BBC bosses 'are AXING older DJs to attract younger listeners'

Radio 2 for the Instagram generation: BBC bosses are axing older ‘baby-boomer’ DJs for likes of Scott Mills, DJ Spoony and RuPaul’s Michelle Visage who will play hits from the 90s instead of the 60s and attract younger female listeners, experts say

  • BBC bosses are sidelining older ‘baby-boomer’ DJs, PR experts have claimed
  • Instead they are ‘trying to woo younger listeners with fresh talent’
  • Paul O’Grady quit his Radio 2 Sunday afternoon show after almost 13 years 
  • Steve Wright, Tony Blackburn and Craig Charles also lost out in BBC shake-up  
  • Radio 2 listeners accused BBC bosses of ageism in furious backlash 

BBC bosses are sidelining older ‘baby-boomer’ DJs such as Paul O’Grady and Steve Wright in favour of faces like Scott Mills and RuPaul Drag Race’s Michelle Visage so they can woo ‘Gen Z’ and attract younger listeners, experts have claimed. 

Furious fans accused the corporation of ageism after O’Grady, 67, announced he was quitting Radio 2 following a shake-up that saw him split his Sunday evening show with comic Rob Beckett. 

PR experts have suggested that the reshuffle is all part of an attempt by bosses to effectively rebrand the station by replacing the ‘old guard’ – which includes Tony Blackburn and Craig Charles – with younger talent such as former Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, 48.

They pointed out that the BBC was giving celebrities who might appeal to the so-called ‘Instagram generation’, such as Visage, 53, Waterloo Road actress Angela Griffin, 46, and DJ Spoony, 52, a shot at running popular slots on Friday and Saturday nights.

But they warned that the shake-up could ‘alienate’ older listeners and push them towards Radio 2’s competitors, such as Smooth, Heart and Gold, which are all owned by Global.

BBC insiders previously claimed that the corporation has been specifically targeting women between the ages of 35 and 45 as a key demographic, having previously given them the title ‘mood mums’. They claimed Radio 2 was trying to get DJs to play fewer songs from the 1960s and 70s in a bid to attract a younger audience.

PR expert Rochelle White told MailOnline: ‘There will be a bit of a backlash to these changes. No one really copes well with change, do they? 

‘I think this is all about getting rid of the old blood and bringing in the new. It looks like this is an attempt to tap into the Millennials and Gen Z, and get them on board, and they might be trying to do that by giving personalities who are popular on social media better slots. 

‘For instance, they took Scott Mills off Radio 1 not long ago, but then said he would replace Steve Wright on Radio 2. A lot of people like Mills, and the BBC might imagine that it can attract his listeners to Radio 2.

‘There’s also Michelle Visage from RuPaul – maybe that’s just the BBC swapping out one model for a newer one.

‘I also wonder how much of this is about the licence fee and the row that the BBC has had with the Government recently. Plus the BBC’s had bad press over impartiality and so on.

‘Perhaps they’re tying to get young people on the hook to show them why they should stick with the BBC, and then turn around to the Government and say: ”See, we’re popular and we provide value for the licence fee. There’s no need to change it”. Maybe there’s some of that going on too.’

Radio 2 fans have accused the BBC of ageism after Paul O’Grady quit the station today. He is the latest in a string of older DJs to step back, including Steve Wright, Graham Norton and Simon Mayo. The ‘changing of the guard’ brings with it younger talent, including ex-Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, RuPaul’s Michelle Visage, Waterloo Road’s Angela Griffin, and DJ Spoony


Paul O’Grady and Steve Wright have both quit their Radio 2 shows in recent weeks

Four BBC broadcasters got more than £10,000 on top of their salaries for work outside the corporation between April and June, new data shows.

On-air talent and senior leaders have had to publicly declare their paid outside work, including public speaking engagements, appearances or writing commitments, since January 2021.

