Is the BBC planning radio spinoffs to get more listeners?

According to the Times newspaper, the BBC wants to launch spinoffs of its most popular national radio stations to attract listeners from the commercial stations.

The newspaper says the proposals have been discussed with Ofcom, which would allow the BBC to offer similar brands but with slightly different playlists, such as Radio 1 Dance or Radio 2 80s.

This comes on the back of commercial brands such as Heart and Absolute increasing audience by introducing decades stations.

The report says the BBC’s commercial competitors say the licence fee shouldn’t be used to copy formats that already exist and one industry source is said to have questioned why the corporation was considering it when it says it can’t afford the funding of free TV licences for the over-75s.

It’s been suggested that approval might be fast-tracked if the new stations are streamed via BBC Sounds rather than being on DAB.

A BBC spokeswoman told the Times: “We’re always looking at how best we can serve audiences, including on BBC Sounds considering how much listening habits are changing, but it’s too early to comment on any plans.”

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26 Comments
  1. Tony says

    Spinoffs should be spin-offs. That’s correct English, isn’t it?

  2. Dave says

    On the one hand the BBC is having to make cuts to the red button service on freeview to save money & on the other they are looking to start up new radio stations. Sounds a bit crazy to me.
    If they need to save money shut down all medium & long wave transmiters.

    1. Willie Bone says

      Re: Dave Says – Definitely agree! Current BBC medium/long wave transmissions contracts are due to expire next spring and should not be renewed. Money better spent on programme output..

  3. Sue says

    I seem to remember there being plans that were scrapped for a 24 hour rolling news channel on I think it was radio 4 long wave frequency.

    1. Radio Geordie says

      There were plans for Five Live to be split into a news service and a separate sports service on DAB once digital switchover happened. That switchover was expected to happen in 2012, just after the TV switchover, but unlike TV, it never happened as DAB reception is pretty ropey if you move about.
      A digital switchover will happen, but its looking likely that’s not going to happen until nearer 2030 (as many FM licences will be on-air until at least then).

      1. Willie Bone says

        RE: Radio Geordie – I suspect, 4G/5G will be the future carrier for radio programme delivery by the late 2020s! Why maintain an expensive network of transmitters for audio only broadcasting, albeit with a few additional colour slides and maps

  4. peter stanley says

    Hopefully at least a BBC 80s station wouldn’t just be playing the same tiny number of songs over and over again at different times of the day like Heart 80s does.

  5. Jack says

    The BBC have never afforded free tv licences for the over 75s. It was the government that introduced this benefit and the current government that stopped funding it. The BBC just gracefully had to take the hit and take the heat off the government for removing the benefit so as to get their charter renewed quickly. I wish the media wold stop saying the BBC are pleading poverty by removing it. They had no choice to take on this extra burden and in real terms the licence fee has never been so low considering how many tv radio and online services it provides us licence fee payers happy to pay it.

  6. Ray Woodward says

    Quite possible, given the future plans to add BBC Sounds to Sky Q along with the high bandwidth streams of BBC radio networks …

  7. Sam McFerran says

    As far as I’m concerned their spin-offs will make no difference to me radio 2 is wrecked no matter what programme controllers think
    At 13 years old back in the 70s Radio 2 was unique with its music with its programmes, personalities etc and even turned me away from Radio 1 it was so good but nothing since the days of David Jacobs at lunchtime etc Radio 2 is completely gone and I would never listen to it ever again

    1. T1 says

      BBC used to get criticised for not moving with the times. Now they are criticised for not staying in the past. They cannot win!

      1. mb23 says

        If there is spare money available why not invest it in better programming on Radio 2 & Radio 4?

        The BBC is a public service broadcaster, it shouldn’t be trying to play a meaningless ratings game with commercial radio by launching decade stations.

        If we assume that these stations will cost a few million pounds each, this would go a long way to funding orchestras and live music, the kind of thing that commercial radio will never do..

    2. Alan Kinghorn says

      I would also like to hear some programmes specially for my aging group of listeners. About we had a Radio 2 Plus for us. Does the BBC think that their listeners don’t listen to the radio when they pass Sixty. Not every older person listens to Radio 4.

