Commercial radio slams BBC’s “obsession with youth”

Commercial radio chiefs have accused BBC Radio 2 of targeting younger listeners, which it claims has been “disastrous” for the ad-funded sector.

Dermot O'Leary
Dermot O’Leary

Responding to the BBC Trust’s review of Radio 2 and 6 Music, industry body RadioCentre says the station has an “obsession with youth” and “is failing properly to serve older listeners”.

The body says Radio 2 has shifted its programming policies and that the average Radio 2 listener is getting younger, claiming the “strongest growth” for the station has come from listeners outside its “target” audience.

RadioCentre says that Radio 2’s reach amongst 15- 34s, traditionally the domain of commercial radio and Radio 1, has grown by 62% since 1999.

Radio 2 has brought a number of television personalities and ex-Radio 1 presenters, including Dermot O’Leary (pictured) and Chris Evans, to the station, in recent years to sit alongside older presenters such as Terry Wogan. It is the most listened to station in the UK, with recent Rajar data showing the station attracts 13.4m listeners a week.

Andrew Harrison, chief executive of RadioCentre, says:”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.”

Harrison adds the BBC “urgently needs to rebalance its portfolio” because Radio 1 and 1Xtra both target younger listeners, while 6music and Radio 2’s audiences are becoming increasingly younger. “That could be construed as an obsession with youth,” he says.

Despite RadioCentre’s concerns, quarter two Rajar figures showed commercial radio increasing its share of listeners aged between 15-44 listeners, up to 52.9% from 51.6% in quarter one.

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