Clive Myrie, Nick Robinson, Huw Edwards and Katya Adler were paid undisclosed sums of more than £10,000 in the three months, according to the BBC’s external events register.

Mastermind host Myrie was paid to be a moderator at an event by SCC on May 19, while Robinson, a presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme, received his payment for speaking at an event organised by law firm Mishcon de Reya on May 5.

In the BBC’s 2021/2022 annual report, Myrie was listed as having a salary of between £255,000-259,999, while Robinson was paid between £270,000-274,999.

Europe editor Adler, meanwhile, was paid for a speech for the Futures Industry Association on June 7.

And News at Ten presenter Edwards was paid for hosting an event for The British Insurance Brokers’ Association on May 11.

According to the BBC annual report, Adler earned between £215,000-219,999 in 2021/2022, while Edwards earned between £410,000-414,999.

The register classes payments in four categories – below £1,000, £1,000-5,000, £5,000-10,000, and more than £10,000.

Thirteen BBC journalists, including Fiona Bruce and Naga Munchetty, were paid between £5,000-10,000 for outside work.

Kirsty Wark, Newsnight’s longest-serving presenter, undertook two pieces of work that fell into that pay bracket – hosting an event for World Skills UK and for interview work with law firm Akin Gump.

Myrie was paid between £5,000-10,000 on two occasions – for serving as a host for PR Week and speaking for the Association of Investment Companies.

Other journalists who featured in the bracket included Faisal Islam, Spencer Kelly and Robinson.

Staff must seek written approval from a divisional head of department before signing up to any external engagements.

Director-general Tim Davie announced the move in October 2020 as part of a series of measures aimed at ensuring the broadcaster’s impartiality.

In the past three years, BBC Radio has also lost big-hitters Graham Norton, who quit the station just before Christmas in 2020 but whose talk show is broadcast on BBC One, and Simon Mayo.

The shake-up has provoked a backlash, with one furious listener tweeting: ‘Steve Wright, Tony Blackburn, Craig Charles and now Paul O’Grady all shafted. What is wrong with the muppets that control Radio 2? Smacks of ageism somewhat’. 

Another said: ‘What is the management doing to Radio 2? First Simon Mayo, then Graham Norton, Steve Wright, Paul O’Grady. Who next, Ken Bruce? Liza Tarbuck? We’re losing the best. I don’t want a 90s obsessed Radio 2 full of ex R1 DJs’. 

A third added: ‘Another DJ quits… I rarely ever listen now, as it’s become too woke. Seems that @BBCRadio2 is really falling apart and going down the pan! The BBC is certainly not what it used to be!’. 

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘It was Paul’s decision to leave his Sunday afternoon show on Radio 2. Radio 2 remains committed to its multi-generational appeal that serves a 35+ audience, a target which hasn’t changed in decades, and we’re thrilled over 14.5 million listeners are tuning in each week to our brilliant range of programmes, hosted by some of the UK’s best loved presenters. 

‘As listeners know, we continue to play a wide variety of the best music from the past seven decades, including from the 60s and 70s.’

It comes amid a wider ‘brain drain’ after journalists Dan Walker, Jon Sopel, Emily Maitlis and Andrew Marr all ditched the corporation for high-paid jobs at rival broadcasters including LBC and Channel 5, where they are not bound by the BBC’s strict impartiality rules. 

O’Grady hosted the Sunday evening 5-7pm slot since 2009 before a shake-up saw him regularly swapping with comic Rob Beckett, each for 13 weeks at a time. 

His last programme on the station will be on Sunday August 14, when his current cycle ends.

O’Grady said: ‘I’ve loved doing my Sunday afternoon show for the last 14 years and I’m going to miss my listeners as well as the fun I’ve had with my producer Malcolm Prince, but I feel that now is the right time to go.’

Helen Thomas, Head of Radio 2, added: ‘I’d like to thank Paul for so many years of his brilliant Sunday afternoon show. 

