BBC Radio 1 and 2 failing to deliver choice according to their own listeners

From a press release to
Posted 30 September 2014, 6.29am edt

BBC supplied

BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 are failing to deliver content which is sufficiently different from the commercial sector, according to a poll of their own listeners.

Nearly 80% of Radio 1 listeners (78%) think that the BBC should produce content that is distinctive from commercial radio, yet according to independent research commissioned by RadioCentre, the industry body for commercial radio, nearly half (46%) think that Radio 1 is the same, or only slightly different to Capital FM.

The findings were part of a survey of 2,000 listeners conducted earlier this month (September 2014) by market research company BDRC Continental.

BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 listeners had little awareness of the public service output required by the BBC Trust, with only a third (35%) believing that BBC Radio informs and educates the public. The service licence requires the stations to provide listeners with a range of specific services, not otherwise offered by the market.

But according to the research, there is a perception among Radio 1 listeners that it is not associated with certain elements of its public service remit. Only 6% of its listeners associated the station with social action and documentaries and 25% with programming for young teenagers. And although Radio 1 is supposed to be aimed at people aged 29 years and under, 30% of 35-44 think it is aimed at them.

Very few listeners polled could remember any of Radio 1’s specialist shows:

  • 14% arts/culture or documentaries
  • 13% comedy shows
  • 22% specialist music shows.

Radio 2 listeners wanted to hear less mainstream chart music (35%) and fewer boy/ girl bands (46%). There was also a perception that it could do more to serve the significant numbers that would like it to play more Blues (26%), Jazz (21%), Soul (25%) and Country music (23%).

Despite the fact that Radio 2 plays a broad range of music across its schedule, it was still highly associated with the music output of Magic and Heart at 63% and 52% respectively. When asked about specialist shows on Radio 2, very few listeners could remember any:

  • 13% arts/culture or documentaries
  • 7% comedy shows
  • 21% specialist music shows

Of the specific service requirements for Radio 2, only 21% said they associated the station with extending musical tastes, 11% associated the station with original comedy and just 17% with arts programming.

Siobhan Kenny, Chief Executive of RadioCentre, will unveil key findings from the research at a fringe meeting on the future of the BBC at the Conservative Party Conference on Monday 29th September. In particular, she will call for tougher regulation of the BBC to help prioritise the delivery of public service output in future.

Kenny said: “The BBC remains a phenomenal national asset but the fact is that its most valuable radio content is just not cutting through. While nobody seriously suggests that certain bands should be ‘off limits’ to mainstream output like Radio 2, there is a balance to be struck and one that more specifically fulfils the criteria laid out for both Radio1 and 2.

“The BBC Trust should have more power to police this blend and mix more conscientiously, ensuring that the BBC sticks to its remit and allows an environment where all players in the market can flourish. This will enhance the BBC’s reputation, allow commercial radio a level playing field and, most importantly, enhance listener choice.”

The research report will be submitted in full to the BBC Trust as part of its current review of the performance of BBC music radio services. It will also be sent to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which is leading the work across government on the future regulation and governance of the BBC within a new Royal Charter from 2016.

Editor's note: The exec summary of the full report to be submitted to BBC Trust this month was circulated to journalists along with this report.