BBC boss defends Radio 1 and 2 after Government threatens axe

Director Helen Boaden has responded to culture secretary John Whittingdale's announcement that the stations are under review because they lack 'distinction'

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BBC radio director Helen Boaden has defended Radio 1 and 2 after the Government said the stations lacked ‘distinction’ and would be under review in the green paper on the BBC.

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“The BBC’s mission is to entertain as well as to inform and we should challenge the idea that being popular and being distinctive are mutually exclusive,” Boaden wrote in a blog post yesterday.

She continued: “It’s always been the case that the BBC makes the good popular and the popular good and that couldn’t be clearer than on Radios 1 and 2. Their ability to reach a wide audience with quality programmes is entirely in keeping the BBC’s mission to serve everyone – as well as being a massive boost to British music.”

On Thursday, culture secretary John Whittingdale announced a green paper examining the size and scope of the BBC. He said that Radio 1 and 2 “were arguably less distinctive” than stablemate 6Music, and that there was a “sizeable crossover in audiences”.

Boaden countered the Government’s claims, pointing out that Radio 1 offers six times more news per week than its commercial competitors in addition to documentaries and social action campaigns. Last month the youth station played around 4,000 different tracks compared to around 400 on Capital, she explained. As for Radio 2, 60% of the songs it plays in daytime are not played on any comparable station and it offers a greater variety of music than any other music radio station in the UK.

The radio director also challenged the notion that there is too much crossover between the two stations, both in terms of music played and listeners. She pointed out that last month there was less than 10% overlap in the music played by Radio 1 and Radio 2, and that only 2.6m listeners listen to both stations – “That means 83% of Radio 2 listeners don’t listen to Radio 1 and 73% of Radio 1’s audience don’t tune into Radio 2.” 

Radio 2 is Britain’s most popular station, attracting around 15 million weekly listeners while Radio 1 has around 10 million.

The BBC’s annual report, which was released earlier this week, revealed that the content spend for the 2014/15 financial year was £40.5 million for Radio 1 and £46.2m for Radio 2, compared to £1,110m and £404.8m for BBC1 and 2 respectively.

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What do you think? Should the licence fee be used to pay for Radio 1 and 2, or could they be replaced by commercial stations like Capital or Magic FM? Let us know in the comment box below or by emailing hello@radiotimes.com