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BBC Radio 2

BBC Radio 2
BBC Radio 2 logo
Broadcast area United Kingdom; available worldwide through the internet
Slogan Online, on Digital Radio, and on 88 to 91 FM
First air date 30 September 1967
Format Hot AC, Indie music, Infotainment
Language(s) English
Audience share 17.9% (March 2014, [2])
Owner BBC
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BBC Radio 2 is one of the BBC's national radio stations and the most popular station in the United Kingdom.[1] Much of its daytime playlist-based programming is best described as adult contemporary or AOR, although the station is also noted for its specialist broadcasting of other musical genres. Radio 2 broadcasts throughout the UK on FM between 88.1 and 90.2 MHz from studios in Western House, adjacent to Broadcasting House in central London. Programmes are relayed on digital radio via DAB, Sky, Cable TV, IPTV, Freeview, Freesat and the Internet.


  • History 1
    • 1967–1986 1.1
    • Frances Line: 1986–1996 1.2
    • James Moir "The Nation's Favourite" – 1996 onwards 1.3
  • Current position 2
  • Presenters 3
    • Stand-in presenters 3.1
    • Guest presenters 3.2
    • Additional staff 3.3
  • Former presenters 4
  • Notable programmes or features 5
  • Controllers 6
  • Controversies 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9



The station was launched at 05:30[2] on 30 September 1967, and evolved from the Light Programme, with some of the Light Programme's music shows transferring to the newly launched BBC Radio 1. The first show had started at 05:30 am (on the Light Programme) but continued with Breakfast Special from Paul Hollingdale as Radio 1 split.

In early years, much programming and music was common to both stations, particularly on the shared FM frequency. Radio One was targeted at the audience of pirate radio stations whereas Radio Two settled down as a middle-of-the-road station playing laid-back pop/rock, folk and country, jazz and big-band music, easy listening, light classics, and oldies, with significant amounts of comedy and sport. Notable broadcasters on Radio Two in the 70s and 80s were Ray Moore on early breakfast, Terry Wogan on breakfast, replaced by Ken Bruce and later Derek Jameson; Jimmy Young and his lunchtime news and current affairs show; 'Diddy' David Hamilton on mid-afternoons, John Dunn at what became known as drivetime. Radio Two became the first national 24-hour radio station in the UK in 1979.

Frances Line: 1986–1996

The station's policy remained stable with only minor changes until April 1986 when Frances Line, head of music, repositioned the station. She would become Controller in 1990. An ageing Radio 1 audience which had grown up with the station was sticking with it into their 40s and beyond; Line repositioned Radio 2 to appeal exclusively to the over-fifties and introduced older presenters and based the playlist around nostalgia, easy listening and light music. As a result, David Hamilton quit the station at the end of 1986, claiming the music policy had become "geriatric"; Terry Wogan's replacement Derek Jameson also appealed to an older, down-market demographic. Although popular with its target audience, the policy alienated many younger listeners who had listened to both Radio 1 and Radio 2 and the station's audience fell. It took another hit when sports coverage moved to Radio 5 in August 1990. Another blow was struck by the rise of album-rock commercial stations (particularly Virgin Radio) and 'gold' spinoffs from Independent Local Radio stations playing classic pop and rock. With the station's audience in decline a change of emphasis was needed.

James Moir "The Nation's Favourite" – 1996 onwards

Line was replaced by James Moir in 1996. Moir repositioned Radio 2 with a largely AOR/contemporary playlist by day, aimed at a more mature audience than Radio 1 (which, post-Britpop, was again starting to focus on a young audience) but still embracing new music, and more specialist broadcasting by recognised genre experts in the evenings. Unlike the early-1990s repositioning of Radio 1 in which the BBC lost many well-known names, many former Radio 1 presenters stayed with the BBC and moved across to Radio 2.

Radio 2 is now termed "the nation's favourite", a title the BBC formerly used for BBC Radio 1. It is the most listened-to station in the UK, its schedule filled with broadcasters such as: Sir Terry Wogan, Steve Wright, Chris Evans, Simon Mayo, Ken Bruce, Jeremy Vine, Mark Radcliffe, Janice Long, Tony Blackburn, Jo Whiley, Paul Gambaccini, Johnnie Walker and Bob Harris.

As well as having most listeners nationally, it ranks first in many regions above local radio stations. BBC Radio 2 played to 27% of the available audience in 2006.[3]

In February 2007, Radio 2 recruited Jeff Smith, director of UK and International programming at Napster and a former head of music at Radio 1, as its new head of music. Smith joined the network on 26 March.[4]

The licence fee funding of Radio 2, alongside Radio 1 is often criticised by the commercial sector. In the first quarter of 2011, Radio 2 was part of an efficiency review conducted by John Myers.[5] His role, according to Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of RadioCentre, was "to identify both areas of best practice and possible savings."[5]

On 29 July 2013, Radio 2 changed its "sonic logo" for the first time in 15 years, replacing the "heritage" logo composed by US jingle company Groove Worx with a new seven note melody composed by British composer and producer Jem Godfrey.[6] This coincided with the launch of a new jingle package produced by Godfrey in association with Wise Buddah Productions, marking Radio 2's second new package in as many years.

