Ken Bruce: BBC Radio 2 may rue the loss of a broadcasting giant loved by millions – Scotsman comment

Less than a month after saying “I would never retire voluntarily, but you never know, I might be retired”, Radio 2 presenter Ken Bruce has announced he is leaving the BBC to join Greatest Hits Radio.

Bruce, 71, who has spent 31 years entertaining the nation in the channel’s mid-morning weekday slot, stressed he had made the decision to move on, saying “it’s time for a change”. However, he is the latest in a series of high-profile departures from BBC Radio, including Steve Wright, 68, and Paul O’Grady, 67, with the corporation appearing determined to attract younger audiences.

Rajar figures last year showed all four main stations had lost audience, with Radio 1 and Radio 2 down one per cent, and Radio 3 down 16 per cent. In contrast, the Greatest Hits Radio network, which has been snapping up former BBC regulars like Simon Mayo, Jackie Brambles and Mark Goodier, now has 4.1 million listeners.

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This is just under half Radio 1’s audience, but some of the network’s local stations saw substantial increases last year, such as a 60 per cent rise in the lucrative London market. And Bruce is the kind of marquee signing who is likely to tempt fans to change channels, particularly as the Scot is cannily taking his popular PopMaster quiz with him.

It appears the BBC will stop at nothing in its quest to win a younger audience, but it is a high-risk strategy to discard presenters who are loved by millions. If listeners must switch to commercial stations to hear their favourites, further questions may be raised about the future of the licence fee.

Ken Bruce is to leave BBC Radio 2 after 31 years as host of its mid-morning show (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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