Radio 2 Is Changing: Here Are My Thoughts…

The UK’s biggest music radio network (that’s BBC Radio 2) is reforming itself at the moment.

It was just a week in to the new year when the first changes, relating to the removal of live overnight programmes from the station’s schedules were announced.

BBC Radio 2 cuts live overnight presenters

Janice Long and Alex Lester  are 2 voices who have been at the heart of R2’s overnight schedule for the last 20-30 years. When I first started listening to Radio 2, Alex was on between 3 and 6 in the morning. My alarm would go off at 05:55 and I’d hear the last few minutes of his daily show.

These days, I’m (normally) asleep at the time Janice and Alex used the broadcast; but I often would listen “on demand” during the evening, or I’d record their shows and listen in the car on the way to work. Or if I was driving back from somewhere late at night, Alex in the early hours of a Saturday/Sunday morning was a good companion. So as a listener, I will miss their voices from Radio 2.

Look around Twitter, and you’ll find plenty of people unhappy with this decision. I can see why: Radio 2 is very much a personality station. The personalities, the voices between the music are as important as the music itself.

With my radio producer hat on though, the loss of live overnight presenters is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, whether a radio show is live or not is not important to me. What *is* important is the quality of the programme. (I refer here to the likes of Huey Morgan and Bob Harris on weekend overnights: great stuff, and not live).

That said, I’m not sure yet whether I like the new “Radio 2 Playlists” which have replaced the live shows overnight.

I’ve tuned in on the iPlayer – just to hear what the fuss is all about. Voicetracked radio with short links? Easy and cheap to make – but I’m not entirely sure that sort of format is right for Radio 2. By calling it Radio 2 Playlists, and using a different presenter each week (or so it seems) – the personality aspect has been removed: and that I don’t like at all.

Having said that, these things tend to go round in circles: Eventually, in a few years time, my reckoning is that Radio 2 Playlists will be reformed or replaced with something else.

However: The recent changes to Radio 2 overnights are just the beginning.

Earlier this week the BBC announced major changes to their weekend – and in particular their Saturday – programme schedules.

Major weekend programme changes at Radio 2

I’ll start first with what I don’t like about it:

  • The lack of Bob Harris on Sunday
  • The lack of Brian Matthew on Sounds of the ’60s

With the exception of the above, I actually quite like Radio 2’s new Saturday schedule. Tony Blackburn would be an excellent host for that style of show. It is a shame they couldn’t find room for both Blackburn and Matthew in the schedule though.

Brian Matthew has been presenting Sounds of the ’60s since before I was born – and actually, it made a very good Breakfast Show, just by being very different in style to the fast-paced shows on commercial radio. It was also pre-recorded: Just goes to show being live isn’t everything!

Dermot on Saturday Breakfast? I quite like his Saturday afternoon show. Saturday Breakfast will be interesting with Dermot presenting. Zoe Ball is actually quite a good fit for Radio 2 as well – I much preferred her Saturday Breakfast Show to the one Anneka Rice presents now (nothing wrong with Anneka – I just find Zoe easier to listen to).

I will look forward to hearing the new sound of Radio 2 on Saturdays from next month… I will actually be abroad on day 1 (I’m driving to the Netherlands they day before) – but will catch up on iPlayer when I return.

Let me know your thoughts on what’s happening at Radio 2 using the comments box below.


Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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