Between 8 and 11 May 2014 Radio 2 ran BBC Radio 2 Eurovision, a "pop-up" service available online and on DAB in the UK, to provide coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest 2014.[7] The temporary station featured special editions of regular Radio 2 programmes as well as original documentaries along with coverage of the semi-finals and final of the contest itself.

Between 5 and 8 March 2015 Radio 2 ran BBC Radio 2 Country, a "pop-up" service available online and on DAB in the UK, to provide coverage of the Country2Country 2015 Festival.[8]

Current position

The station's audience is now mainly adults over the age of 35 (82% of listeners)[9] although in recent years it has attracted more younger listeners. Its daytime playlist features music from the 1960s to various current chart hits, album and indie music. The station's appeal is broad and deep, with accessible daytime programmes and specialist programmes of particular types or eras of music. In 2009, Radio 2 again won the Music Week Award for National Radio Station of the Year, an award it has won for several consecutive years.[10]

Weekday evenings feature specialist music, including jazz, folk music, blues, country and western, reggae, classic rock, showtunes and biographies and documentaries on musical artists and genres. This specialist programming typically runs from 19:00 to 20:00, and from 22:00 to midnight. Radio 2 hosts both the BBC Concert Orchestra and the BBC Big Band.

Brian Matthew's "Sounds of the Sixties" remains a regular fixture on the Saturday schedule, as does Johnnie Walker's "Sounds of the Seventies" on a Sunday. On 5 October 2013, these two shows were joined by "Sounds of the Eighties", which is hosted by Sara Cox and broadcast on Saturdays between 2200 and midnight.[11]

On Sundays, the schedule reverts closer to its old style, with a focus on easy listening, Jazz and Show music, with presenters like Clare Teal and Don Black and long-standing programmes like The Sunday Hour.

Radio 2 does not broadcast complete works of classical music (the domain of Radio 3) or offer in-depth discussion or drama and although some book readings, comedy and arts coverage still remains on the station this is the remit of Radio 4. Jeremy Vine's weekday lunchtime show covers current and consumer affairs informally, a style pioneered by Jimmy Young. Until Radio 5 Live, Radio 2's medium wave frequencies carried the BBC's sports coverage. Radio 5 Live was positioned on Radio 2's mediumwave frequencies.

Like all BBC radio stations broadcasting to UK audiences, Radio 2 is funded by the television licence fee, and does not broadcast adverts.

BBC Radio 2's last closedown was at 02:02 on 27 January 1979. Sarah Kennedy (who later became a daily early-morning presenter from 1993 until her departure in August 2010) was at the Newsdesk after Brian Matthew finished "Round Midnight". From 02:00 to 05:00 the following night, listeners heard "You and the Night and the Music". Radio 2 has the longest period of continuous broadcasting of any national radio station in the UK.

The BBC Pips are broadcast at 07:00 and 08:00 on weekdays, then again at 17:00 and 19:00.

BBC Radio 2 moved its studios from Broadcasting House to the adjacent Western House in 2006.[12] Although the majority of programming comes from London, some shows are broadcast from other cities around the UK, including Birmingham and Manchester. For many years, the network's overnight presenters, such as Janice Long and Alex Lester, were based in Birmingham, but made the move to London in April 2008.


Stand-in presenters

Guest presenters

In addition to its regular and stand-in presenters, Radio 2 is often joined by guest presenters that host one-off documentaries or short series. Such guests have included David Mitchell, Suzi Quatro, Carla Bruni, Sir Tim Rice, Kate Thornton, David Quantick, Hugh Laurie and Michael Grade.

Additional staff

Many of Radio 2's additional on-air staff (particularly newsreaders) are shared with sister station BBC Radio 6 Music.

Former presenters

Notable programmes or features


Years served Controller
1967–68 Robin Scott
1968–76 Douglas Muggeridge
1976–78 Derek Chinnery
1978–80 Charles McLelland
1980–84 David Hatch
1996–2004 James Moir
2004–08 Lesley Douglas
2009–present Bob Shennan


In April 1999, Radio 2 presenter Johnnie Walker was suspended from his drivetime show after allegations concerning a drug problem appeared in the Sunday tabloid, the News of the World. Walker had been the victim of a tabloid exposé over his cocaine problem.[13] Bosses later reinstated him after he was fined £2,000 for possession of cocaine.

