- 11 апреля 2011, 11:22
Bob Shennan defends station from attacks by commercial rivals and BBC Trust, saying he is not chasing a younger audience
The Radio 2 controller, Bob Shennan, has defended his station from criticism by its commercial rivals and the BBC Trust, saying "entertainment is not a dirty word".
The station, which with nearly 14 million listeners is by far the most popular in the UK, has faced calls to take more risks with its daytime output and reverse a decline in the number of its older listeners.
Shennan rejected suggestions that he was chasing a younger audience and said he had already taken steps to increase the amount of public service content in its mainstream schedule.
"I would maintain that we have made Radio 2 even more distinctive," added Shennan. "Which commercial radio station is launching a children's writing competition in their breakfast show to bring 50 kids to the Hay Festival [as Chris Evans has done]? We are doing standup comedy awards on Steve Wright's show, Simon Mayo's launched a book club in drivetime. I don't think there are any of those on [Global Radio's commercial network] Heart.
"Chris Evans played six Matt Monro songs in one programme the other week. I don't think I'm going to hear that on commercial radio. What we don't do is test music to find out what we think the audience loves then feed it to them remorselessly. We lead tastes, we don't pander to them."
The BBC Trust, in a review of Radio 2 published in February last year, said the station needed to put more comedy and documentaries in its peak-time schedule and take action to reverse the decline in the number of its listeners aged over 65.
It echoed concerns expressed by commercial radio trade body, the Radio Centre, which has accused it of having an "obsession with youth" and marginalising its public service content in the "inexorable pursuit of popularity".
But Shennan said the average age of the station was 51, the same as it was five years ago. "Radio 2 is an entertainment and music service and I make no apology for that," he said. "Entertainment is not a dirty word."
The Radio 2 controller also oversees BBC 6 Music and said the digital music station had the capacity to double its current audience to 2 million.
But Shennan was cautious on the issue of digital radio switchover – initially mooted for 2015 but now likely to be much later than that – and the date that Radio 2 would be in a position to go digital-only.
"The feeling was that 2015 was ambitious," said Shennan. "What's clear is that we are going to be in a hybrid world for some time. This is a slower process than television [switchover] and we will live in a multiplatform world for the foreseeable future."
A total of 21.1% of all listening to Radio 2 is via digital platforms, according to industry figures, lagging behind the industry average of 25% and the BBC radio average of 25.5%.
The BBC Trust, in its review last year, said Radio 2 had been "less successful than other BBC stations at encouraging its audience to listen digitally or go online" and called on the station to "use its influence to promote the benefits of digital media so that hard to reach groups do not get left behind".
"We'd obviously like to see it grow, that's one of the challenges," said Shennan.
But he declined to put a figure on how much of its total listening would have to be on digital before he would consider switching off Radio 2's analogue FM signal.
"Obviously I have to look after the interests of my audience and not just wilfully deprive them of something whilst encouraging them to move towards digital. That's the balance we've got to strike," Shennan said.
"We are not quite sure where that tipping point is. We'd need to be really confident that we could migrate our audience," he added.
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