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Radio 2 Golden Oldies Station Suspended Due to Competitors' Complaints

Radio 2 Golden Oldies Station Suspended Due to Competitors’ Complaints

BBC’s Radio 2 Spin-off Faces Obstacle

Radio 2 has seen a drop in listeners since Vernon Kay took over Ken Bruce’s slot last year. Photograph: BBC/PA
Radio 2 has seen a drop in listeners since Vernon Kay took over Ken Bruce’s slot last year. Photograph: BBC/PA

The BBC’s plans to launch a Radio 2 “golden oldies” spin-off station have hit a roadblock after commercial rivals lodged complaints with the media regulator.

In February, the BBC revealed plans for a new online channel aimed at older listeners. This channel would focus on music from the 50s to the 70s and feature personalities who influenced the cultural scene during that time.

Radio 2 remains the UK’s most popular station with 13.2 million weekly listeners, but it’s been facing a decline in audience since Ken Bruce left last year. In recent years, notable figures like Bruce, Graham Norton, Chris Evans, Vanessa Feltz, and Simon Mayo have exited the station, while new names like Vernon Kay, Scott Mills, and Zoë Ball have joined.

Ken Bruce left Radio 2 in March 2023, citing the lack of a new contract offer from the BBC and his desire for new challenges. Since then, he has increased the audience for his new mid-morning show on Greatest Hits Radio by 73% over the past year, thanks in part to his popular PopMaster quiz.

The BBC hoped to launch its new online station on BBC Sounds this month, without undergoing the rigorous scrutiny required for analogue or digital stations. An internal BBC investigation suggested that the new station wouldn’t significantly harm its competitors.

However, Ofcom expressed concerns that launching the new station on BBC Sounds could harm online stations aimed at the boomer generation, like Boom Radio and Absolute Radio’s digital channels. As a result, Ofcom has mandated a full public interest test for the proposed Radio 2 spin-off.

Ofcom has allowed two other planned spin-offs from Radio 1 and Radio 3 to proceed, as they are not expected to adversely impact competition. The Radio 1 spin-off will feature music from the 2000s and 2010s, catering to young listeners’ preference for “recent nostalgia.” Meanwhile, the Radio 3 spin-off will focus on calming classical music to help listeners relax and escape daily pressures.

Phil Riley, co-founder of Boom Radio, had warned that the Radio 2 spin-off could potentially drive his station out of business. “[The BBC] says the new station would offer ‘best-loved presenters playing oldies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s,’ but that is exactly what Boom has been doing since it was created to serve Radio 2’s disenfranchised audience,” he said.

“As a small independent business, we don’t have the buffer to withstand this threat. We’re glad to have succeeded in the first round of arguments,” Riley added.

An Ofcom spokesperson mentioned, “We will publish our decision in the coming days.”

Source: The Guardian