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Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Dear BBC: why we care

The original BBC Radio 2 Drivetime Dreamteam, including Simon Mayo, Matt Williams and Bobbie Pryor
It's now three months since the BBC changed the format of the much-loved and award winning BBC Radio 2 Drivetime programme, pairing Simon Mayo with Jo Whiley and ditching Simon's posse, above, and most of the best content.

This is "halfway day" for Lewis Carnie, the Radio 2 controller, who gave a couple of high handed interviews before the change happened but has been missing in action ever since.  He told us the show would need six months to "bed in."

In those three months, one of the petitions demanding for the return of the original show has grown to 15,000 signatures, and every day more people join the Facebook group.

Today the supporters of the original show have blitzed Twitter, Facebook and the BBC's complaints process. There seems to be a suspicious news blackout on the whole thing. Complaints about the deplorable Love Island TV show (2,600) was reported by BBC News, yet the petition (15,000 names) was not. To put this in perspective, the audience for Drivetime is (currently) far bigger than anything Love Island enjoyed.

Below, I have chosen a few of the letters and stories from the Facebook group, to show the suits why we care so much. You;ll find more in my posts here, here and here.

Email sent to Messrs Shennan (Bob, Director of BBC Radio) and Carnie

Mr Shennan, Mr Carnie

You must realise by now the error you made in radically changing the format of the Simon Mayo Drivetime Show.
You had then an award winning show that brought real pleasure, every day, to millions of people - young and old, male and female.
Now that has been destroyed, and its replacement is simply not working.
We all make mistakes in life. Captains of industry do it, politicians do it, even the finest football managers do it. No one is infallible.
The problem is in not acting to rectify the problem.
Winners accept that things haven’t worked, and change course instantly. Losers blindly plough on, and then are eventually forced to change, but not before inflicting unnecessary pain, suffering and (sometimes irreparable) damage to their organisations.
You have the chance to change - please grasp the opportunity now before it’s too late.

Gordon Young


Letter to the BBC on behalf of the 5,000 strong Facebook group Bring back Simon Mayo's Dreamteam on Drivetime

Dear Sirs,

You will by now be aware that a great number of BBC licence fee payers are disgruntled enough to have formed and joined a Facebook group about the way that the Simon Mayo Drivetime show has been unceremoniously dumped and replaced by a very poor substitute of a programme of which the two main members of the team, Simon Mayo and Jo Wiley, are now absent for holidays right in the middle of the “bedding in” season (your words in the numerous letters, not mine). How could this have even been thought about when planning the launch of a new show and with a controversial line up? The show which has been removed was a fun and all-inclusive – young children right through to the more senior of listeners, a group in which I now nearly find myself.

Such is the frustration experienced by people that many have emailed the BBC directly to express their concern. Your reply to each is basically a selection of standard phrases and sentences designed to make the reply look personal. Can you not understand that by the volume of email complaints and random commenting on any Radio 2 show that we, the listeners, communicate with each other? I am sure that the intention was not to be patronising to individuals, but by comparing replies it is clear this is what is happening. It is high handedness in the extreme and disrespectful to your listening public.

It is interesting that the letters now no longer have the reference to there being no right of appeal. This response was appalling and really did show what the hierarchy of BBC Radio really thinks about the public. This alone was almost enough to make me retune to other radio broadcasters. We do have a right of appeal and this is included within your own charter. Should we not be happy with a proper review our response to the decision could be to listen to shows on other stations. Your own marketing people cannot be blind to the comments made by other radio stations welcoming new listeners? We do know that the BBC has "moles" within the posting public, and some of these are really quite unpleasant, but this will be the subject of a separate formal complaint from me to you (unintentional reference there) and Facebook for allowing this to happen and continue.

We are all licence fee payers and, as the BBC so boldly states, the BBC is owned by the people. We have no choice about paying, that is enshrined in law but as a consequence you should regard what the listeners are saying. To just disregard a very large group of people who have all expressed the same view is just ignorant.

The egos who have made the decision to remove this show, and clearly other changes are being planned, should be stopped now before further damage is done not just to Radio 2 but to BBC Radio in general. There would be more sympathy from the listening public if the people in charge accepted that the new format just does not work. You have stated that Simon and Jo have known each other for 25 years. That makes them friends, or acquaintances, it does not make them a good team – they are just too different. I like cream and I like lemon juice, but mix the two and you will have a curdled mess which is unappetising. This is what has happened to the Drivetime Show.

