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EDITIONS
 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 08:58 GMT
'Sad end' to radio career
Jimmy Young
Young remains popular with listeners

It's been one of the longest-drawn-out farewells in history - and not for the right reasons.

While some veterans enjoy months of retirement parties, celebrating their glorious careers, Sir Jimmy Young has made it clear he doesn't want to go.

His departure has been heralded by months - indeed years - of newspaper speculation about who would take over his prized Radio 2 slot, accusations of BBC ageism, and campaigns by his supporters to keep him on the air.

Sir Jimmy claimed on his programme the other day that he'd "been fired", a comment described as an "on-air fib" by the distinguished radio critic - and JY fan - Gillian Reynolds.

After all, Radio 2 had offered him a weekend show, which he had publicly accepted until a week or two ago.

Diplomatic

And surely the knighthood at the start of this year should have softened the blow?

Sir Jimmy Young pictured by the BBC in 1952
Sir Jimmy Young in 1952
Sir Jimmy himself - in a diplomatic statement published on the Radio 2 website, explaining his apparent change of heart - said that having presented the daily programme for nearly 30 years, he didn't feel he could "do justice to a weekly shortened version".

Privately, his friends claim the programme team and timing were changed, reducing its likely impact.

They say he's so angry he even turned down a retirement dinner in his honour, to be hosted by the BBC director-general Greg Dyke.

Blame

It's a sad end, after 29 years with Radio 2 - and more than 50 with the BBC, for which he first broadcast in 1949.

But who should take the blame?

The Sunday Times radio critic Paul Donovan thinks it's the BBC's fault.

He regards Young as the elder statesman of Radio 2 and still as accomplished and hard-working as ever.

"It's a sad day for Radio 2," he says.

"Old age should not be an acceptable excuse for getting rid of him."

Gillian Reynolds doesn't go quite that far.

In her Daily Telegraph column she said the 81-year-old presenter had been much missed in recent weeks while in hospital.

Less sympathetic

"The JY show itself - a genuine phenomenon of popular radio, ratings leader for three decades - is what we will cherish while it's here."

Radio 2 presenter Mark Lamarr
Radio 2 has sought a younger audience
Others have been less sympathetic.

Mark Lawson in the Guardian wrote it was "time to put Jimmy out of his misery", saying broadcasters needed to practise what they preached to politicians.

Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror said simply: "The show's over, Jimmy."

The episode has been equally unhappy for Radio 2's ebullient controller Jim Moir, the one blemish on a remarkably successful tenure as head of Britain's most popular radio station.

Over the past seven years, he's transformed the network, winning new listeners without alienating the existing ones (in marked contrast to Radio 1, which shed millions when it repositioned itself.)

By quietly bringing in younger presenters like Johnnie Walker, Steve Wright, Jonathan Ross, Jools Holland and Mark Lamarr, alongside the veterans like Terry Wogan, Ken Bruce and Jimmy Young, Moir has made it acceptable - and almost fashionable - to listen to Radio 2.

The JY Prog still attracts five and half million listeners week.

Angering

Had the controller not planned for Jimmy Young's departure he would have been negligent.

Jeremy Vine
Jeremy Vine replaces Sir Jimmy in January
But inevitably the succession talks leaked and when Radio 5 Live's Nicky Campbell was reported as saying he'd been offered the job, the row made headlines for days, angering Sir Jimmy even more.

Now the saga is over - and Newsnight's Jeremy Vine takes over the coveted spot in the new year.

But the shadow of Jimmy Young will loom large over him and the network in the months to come, not least when the ratings are published.

Sir Jimmy Young leaves the BBC


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