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Monday, 23 July 2018

Radio 2 #DriveTime protest update, 23 July

I'm starting a weekly update on the growing protest about unwelcome changes made to the BBC Radio 2 Drivetime programme. This follows my letter to the Director-General and other luminaries last week.  There's a fantastic group on Facebook and a petition here. 
This week's update features an eloquent letter drafted by Tim Lyon which is being sent to Lord Hall, BBC Director-General; Bob Shennan, Controller of BBC Radio 2,  and Lewis Carnie, Head of BBC Radio 2, amongst others. The letter includes some public data about the listening figures for Jo Whiley's previous show, which makes for interesting reading. When you read that, and the criticism on her Wikipedia page from no less than Caitlin Moran from the Sunday Times, you have to wonder why Whiley was chosen for this prestigious presenting slot.

Tim's letter:

Gentlemen.

I honestly feel that the time has now come to put an end to the debacle that is the Jo & Simon Drivetime. This totally unacceptable situation has gone on long enough and it is time to call a halt in line with the BBC’s stated values. I would remind you:

We take pride in delivering quality and value for money.
We are demanding of ourselves. We ask for help when we need it and know where we need to up our game. We challenge waste and spend money as if it were our own. We channel our energy into making things better and change or stop things that aren’t working.

This show is not working on any level. I will not go into a long list of its problems and shortcomings. You must be aware of these from the thousands of emails and formal complaints that you have been receiving for the past 3 months. I am afraid that the show, and the appalling way in which complaints have been handled, has really opened a can of worms for the BBC. A highly sophisticated and very disgruntled audience has been picking its way through the BBC dirty linen basket and not liking what it has found. You must remember that these are paying customers and they are increasingly unhappy to be paying for a product that they do not want, from an organisation whose management have demonstrated their contempt for their opinions.

The internet has been trawled for inconsistencies. I could quote Mr Carnie listing his top female presenters without even mentioning Ms Whiley. Again, Mr Carnie when speaking about presenter’s salaries stated that, “What is important is the talent, and they are paid according to that.” If that is the case, it is pertinent to ask why Ms Whiley received a substantial pay rise when joining Simon Mayo? Did her ‘talent’ suddenly increase. On the contrary, she is now in an environment to which she is totally unsuited. Again, it has been stated that the changes were made to encourage a ‘younger and more diverse audience’. Younger than what and in what way more diverse? I have to ask in what way you expected this to be achieved by introducing a presenter whose popularity lay most strongly with an older audience. According to the RAJAR report, her target audience age was 35-44 and yet her average audience age was 54 and she was only achieving 16% of target. This tells me that she was the wrong choice to draw in your apparently sought after younger audience. Given that her peak listening figures were 619,000 and declining and Simon’s were 6,000,000 and rising, it really does indicate some very poor management decisions.

I must ask that you now honour another of the BBC’s stated values;

Audiences are at the heart of everything we do.
We put audience needs first. We recognise that audiences are not all like us and our friends, so we make sure we know how their needs are changing. And we adapt.

Your audience have made their needs very clear. They simply want the return of an outstanding radio show that was very important to them at the end of a long working day. They are not asking for anything new or difficult, they just want back that which you once successfully provided and then took away for absolutely no good reason.

Thank you for your time.
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