You will be receiving a great deal of emails and other communications today and I really hope that you read and respond to each of them separately as, despite what you may think, people really do care and can vote on change by the use of the tuning dial on their radio.

Thank you,

Bill Cummings
For and on behalf of our 5055 members


Facebook posts by Paul Loughlin


I have read the letters received by some today. How patronising and condescending they are. They appear in their Text to be rather like a teacher humiliating a student. Well BBC let me tell you something. Good Radio is a very rare thing these days. Every man and his dog believe that they can do it. That in essence is what is wrong. I grew up fascinated by the radio. Kenny Everett. Terry Wogan. Ken Bruce. Jimmy Young. Even the likes of Henry Kelly. Sarah Kennedy. And Bob Harris. Later we had Steve Wright. Chris Evans and the utterly fantastic Alex Lester. Where I'm going with this is Simon Mayo belongs on that list. He is a brilliant broadcaster and the reason for change within drivetime was neither wanted or needed. An idea to fulfill a desire to have more female hosts has resulted in both a terrible annihilation of a great show and a backlash towards Jo Whiley. Well done BBC!!! Radio fans are loyal. But also are far from stupid. This new show is awkward and poor. So very very poor. In the end. Patronising the listeners wont do. As license payers we require more than that. Great radio is indeed rare. Thanks to you even rarer now. The way you are treating this wonderful medium it could soon be extinct. Thanks for that!!

And in reply to Lewis Carnie's assertion that there was a big protest when Chris Evans took over the Breakfast show from Terry Wogan


I remember it well. After many fun mornings listening Terry Wogan announced to us TOGs that he was leaving the breakfast show. After picking myself up off the floor it was also stated Chris Evans would be the new host. I approached that with an open mind and to be fair Chris is a natural. Having Moira Stewart on the show was a master stroke and along with Vassos Alexander the show is brilliant. Great chemistry and a fun show. The point I want to make is Sir Terry retired (sort of) and went to Sunday mornings. Chris was asked to be the new host and after a while he flourished. In the case of Simon Mayo. He has created a great show and for 8 years it was all you would want. Funny. Inventive and great music. A wonderful dynamic in the studio. Suddenly!! Jo Whiley is just dropped in there.(dropped in it if you ask me!!) Most of the team go and the show (sorry to say) really sucks the big one!!! The audience can't accept the new show. We all loved the real one. Whilst Chris replaced Terry due to the togmeister leaving the slot. Jo has just been sent in and the end result is a awful dynamic. Poor chemistry and the whole thing is dull!. Please Radio 2. It's not too late!!
Director of Radio at the BBC, Bob Shennan
Bob Shennan, Director of BBC Radio
Lewis Carnie, BBC Radio 2 Controller
Lewis Carnie, Controller of BBC Radio 2 

How about it guys?


So gentlemen, what do you say? Remember, we forgive very quickly when those who got it wrong apologize, and put it right. Coca Cola, Toblerone, legions of England football team managers. There would actually be huge kudos in restoring the original show in terms of PR spin.

I absolutely get why you parachuted a female presenter into a mainstream programme. You had to. After years of paying women peanuts and putting them into night time slots  (and Mr Carnie and Mr Shennan were among those responsible, having been senior managers for many years), the BBC suddenly finds it has no option.

But now we have the problem of what do we do with Jo, because you know as well as we do that she hasn't got the right personality for the Drivetime show.

Bob, I'm sure you could have a word with Tony (Lord Hall) and get her moved to TV.  Win win, because that would be seen as a promotion! She likes gardening  (and so do I, but I would be willing to tolerate her on Gardeners' World just to get her off Drivetime....) and there all those programmes where the BBC broadcasts "new music" like Florence and the Machine  (not really all that new) from various pop festivals. She could do those.

Or is this the start of the end of Radio 2?


Some of us have noticed that you seem determined to lower the age of the average Radio 2 listener, and you may possibly have some Machiavellian plot brewing to merge Radios 1 and 2.  In which case, millions more listeners for Magic, Absolute and Smooth. And with their increased revenues from ads and listeners, one of them will be bound to offer Simon and the original Dreamteam a berth.














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1 comment

  1. Ridiculous isn't it. Radio 2 has had an established market for 2 generations. It works. Younger audiences have elsewhere to go. It's another example of midsters being ignored as a consumer group.

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