Bob Shennan moving on to Managing Director, I’ve been thinking about the shape of the senior team in Radio & Music.

We currently have a mix of controllers and heads in the pop music area, so I’m planning to create a new role – Controller, BBC Pop Music – to bring our portfolio of pop stations and music output under one umbrella. The pop stations (Radio 1, 1Xtra, Asian Network, Radio 2, 6 Music), BBC Music and the Music TV commissioning heads will report into the new controller. This is a great opportunity for the pop music stations to work more closely together and for the BBC to maintain its effective voice with the music industry.

As you know, Tony Hall has made growing BBC Sounds one of the BBC’s top priorities. We have ambitious plans and have placed Sounds at the heart of everything we do in music, radio and podcasts.

We’ve made a great start with more than 2 million app downloads and brilliant new music mixes and podcasts like Forest 404, That Peter Crouch Podcast and Obsessed With Line of Duty. In just one year, our monthly downloads have gone up by 4m to 24m.

But we are also launching into a competitive, relatively mature market. Gaining audiences is going to require determination and focus.

We have something none of our competitors do – the breadth of our creativity. The streamers don’t have radio stations – yet. We are local, national and global. We have a unique public purpose – to serve the public by informing, educating and entertaining. And we have some of the best marketing and product teams in the world.

To succeed, we need to make Sounds more than the sum of those parts. We are therefore going to have a single person accountable for the service – a new Controller of BBC Sounds. They will develop the strategy for Sounds, and oversee its delivery, coordinating our editorial, product development and marketing teams. The Controller will develop the editorial strategy for Sounds with the networks, who will do the majority of the commissioning.

This new post will serve the whole BBC. They will work with commissioners and producers from other divisions – as we have for example on Multi Story and The Hurricane Tapes. Our strategies for Sounds and smart speakers overlap in important ways, so I’ll also be asking the Controller to oversee our editorial approach to Voice too.

Until the future structure is in place, everyone who used to be managed by Bob Shennan will report to me, and Ben Chapman’s Digital team will continue to report to the Launch Director of BBC Sounds. In future, the Voice team will report into the Controller of BBC Sounds.

Adverts for the Controller of Pop and Controller of Sounds are now live on Careers Hub. The roles are being advertised internally and externally. The closing date is 17 May and we expect to appoint in June. We expect to announce the new Controller of Radio 4 in May. These changes will result in reductions in the number of senior manager roles.

Leaders of the affected teams will be in touch with more information, but do drop me a line if you have any questions.

Best wishes


James Purnell
Director, Radio & Education

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  1. Ray Woodward says

    ,,, and thus we see the final demise of Radio 2 🙁

    1. T1 says

      It’s the most listened to station in the UK. Far from Demise.

      1. Adrian says

        Demise from a varied BBC music station aimed at middle age upwards to being something of a combination of somewhere for the 25+ Radio 1 listeners to go to and a commercial station without adverts.Of course it’s popular but is it really carrying out the BBC’s remit?.I’m sure if they could they would get rid of all the specialist output apart from soul and dance just like the commercial stations did.Ofcom do not look after the discerning audiences that wants something more than chart music past and present.

        1. mb23 says

          The remit of Radio 2 is for all people over 35. All radio stations have to move with the times, and people between 35-50 don’t want to listen to hits from the 1960s & 1970s all day.

          Radio 2 needs to strike a balance to avoid alienating the younger end of the audience.

          1. joe says

            They could start by getting rid of dinosaurs like Steve Wright.

          2. Adrian says

            I’m over 50 and don’t want to hear music from the 60’s and 70’s all day but what I don’t want to hear is a load of chart music from today and the 80’s onwards.There is plenty of material released but hardly ever played and album tracks from a lot of genres that could be aired instead.

          3. Drew says

            Radio 2 has never sounded better to my ears. Recently switched from R1 and the range of tracks they’re now playing on 2 feels and sounds really good.

  2. Pat says

    Working closer together-pop music stations,why not merge the whole lot into one and be done with it.Radio 2 wasn’t designed to be a pop station,it was an easy listening station catering for many specialist interests,I’ll grant you that it is not much more than a pop station now and if it goes on as it is there will not be much point in there being both a Radio 1 and 2 or at least 2 of the four listed ‘pop’ stations could be dropped.In my opinion you can’t really blame the commercial stations being upset by the way the BBC is going which seems to be the opposite of what they should be doing-providing an alternative to ‘pop and prattle’.

  3. Jeff Featherstone says

    Given that R1 and R2 used to share controllers until the late 1970s and got separate posts as part of R1 expanding to broadcast for 18 hours a day, and the stations in question (except Asian Network) are all 24 hour, the new arrangements seem a strange reversal of logic.

  4. Neal says

    Totally agree Ray. The BBC seem intent on copying Global’s stations. Limited playlists celeb presenters but in defence of Global at least I don’t pay a licence fee for something I don’t listen to. Yes I know BBC radio is effectively free but I for one would happily pay a separate radio licence fee to have the glory days of BBC radio back! Afraid once Jim Moir left the writing has always been on the wall for Radio 2!

    1. sj says

      How anyone could seriously compare Radio 1 and Radio 2 with Global’s stations is beyond me. Both stations’ playlists are significantly larger in terms of genre range and sheer number of tracks than any Global station. The proportion of non-music content is much higher too. There’s always a lot of talk on here about “celeb” presenters. I’m sure the average listener would rather have a name they know and like – someone they find entertaining – than a so-called “proper DJ” who can talk over the intro of a song beautifully. Stations should always be programmed with the actual audience in mind, not a load of anoraks who post in forums about the glory days. Actually, Rajar suggests we’re in the “glory days” of Radio 2 right now! Finally, there’d be a lot more moaning if the BBC was INCREASING the number of senior managers, rather than reducing it.

