Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Monday, 15 February 2010

Radio 2 'must broaden its appeal' says BBC Trust

Sir Terry Wogan
The Trust said Radio 2 must do more to attract older listeners

BBC Radio 2 must do more to attract ethnic minority listeners and those over 65, the BBC Trust has said.

In a major review, the trust also said the station needed to find ways to be more "distinctive" during peak time.

And it added the BBC should risk losing some of its audience by adopting "a more ambitious approach to non-music content in peak time".

The review, by the BBC's governing body, looked at the station's quality and value for money.

It recommended Radio 2 should provide peak-time audiences with more content they could not hear elsewhere, suggesting a refresh of its comedy and arts programmes.

The station's remit is to appeal to all ages over 35. However, the trust noted its under-35 audience had grown significantly over the past 10 years.

Although 82% of Radio 2's listeners are over 35, the trust said it needed to ensure the average audience age of 50 did not fall any further and "protect the interest of its older audiences".

Furthermore, it said the station should "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".

'Musical credibility'

The review also looked at Radio 2's digital sister station, 6 Music.

There had been fears in some quarters that the trust would recommend the station should be closed, but trustees merely said the BBC should "strengthen" its appeal.

However, they concluded that, although 6 Music was "distinctive and well-liked by its listeners", it "needed to reach a bigger audience".

We remain committed to our target demographic of over-35s and will work hard to keep our older listeners entertained and informed.
Bob Shennan, controller, Radio 2 and 6 Music

It found that while the station's listening figures had grown faster over the past four years than any other BBC digital radio-only service, it only reached 1% of the adult population - with only 20% of the population aware the station existed.

The trust recommended the BBC should seek older listeners and ensure presenters "were not only popular, but also had musical credibility".

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 unique selling point.

"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."

'Loyal audience'

In response to the review, the BBC said it would revamp its arts coverage, "aiming to thread arts, documentaries and comedy into the peak time schedule".

Bob Shennan, controller of both Radio 2 and 6 Music, added: "We will be building further bridges between our peak time and evening schedules to ensure that our audience is aware of the wide variety of offerings from Radio 2.

Lauren Laverne
Former singer and Culture Show presenter Laverne hosts on 6 Music

"We also remain committed to our target demographic of over-35s and will work hard to keep our older listeners entertained and informed."

He continued: "I'm pleased that the trust has recognised that 6 Music is a distinctive service with a loyal audience, but we understand that the network needs to increase its reach.

"The network is attracting new listeners and I hope that by offering a rich mix of presenting talent, including Lauren Laverne and Jarvis Cocker, and leading radio coverage of musical events such as Glastonbury, the station will broaden its appeal."

Andrew Harrison, chief executive of commercial radio body RadioCentre, said: "It is now down to the BBC to demonstrate that it can raise the bar and start to offer a more genuinely diverse and distinctive service across all parts of the schedule.

"Comedy, arts, documentaries and specialist music are essential elements of Radio 2's required output, but for too long it has been able to tuck these away at the margins of the schedule in its inexorable pursuit of popularity over public service."

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