‘I’m sorry to see him go, but I wish Paul the very best of luck for the future and hope to work with him again as the door is always open to him here at Radio 2.’ 

The star launched his weekly Sunday afternoon show in 2009, and for many years Paul ‘The Grinch’ O’Grady has hosted his Christmas Day special on the network featuring messages and dedications from listeners all over the world, as well as an eclectic seasonal playlist.

In February, after the schedule change prompted an unhappy response from listeners, the BBC said plans ‘evolve over time’. 

O’Grady, also known by his drag queen persona Lily Savage, had told his Instagram followers: ‘There’s a new regime now… which is nothing to do with me as it’s a management decision.’ 

His final show will feature his regular features, including Lost TV Theme, the Thank You Letter Of The Week and an unexpected playlist. 

The BBC confirmed Beckett will return for at least another 13 weeks of shows from Sunday August 21.

It comes after Radio 2 fans deplored the BBC’s decision to replace popular DJ Steve Wright with Radio 1’s Scott Mills as the corporation seeks to ‘try something different’.

As he exited Wogan House in July, donning a purple shirt, red striped tie and suit jacket, Wright told reporters it was ‘nice of you to come over’, adding: ‘That’s the way it goes… You know, sometimes people want you, sometimes they don’t. 

‘Sometimes they want to make changes, give you another offer, and that’s okay, I understand that, I really understand that.’

In announcing his departure, Wright said he will have his final show in September and that the BBC has ‘always been fair and kind’ to him.

He will continue working for the broadcaster, promising ‘new projects’ in October.  He will also still present Love Songs on Sunday mornings.

Fans of the DJ, who has been with the corporation for more than 40 years after joining in 1980 to present a Radio 1 Saturday night show, said they will stop listening to the afternoon slot when he leaves.

One called it a ‘diabolical’ decision, with another Tweeting: ‘Ending his show is a terrible mistake BBC. There goes your audience.’

Another listener said: ‘His show is honestly what gets me through my work each day. Once he’s gone, the radio will be turned off for good.’

‘He should’ve had his job for life,’ another added. Others called it a ‘big mistake’ and a ‘sad and bad move’ from the BBC.

 

Twitter users accused the BBC of ageism, as O’Grady’s departure is the latest in a string of changes to the Radio schedule with several older presenters including Steve Wright, Tony Blackburn and Craig Charles all having lost their favoured slots in recent months

However, the decision was also met with praise, with listeners saying that it was time for a change of host.

Also in July, Vanessa Feltz quit her early morning breakfast show after nearly 20 years on air.

Feltz said she had to step down ‘to catch up on a much-needed decade’s deficit of beauty sleep’ and use her ‘energy-boosting shut-eye’ to ‘frolic with her fiancé Ben Ofoedu ‘who irritatingly remains 10 years younger than me.’

Breaking down on her show as she announced the news to her listeners, the star said she would ‘try not to cry’.

She said: ‘I have something to tell you, and I know you already know that I love you – oh I knew I was going to cry but I’m going to try not too… It has been an honour to share the early hours with you.’

In June, Tony Blackburn attacked the BBC for its ‘strange’ decision to move his Radio 2 show.

The 79-year-old DJ appeared to blame the decision on ageism, saying in a post on social media ‘there’s a lot of it about’.

Blackburn learned that from mid-July his Golden Hour show would be moved from 7pm on Fridays to the same time on Sunday.

Blackburn criticised the ‘wacky’ decision on Twitter, and fans of the show flocked to support the former Radio 1 DJ. One commented that the BBC was ‘making a lot of mistakes’ by changing up the scheduling.

The Golden Hour move is part of wider changes to Radio 2 scheduling that sees Craig Charles’ Saturday House Party axed.

The channel will host new shows from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK judge Michelle Visage, Waterloo Road actress Angela Griffin and DJ Spoony. 

An insider said there were ‘a lot of unhappy DJs at the moment as a result’.