The presenter Sarah Kennedy has sometimes attracted controversy. In May 1999, she gave a bizarre performance while standing in for Terry Wogan, blaming the incident on a lack of sleep the previous night.[14] Her slurred speech throughout her show on 13 August 2007 also made the headlines. She blamed a sore throat and later took a month-long break.[15] It was later reported that Kennedy was recovering from pneumonia,[16] and she returned to work on 10 September. In October 2007, she was reprimanded after joking that she had almost run over a black pedestrian because she could not see him in the dark. The BBC later apologised for the comment.[17] She was also "spoken to" by BBC bosses after praising Enoch Powell during a show in July 2009, describing him as "the best prime minister this country never had".[18]

On 16 October 2008, an episode of the Russell Brand Show, co-hosted by fellow Radio 2 presenter Jonathan Ross was recorded for transmission at a later date. The show included Brand and Ross leaving four prank messages on actor Andrew Sachs' answerphone including offensive remarks about his granddaughter and use of foul language. The programme was subsequently broadcast on Saturday 18 October, partially censored, having passed the various pre-transmission checks from the programme's editors. Initially, the programme only received a negligible number of complaints regarding Jonathan Ross' bad language; however, the incident was reported a week later by the Mail on Sunday and a public outcry soon ensued. The case was referred to both Ofcom and the BBC Trust, and in the interim, Ross and Brand were both suspended for 12 weeks from all BBC programmes pending investigation. Soon after these announcements, Russell Brand announced his resignation from the BBC shortly followed by the controller at the time, Lesley Douglas. Jonathan Ross was suspended from the BBC without pay for 12 weeks.[19][20]

In July 2009, longtime presenter Malcolm Laycock announced his resignation live on air following a long running dispute over the content of his show, Sunday Night at 10, and issues regarding his salary.[21] He later criticised Radio 2 management for abandoning its older listeners and claimed to have been constructively dismissed by the station, although Radio 2 denied this was the case.[22]

On 1 November 2013, it was reported that presenter Paul Gambaccini had been arrested as part of the Operation Yewtree investigation into historic sexual abuse allegations.[23] The BBC later released a statement stating that Gambaccini had "decided that, in light of today's media attention, he would rather not be on-air at present" and "will not be presenting on BBC Radio in coming weeks".[24] In December 2013 he was re-bailed until March 2014,[25] but on 10 October 2014 – nearly a year after his initial arrest – it was announced that Gambaccini would not be charged[26] and it was later confirmed that he would return to Radio 2 on 15 November.[27] During Gambaccini's absence his Saturday night slot was filled by interim shows, including repeats of documentaries and specially commissioned shows presented by Johnnie Walker and Craig Charles.


  1. ^ "BBC Radio 1 loses listeners".  
  2. ^ – Radio 2
  3. ^ Rajar national radio ratings ending December 2006
  4. ^ "Radio 2 appoints Napster exec as head of music". 
  5. ^ a b Andrews, Amanda (28 November 2010). "BBC enlists commercial sector help to shake up radio". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 12 March 2011. 
  6. ^ "Wise Buddah: BBC Radio 2 Jingle Package 2013". Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  7. ^ "BBC – Radio 2 launches 'Radio 2 Eurovision' pop-up DAB radio station – Media centre". Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Radio 2 goes country with DAB station
  9. ^ Plunkett, John (15 February 2010). "Radio 2 must do more to appeal to older listeners, says BBC Trust". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  10. ^ sectioncode=1&storycode=1037465
  11. ^ Radio Today: Sara Cox Makes Radio 2's Sounds of the 80s
  12. ^ "Western house – the new studios". Retrieved 13 November 2008. 
  13. ^ "DJ fined over drugs offence".  
  14. ^ Stressed' Sarah takes a week off"'". BBC News. 24 May 1999. Retrieved 25 May 2009. 
  15. ^ BBC News: Slurring presenter blames illness
  16. ^ Donovan, Paul. "Foot in mouth". The Times (London). Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  17. ^ "'"BBC apologises for 'racial slur. BBC News. 31 October 2007. Retrieved 25 May 2009. 
  18. ^ "Kennedy rapped for Powell comment". BBC News. 19 July 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  19. ^ "The ups and downs of Ross' career". BBC News. 30 October 2008. Archived from the original on 2 November 2008. Retrieved 13 November 2008. 
  20. ^ "Ross suspended for three months". BBC News. 30 October 2008. Archived from the original on 2 November 2008. Retrieved 13 November 2008. 
  21. ^ Gammell, Caroline (4 August 2009). "Radio 2 listeners 'appalled' at presenter's sudden departure". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 17 August 2009. 
  22. ^ Tapper, James. "BBC slammed by Radio 2 DJ Malcolm Laycock". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 17 August 2009. 
  23. ^ Philipson, Alice (1 November 2013). "BBC presenter Paul Gambaccini arrested on suspicion of sexual offences – Telegraph".  
  24. ^ "Paul Gambaccini arrested in Operation Yewtree inquiry".  
  25. ^ "Paul Gambaccini re-bailed in Yewtree investigation".  
  26. ^ "No charges for broadcaster Paul Gambaccini".  
  27. ^ "Date set for Paul Gambaccini's radio return". Radio Today Industry News. 21 October 2014. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Radio Rewind's Radio 2 history
  • R2OK! the Radio 2 Preservation Society
  • Radio 2 Timeline/History
  • Listen BBC Radio Latest Bulletins Listen to Business Bulletin
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