  8. Tim Pardington says

    I suppose the plus side for introducing genre-based BBC stations would be that there would be no commercials, and the memory of listening to great music radio is a good idea. But have you realised the level of choice of such stations? Loads of stations online, the stations on Heart and Absolute at the moment, Eagle Radio and others. The BBC would have to come up with something special.

    1. Sue says

      Very few people listen on medium & long wave these days, maybe putting these spin off stations on AM mite help stop the decline in listeners.

  9. Richard Wall says

    Good idea but two years too late i think, Radio 1 VIntage would have been brilliant if it was still going rather than just a “pop up” station for the 50th anniversary that they had, would be a good idea if they made it more perminant on BBC Sounds – either Radio 1 Vntage or even a Radio 2 Vintage with the best of Retrospective pop

  10. Joe Smith says

    Why not start Radio 2 Garbage and move Feltz, Vine & Wright for starters to this new spin-off?

    Of course you would need to find presenters to replace them but that wouldn’t be difficult would it?

  11. Len Groat says

    This is disgraceful !

    The BBC want to spend yet MORE Licence Fee promoting themselves but ALREADY have too many station with too few format!

    “Radio 2 80s” ??

    WHAT a JOKE – it sound like 80s ALL DAY with the drab London-trendy music the ‘presenters’ play whilst IGNORING the genesis of GREAT POP in the 60s and 70s…..

    They need DEEJAYS ….. who cater for over 50s !

    1. Mr Boltar says

      “whilst IGNORING the genesis of GREAT POP in the 60s and 70s”

      70s was ok, 60s music is just a load of nasal whining and guitar twanging thats more than catered for with the endless mouldy oldie Gold stations all over the country.

      1. Joe Smith says

        What a ridiculous generalisation.

        1. Mr Boltar says

          Thats what most 60s music sounds like to me. 50s music rocked, 60s was just awful. God knows what the appeal of The Beatles is – whiny lift music. And the Stones are so cringingly bad its funny.

  12. Gareth Hart says

    For the BBC to launch any spinoff station on, DAB, they are going to have to finally embrace DAB+…

    …so BBC Sounds exclusive they are then!

  13. Stuart O. says

    PLEASE NOT ANOTHER 80’S STATION! Use some imagination BBC and think of a format that isn’t currently available on DAB nationally or only currently available to a small area of the UK.
    We already have Heart 80’s and Absolute 80’s nationally on DAB. Plus there are more local 80’s stations on DAB in certain parts of the UK. In my area we also have Love 80’s Liverpool and Signal 80’s. We don’t need any more 80’s stations.

    I’ve always said that because the playlist only spans 10 years, then the variety of songs played on a Decades station should be wider by trying to play much less of the Top 20 and less of the Top 40 and play more chart songs that didn’t make it into the Top 40, even playing 80’s album tracks if they’re good and quite well known to anyone who has followed 80’s acts.

    There’s no dedicated 60’s station nationally on DAB anymore so why not Radio 2 60’s?

    Currently Radio 2’s playlist sometimes feels too much like what Radio 1 so Radio 2 should be called Radio 1 and a half!

  14. Les says

    There seems to be an assumption that, to cater for an older (over 50’s) audience, we just want to hear oldies all the time .. and especially from the decade when we were teenagers. While it’s nice to hear the odd oldie now and again, our lives didn’t end in 1989. We we still want to hear and discover something new (albeit, without being subjected the the sort of “chart” sounds that fill most of the ILR stations and women’s clothes shops) In other words, can’t we just have Radio 2 back, the way it was before it tried to become more “relevant” and “trendy” Rather than bring out new targeted oldie stations, wouldn’t it be better to fix and improve something that already exists.

  15. Gerard Byrne says

    For heavens sake more waste of public money. They have way too many stations always following the commercial stations why? They are not giving choice just more of the same that is still available. Stop the waste they are never trend setters or standard setters they are always followers throwing huge sums of money at projects and not serving many groups at the same time.

  16. david worth says

    Why stop at 80s why not copy every commercial radio format, no concern about cost, just put up licence fee and pay the dj 250000 gbp the por will pay and oaps

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