At the same time as BBC bosses try to remain popular with younger audiences, the corporation has also been beset by a host of big name departures over the past year. 

In an unforeseen exit, veteran broadcaster Andrew Marr last winter revealed that he was leaving the BBC after 21 years, including 16 years fronting his own Sunday morning political programme, to join LBC and Classic FM.

He said he was ‘keen to get my own voice back’ and would now focus on presenting political and cultural radio shows and writing for newspapers.

Marr was swiftly followed by Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel, who also joined LBC.

The veteran journalists caused disarray at Broadcasting House after deciding to join Leicester Square-based Global, which is also home to Nick Ferrari, Eddie Mair, Shelagh Fogarty and James O’Brien.

Maitlis, who hosted Newsnight and became a household name after her astonishing interview with Prince Andrew about his friendship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, has had a series of impartiality complaints against her because of her tweets and on-air comments about the pandemic, the Tory Government and Boris Johnson’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings.

And in April, BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker revealed he was leaving his £295,000-a-year role after six years to be lead anchor at Channel 5’s revamped news team. 

His former Breakfast co-star Louise Minchin also left last year as she looked to spent more quality time with her family.

Out with the old…? BBC big-hitters Paul O’Grady, Steve Wright and Tony Blackburn step back as Scott Mills and RuPaul’s Drag Race star Michelle Visage take the helm

THE RADIO 2 BIG-HITTERS STEPPING BACK

STEVE WRIGHT

Steve Wright announced he would stop hosting his daily afternoon programme in July

Radio 2 fans deplored the BBC’s decision to replace popular DJ Steve Wright with Radio 1’s Scott Mills as the corporation seeks to ‘try something different’.

As he exited Wogan House in July, donning a purple shirt, red striped tie and suit jacket, Wright told reporters it was ‘nice of you to come over’, adding: ‘That’s the way it goes… You know, sometimes people want you, sometimes they don’t.

‘Sometimes they want to make changes, give you another offer, and that’s okay, I understand that, I really understand that.’

TONY BLACKBURN

Tony Blackburn has also taken a step back

In June, Tony Blackburn attacked the BBC for its ‘strange’ decision to move his Radio 2 show.

The 79-year-old DJ appeared to blame the decision on ageism, saying in a post on social media ‘there’s a lot of it about’.

Blackburn criticised the ‘wacky’ decision on Twitter, and fans of the show flocked to support the former Radio 1 DJ. One commented that the BBC was ‘making a lot of mistakes’ by changing up the scheduling.

CRAIG CHARLES

Craig Charles also lost his Saturday night slot in the ongoing BBC shake-up

Craig Charles’ Radio 2 show on a Saturday night was axed as part of a major shake up of the BBC channel, sparking uproar from fans.

The star, 57, has presented his show Craig Charles’ House Party on Saturdays from 10pm to midnight since 2014.

In a series of other changes Drag Race star Michelle Visage will permanently join the station with a Friday slot from 7-9pm.

VANESSA FELTZ

In July, Vanessa Feltz quit her early morning breakfast show after nearly 20 years on air 

Also in July, Vanessa Feltz quit her early morning breakfast show after nearly 20 years on air.

Feltz said she had to step down ‘to catch up on a much-needed decade’s deficit of beauty sleep’ and use her ‘energy-boosting shut-eye’ to ‘frolic with her fiancé Ben Ofoedu ‘who irritatingly remains 10 years younger than me.’

Breaking down on her show as she announced the news to her listeners, the star said she would ‘try not to cry’.

… AND THEIR REPLACEMENTS?

SCOTT MILLS

Scott Mills is stepping down from his R1 weekday afternoon slot in order to succeed radio legend Steve Wright as the host of his programme.

It comes after the broadcaster said goodbye to Radio 1 breakfast host Nick Grimshaw and Future Sounds star Annie Mac last year. 

