26 May

BBC Acknowledges that it has failed to maintain its appeal to Older Listeners

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BBC ACKNOWLEDGES THAT IT HAS FAILED TO MAINTAIN ITS APPEAL TO MANY OLDER LISTENERS

Last February BBC Radio 2 was told to do more to appeal to older listeners - particularly over-65s.

In a major review of the station, the BBC Trust said Britain's biggest network should find a "more varied and challenging selection of programmes" - even if this meant losing some of its audience. The review, which began nine months earlier, said Radio 2 needed to be more "distinctive" and more ambitious in its "non-music" programmes in peak-time. The station targets over 35s with 82% of its audience within that age range with the average audience member of 50. But it said Radio 2 must do "more to target those over 65 years of age". The Trust concluded that Radio 2 was highly regarded by audiences but should use its scale to be more distinctive.

Other recommendations today included: Providing peak-time audiences with more content they could not hear elsewhere, refreshing comedy and arts programmes; Reaching more ethnic minority groups. BBC Trustee David Liddiment, who led the review, said: "Radio 2 has a large audience who clearly love its output, but the review showed it must break out of the routine with its programming, in particular to be more distinctive during peak time. We're aware of concerns about Radio 2 targeting a younger audience. The current average audience age of 50 is well within the station's target audience, but the Trust is clear that this must not fall any further, and we would like to see Radio 2 work on its appeal to over 65 year olds."

For years the Robert Farnon Society has criticised the music output of Radio 2. Although there are a few notable exceptions (such as "Friday Night Is Music Night" and shows presented by Russell Davies, David Jacobs and Desmond Carrington), the music played in most Radio 2 programmes can be heard elsewhere on countless radio stations, both local and national commercial. Older listeners who enjoy light music and the kind of repertoire generally classified as 'popular' (rather than 'pop') are poorly served. Even if a change of music policy results in Radio 2 losing some of its younger listeners, it could well find that the older generation will start listening in once again. Programmes appealing to more mature listeners should be broadcast during the daytime when they are at home to listen; it does not seem sensible to target daytime programmes towards a younger audience which is either at school or at work, as seems to be the case now.

First evidence of a possible change occurred in mid-April when Desmond Carrington’s weekly show was moved to 7:00 pm on Friday evenings, immediately before "Friday Night Is Music Night" which now occupies the 8:00 to 10:00pm slot. There is also talk of a ‘special’ in the summer bringing back "Legends of Light Music" – if this happens it will be announced on the Latest News page of the RFS website. This seems to be the best opportunity in years for those of us who would like to see a more enjoyable mix of music on Radio 2 to make our feelings clear. Every letter helps, and is more seriously considered than petitions by the powers-that-be.

BBC Trust publishes review of BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music

15 February 2010

A BBC Trust review published today concluded that Radio 2 was highly regarded by audiences but should use its scale to be more distinctive, while 6 Music was distinctive and well-liked by its listeners, but needed to reach a bigger audience.

The review looked at the performance of Radio 2 and 6 Music - including usage, quality, distinctiveness and value for money.

BBC Trustee David Liddiment, who led the review, said:

"Radio 2 has a large audience who clearly love its output, but the review showed it must break out of the routine with its programming, in particular to be more distinctive during peak time. In contrast, 6 Music has a distinctive approach, but the review concluded that it needed to grow its audience base without losing its USP.

"We're aware of concerns about Radio 2 targeting a younger audience. The current average audience age of 50 is well within the station's target audience, but the Trust is clear that this must not fall any further, and we would like to see Radio 2 work on its appeal to over 65 year olds."

Key findings and recommendations

Radio 2

The Trust's review found that Radio 2 was popular with listeners, who believed the station was distinctive - eight out of ten felt that Radio 2 offered something that could not be easily found elsewhere. This finding was supported by analysis of Radio 2's output which found that, in a typical week, most tracks played were unique to the station. The Trust's review welcomed the lack of music overlap between Radio 2, Radio 1, 6 Music, and comparable commercial radio stations. It concluded, however, that the station should become more distinctive by adopting a more ambitious approach to non-music content in peak time.

Radio 2's remit is to appeal to all ages over 35. Its under 35 audience has grown significantly over the last 10 years, albeit from a low base, but since 2004 this growth has stabilised. Today some 82 per cent of Radio 2's listeners are over 35, and the average audience age is 50. The review concluded that Radio 2 should maintain this stability but also protect the interests of its older audiences - specifically doing more to target those over 65 years of age.

Radio 2's listeners are loyal to the station, with nearly five million listening to no other BBC radio, and around two million listening to no other radio at all. The review concluded that Radio 2 should use this scale and popularity to make a greater contribution to the BBC's public purposes. The review's key recommendations were as follows:

    • Radio 2 should provide the peak time audience with more content that the licence fee payer couldn't hear anywhere else. This meant, for example, refreshing comedy and arts programming and using some of this material in peak time

    • As an entertainment station, Radio 2 should aim to preserve the aspects of the station which made it popular but we accept the risk that some loss of audience may be a consequence of a more varied and challenging selection of programmes

    • It should also seek to address variances in reach between audience groups - for example the Trust's research showed that ethnic minorities in particular were less likely to listen

    • The station should seek to promote the benefits of new technology so that hard to reach groups, such as the over 65s, did not get left behind.

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About Geoff 123
Geoff Leonard was born in Bristol. He spent much of his working career in banking but became an independent record producer in the early nineties, specialising in the works of John Barry and British TV theme compilations.
He also wrote liner notes for many soundtrack albums, including those by John Barry, Roy Budd, Ron Grainer, Maurice Jarre and Johnny Harris. He co-wrote two biographies of John Barry in 1998 and 2008, and is currently working on a biography of singer, actor, producer Adam Faith.
He joined the Internet Movie Data-base (www.imdb.com) as a data-manager in 2001 and looked after biographies, composers and the music-department, amongst other tasks. He retired after nine years loyal service in order to continue writing.