  5. Billy says

    Oh dear, Radio Caroline for me

  6. Barbara says

    Please all observe a minute’s silence for the imminent demise of Radio 2. They have been working towards this for months. RIP

  7. Annie says

    I have listened to Radio 2 for over 50 years, if I wanted to listen to tinny, electronic, repetitive, timeless, lyricless rubbish I would go to Radio 1.
    Whatever happened to quality music on Radio 2 and presenters who didn’t need to gasp for breath every few seconds because they’re talking too quickly?
    Keep Radio 1 for younger listeners and return Radio 2 to the great station it used to be or more people will be doing what I’m about to do…switch off!! Goodbye Radio 2.

  8. Allan Wallace says

    It is perfectly reasonable to expect Radio 2 to employ bonafide disc jockeys to play classic tracks for a mature audience as opposed to hiring stars of stage and screen with no radio experience simply because they are household names.
    Hopefully, the new management structure will return Radio 2 to its former glory with talented disc jockeys, memorable songs from previous decades, fabulous JAM jingles and quality entertainment.

    1. SJ says

      “Bonafide disc jockeys” like Steve Wright? A man whose total lack of personality baffles me every time I listen, personally! And, seriously, JAM jingles? I’ve said it before… radio stations, thankfully, aren’t programmed to please radio anoraks.

      1. neal says

        I am getting bloody sick of being called a radio anorak. If you seriously think that most so called DJ’s today can hold a torch to the likes of Bob Harris, Johnnie Walker, and those no longer with us particularly Roger Scott I can only imagine you are not old enough to have been able to listen him. There will never be anybody to come anywhere near the talent he had or have the respect of the music industry and artists he gained. I suggest you take a listen to a couple of his Radio 1 Sunday shows available on a tribute website his son has built then come back on here and tell us all how much better the current crop of celebs are!!!

        1. SJ says

          I’m actually now in Radio 2’s target audience. I just want to be entertained and get something I can’t get from Spotify between the songs. I don’t particularly care about the presenter’s background and whether they’ve got a long history of slickly talking over song intros and I suspect most listeners feel the same. Truth be told I’m an anorak too, appreciate the craft of those DJs of the past and enjoy listening to old Airchecks. But radio’s great strength is the way it evolves to stay current and competitive. And Radio 2’s audience figures suggest it’s doing a lot right. All I’m saying is, nostalgia is great. But styles and ways of doing things evolve.

          1. Neal says

            Appreciate the point SJ. My problem is where is the mid 50s listener now supposed to go? The BBC have decided to hand Radio 1 to teenagers then give Radio 2 to the listeners they have pushed away from Radio 1. The previous Radio 2 listeners who enjoyed the likes of Bob Harris (Saturdays) ,Mark Lamarr, Paul Jones presumably are now supposed to put up with/adjust to the new breed or just go to a corner and die. I thought it was supposed to be a BBC for everyone. The problem is there is NO new talent coming up to replace the DJs from my past who have a passion for music and are allowed to present their own show and playlist without having to jump through the pc brigade hoops. Huey Morgan’s show is a wonderfull example of what a show can sound like when it is not subject to a playlist but hey they stick that on at 4am! and have to say whether you are a soul fan or not Trevor Nelson is much more the style of DJ I think Radio 2 should be looking for. Another great example of what the BBC should be much more about is the brilliant Eve Blair weekdays at 11pm on BBC Radio Ulster . Again I appreciate music choices are very personal but her knowledge and love of what she plays is really what comes across and what frustrates me so much is the BBC should not be dumbing down and just be playing the rstings game. On that basis 6 Music should change places with Radio 3 but the Beeb only wants to play the ratings game when it suits them!

    2. Robin Blamires says

      There’s a better chance of Wogan making a comeback…

  9. Roy says

    I agree that Radio 2 does seem to have gone downhill since Bob Shennan (who had modernised the station so well) was moved aside. I will still pick and choose my Radio 2 shows as I have always done, but can I point readers in the direction of some now excellent choices now available through hospital, online and community stations. Though some are truly awful, some, like the station I work with, have the freedom to play a much wider range of music and shows than stations needing to make a profit, so sticking to mainstream playlists. Although HWD Radio is a hospital and now online station, we do have some excellent shows and presenters and I urge anyone looking for more variety to give these stations a try. Quick plug: My own show is called ‘Rock Me Gently’ and I broadcast live each Sunday evening 5 ’til 8pm based in Dewsbury General Hospital in Wakefield. My show is a celebration of the great album music from the 1960’s onwards which never gets played on mainstream radio (Dylan, Joni, Dan Fogelberg, Neil Young, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis etc. Give us a try and let me know what you think. The station does have it’s own chatline. thanks Roy.

  10. Radio Geordie says

    When did the Asian Network become a pop station?
    I though it was supposed to be catering to the Asian audience – hence its name.

  11. James says

    Please please please make this the end of Steve Wright – The man’s been doing the SAME show for about 40 years. It’s excruciating and painful to listen to and given the revamp of almost every other show, somehow he remains on air – Why??


    bet more radio ruday staff will follow chris evens ti birgun radio the4 moment radio 2 gies under.

    1. Adrian Smith says

      Beg pardon?

  13. Adrian Smith says

    Hopefully this will mean the end of Steve Wright and the tedious ‘big show’ that he’s subjected us to for almost 40 years. Yes, 40! He must have ‘something’ on management to have been so poor for so long.

  14. MARK LEVY says

    Sounds like they’re going back to the old Robin Scott days in 1967. Hope this doesn’t mean going back to programme sharing again.

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