What’s Happened To BBC Radio?

The news this week of Zoe Ball and Sara Cox haemorrhaging (yep, did a quick Spellcheck) listeners on Radio 2 made me wonder what’s the point of these figures, given that the people who hired them have no idea what their audience actually wants. Clearly, not over excited shrieking inanities at 6.30am for one thing, or the same with less shrieking at drivetime.

Although I had the delightful task of launching Vanessa Feltz (sadly not into outer space) when I was at the BBC I have to grudgingly and with gritted teeth admit the woman is a damn fine broadcaster, smart, funny and worth listening to. She’s in one of the invisible early morning slots on Radio 2, although she is also on Radio London and is paid an extortionate amount of your/my licence fee, but that’s for another time and blog.

I’m a big fan of BBC Three Counties Radio. When I attend (pre corona) my St Albans network group Platinum Point, or go to my Hertfordshire office, as soon as I cross the Herts boundary on the M25  if it’s morning I tune in to the JVS Show, great for debate and consumer issues, or after 3pm for Roberto Perrone, chat, current affairs, lively and entertaining. I am sure that other BBC regional radio stations are just as good and I’m also absolutely sure that if the BBC is doing any radio related cost cutting, it will be looking at regional and not national first.

My other go-to is Radio Four. I think it’s one of those you really enjoy as you get older  whereby you appreciate intelligent debate, scientific nuggets, a few comedy gems, From Our Own Correspondent and quirky documentaries.  When I was at the BBC I took a week off and ‘did’ Cornwall as I’d never been before. The only radio station I could get was Radio Four and I still remember a fascinating 30 minute documentary about lunch deliveries in an Indian city. I’ll also confess to being an Archers fan, although I’m sure we’d all like to live in Ambridge or Borcetshire as they haven’t even mentioned COVID-19, let alone anyone dying from it.

To be fair to Lauren Laverne, if I must, Kirsty Young is a pretty hard act to follow on Desert Island Discs, so she hasn’t even tried. Apparently not fully researching your DID subject or asking any truly insightful or revealing questions is paramount. The producers have also gorged on the same BBC memo about attracting younger viewers/listeners, so ensuring that the DID subject is interesting or has led a truly worthwhile life and made a useful contribution to society is no longer a prerequisite for being on the programme. Apart from a new notables the recently honoured guests have been ex Spice Girl Mel C, the aforementioned Zoe Ball, ex footballer Ian Wright, Ricky Gervais’ less funny support act Stephen Merchant and actor Stephen Graham (look him up).