The UK’s most popular station, BBC Radio 2, is facing the most upheaval, with both flagship breakfast and drive time shows being left in the lurch after their long-standing presenters left. Chris Evans quit live on-air in September after eight years at the primetime show to go back to his roots at Virgin Radio. The shake-up definitely caused a stir, with Zoe Ball being announced as his replacement rather than the public’s favourite Sara Cox.
Yesterday Simon Mayo quit the station after 17 years, citing concentrating on his book deal as his reason for leaving. Despite saying that co-host Jo Whiley was his ‘first and only choice’ to share the show with, it’s thought that the public backlash against the pair may have contributed to his departure. Mayo presented the show solo from 2010 until May this year when Whiley was brought in as co-host to ‘shake-up’ the station.
It was a double-whammy yesterday, as Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff were announced as the new Top Gear hosts. Top Gear has had a tumultuous few years after the infamous trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May left in 2015, bringing in a mix of presenters who enjoyed varying success. Let’s hope the new duo keeps the show on the road!
But that’s not all, Channel 5 thought Jeremy Vine was the right fit for The Wright Stuff after eighteen years of Matthew Wright. Eddie Mair left BBC Radio 4’s PM show after 20 years, and Evan Davis stepped down from Newsnight to replace him.
The shake-ups come at a time when media organisations are under pressure to diversify their outputs. Whilst it’s great to see Zoe Ball getting the ball rolling for gender equality in the BBC, it has been argued that introducing Jo Whiley to the drive time show was purely for gender balance rather than really thinking about what the audience wanted. The decision backfired too, with both presenters calling it quits and Mayo criticising the ‘appalling’ abuse against Whiley. The pressure will now be on to find a female replacement, as Zoe is currently the only planned female presenter for the station’s daytime schedule.
Audiences can be resistant to change when they are used to a certain presenter or format of the show. Since March, and the change to the drivetime show, BBC Radio 2 have lost half a million listeners. So how can this be related back to PR campaigns? Simply put, people turn away when they’re not catered for. PR campaigns must be tailored to fit different stations’ audiences. Sometimes this means using different spokespeople for certain stations or adapting the tone and key messages based on the age of the audience and whether it’s a commercial or BBC station.
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