MICHELLE VISAGE

Michelle Visage hosts a permanent Friday night slot from 7-9pm on Radio 2 

Michelle Visage hosts a permanent Friday night slot from 7-9pm on Radio 2.

The Drag Race judge, who stepped into the limelight in the late 1980s in the States as a member of the girl band Seduction, endeared herself to the wider public in the 2010s as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

But after crossing the pond to the UK in 2019, Visage, who’s joked that she was ‘a gay British man’ in a former life, found a new fan base, taking part in Channel 5’s Celebrity Big Brother UK and remaining in the house for 30 days.

Four years later, she became an instant favourite when she strutted down the Strictly stage with Giovanni Pernice in 2019.

ANGELA GRIFFIN

Waterloo Road actress Angela Griffin hosts Radio 2 Unwinds 

Waterloo Road actress Angela Griffin hosts Radio 2 Unwinds, a Sunday night show (10pm-midnight) to take listeners on a ‘mood-boosting musical journey across genres and decades, to help them relax and switch off’.

She said: ‘I’m over the moon to be given my very own BBC Radio 2 programme. I loved presenting my series last year as I was already a huge fan of the station, so I’m proud to be given my first proper weekly show.

‘I’ll be bringing two hours of chilled out tunes curated by myself and the listeners, to help unwind and relax before the week ahead.’

DJ SPOONY

DJ Spoony hosts a Friday night slot from 9-11pm on Radio 2 

DJ Spoony hosts a Friday night slot from 9-11pm on Radio 2.

The BBC website describes the show as: ‘Non-stop two happy hour of joyful floor fillers, soulful house and lyrical garage tunes to make you feel good!’

WHO ELSE HAS RECENTLY LEFT THE BBC AND RADIO 2? 

ANDREW MARR

Andrew Marr quit the Corporation last winter to front shows on LBC and Classic FM 

Andrew Marr quit the Corporation last winter to front shows on LBC and Classic FM, and is thought to have significantly increased his pay of up to £339,999 in the move.

Marr’s new weekday show will see him become the newest member of LBC’s line-up, which includes Nick Ferrari, James O’Brien, Eddie Mair, Shelagh Fogarty, Iain Dale, Tom Swarbrick, David Lammy, Camilla Tominey and Matt Frei.

EMILY MAITLIS and JON SOPEL

Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel followed Andrew Marr and jumped ship for LBC in February 

Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel followed Andrew Marr and jumped ship for LBC in February this year.

The veteran journalists caused disarray at Broadcasting House after deciding to join Leicester Square-based Global, which is also home to Nick Ferrari, Eddie Mair, Shelagh Fogarty and James O’Brien.

Maitlis, who hosted Newsnight, has had a series of impartiality complaints against her because of her tweets and on-air comments about the pandemic, the Tory Government and Boris Johnson’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings.

DAN WALKER

Dan Walker also jumped ship and ditched the BBC, joining Channel 5 to be lead anchor on its revamped 5News team 

Dan Walker also jumped ship and ditched the BBC, joining Channel 5 to be lead anchor on its revamped 5News team.

He walked away from his £295,000-295,999 a year role at the Beeb

The BBC dismissed the ‘brain drain’ of top talent ditching the broadcaster as ‘people come, people go’.

GRAHAM NORTON

Graham Norton quit Radio 2 before Christmas 2020

Graham Norton quit Radio 2 before Christmas 2020, but his hugely popular talk show is still broadcast on BBC television.

He said in a statement at the time: ‘Obviously I’m sad to be stepping away from my Radio 2 show. I’ll miss being a part of the Wogan House family, as well as the listeners and their lives.’

SIMON MAYO

Simon Mayo left BBC Radio 2 for Scala Radio in 2019 

Simon Mayo left BBC Radio 2 for Scala Radio in 2019.

In May this year, he branded the broadcaster ‘soul destroying’ for the ‘hoops’ it makes people jump through to get a show greenlit – adding that his podcast fronted by two men would have ‘no chance’ in today’s woke era.

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