|Broadcast area||United Kingdom|
|Branding||88-91 BBC Radio 2|
|Slogan||On the BBC Sounds app, on your smart speaker, and on 88-91 FM|
|Sister stations||BBC Radio 6 Music|
|First air date||30 September 1967|
BBC Radio 2 is the BBC's national radio station and the most popular station in the United Kingdom with over 15 million weekly listeners. Much of its daytime playlist-based programming is adult contemporary or AOR, although the station also broadcasts other specialist musical genres. Radio 2 broadcasts throughout the UK on FM between 88.1 MHz and 90.2 MHz from studios in Wogan House, adjacent to Broadcasting House in central London. Programmes are broadcast on digital radio via DAB, digital television and BBC Sounds.
The station was launched at 05:30 on 30 September 1967, replacing the Light Programme--with some of the Light Programme's pop music shows transferring to the newly launched BBC Radio 1. The first show had started at 05:30 (on both Radio 1 and Radio 2) but continued with Breakfast Special from Paul Hollingdale as Radio 1 split.
In early years, much programming and music was common to both stations, particularly on the shared FM frequency. Radio 1 was targeted at the audience of pirate radio stations whereas Radio 2 settled down as a middle-of-the-road station playing laid-back pop/rock, folk and country, jazz and big-band music, easy listening, light classics, and oldies, with significant amounts of comedy and sport. Notable broadcasters on Radio 2 in the 1970s and 1980s were Tom Edwards and Ray Moore who both singly presented the early breakfast show, Terry Wogan on breakfast, replaced by Ken Bruce and later Derek Jameson; Jimmy Young and his lunchtime news and current affairs show; David Hamilton on mid-afternoons, John Dunn at what became known as drivetime. In its early years, the station – as the Light Programme had done – played a large amount of specially-recorded music because of needle time restrictions imposed by the Musicians' Union.
On 6 January 1975, broadcasting hours for BBC Radio 2 were reduced due to budget cuts at the BBC. The 05:00-02:00 schedule was cut-back to a 06:00 start-up Mondays to Saturdays with an 06:55 start-up on Sundays. The station closed down at around 00:30 each day. However, from 29 September 1975 the closedown was brought forward to 00:10 Mondays to Fridays and 00:33 on Saturdays and Sundays. There were exceptions, especially over Christmas and New Year periods when hours would be temporarily extended. Broadcasting hours would revert to 05:00-02:00 on 1 April 1978. On 23 November 1978, the station moved from long wave to medium wave.
On 27 January 1979, BBC Radio 2 became the first national 24-hour radio station in the UK. In the first half of the 1980s, presenters such as Kenny Everett, David Hamilton and Steve Jones increasingly featured more contemporary pop in their playlists, leading to the station being referred to as "Radio 1 and a half" by some.
In response to the controversy these changes had caused in some circles, Frances Line, head of music, repositioned the station in April 1986. She would become Controller in 1990. An ageing Radio 1 audience which had grown up with the station was sticking with it into their 40s and beyond; Line repositioned Radio 2 to appeal exclusively to the over-fifties, introduced older presenters and based the playlist around nostalgia, easy listening and light music. As a result, David Hamilton quit the station at the end of 1986, claiming the music policy had become "geriatric"; Terry Wogan's replacement Derek Jameson also appealed to an older, down-market demographic. Although popular with its target audience, the policy alienated many younger listeners who had listened to both Radio 1 and Radio 2 and the station's audience fell.
It took another hit in 1990 when it lost its medium wave frequencies to a new network, BBC Radio 5 and BBC radio's sports coverage moved from Radio 2 to the new station at the same time. Further blows were struck by the rise of album-rock commercial stations (particularly Virgin Radio) and 'gold' spinoffs from Independent Local Radio stations playing classic pop and rock. With the station's audience in decline a change of emphasis was needed. In 1992, the weekday daytime music policy was slightly adjusted with pre-1950 music largely confined to Sundays, the launch of Classic FM reduced the need for the station to play light classical music, and the station's profile was boosted by the return of Terry Wogan. But following the generational shift at Radio 1, commercial radio had taken the highest share of the national audience by the mid-1990s.
Line was replaced by James Moir in 1996. Moir repositioned Radio 2 with a largely AOR/contemporary playlist by day, aimed at a more mature audience than Radio 1 (which, post-Britpop, was again starting to focus on a young audience) but still embracing new music, and more specialist broadcasting by recognised genre experts in the evenings. Unlike the early-1990s repositioning of Radio 1 in which the BBC lost many well-known names, many former Radio 1 presenters stayed with the BBC and moved across to Radio 2.
Radio 2 is now termed "the nation's favourite", a title the BBC formerly used for BBC Radio 1. It is the most listened-to station in the UK, its schedule filled with broadcasters such as: Steve Wright, Tony Blackburn, Ken Bruce, Jeremy Vine, Mark Radcliffe, Trevor Nelson, Craig Charles, Jo Whiley, Paul Gambaccini, Gary Davies, Zoe Ball, Johnnie Walker and Bob Harris.
As well as having most listeners nationally, it ranks first in many regions above local radio stations. BBC Radio 2 played to 27% of the available audience in 2006.
In February 2007, Radio 2 recruited Jeff Smith, director of UK and International programming at Napster and a former head of music at Radio 1, as its new head of music. Smith joined the network on 26 March.
The licence fee funding of Radio 2, alongside Radio 1, is often criticised by the commercial sector. In the first quarter of 2011, Radio 2 was part of an efficiency review conducted by John Myers. His role, according to Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of RadioCentre, was "to identify both areas of best practice and possible savings."
On 29 July 2013, Radio 2 changed its "sonic logo" for the first time in 15 years, replacing the one composed by US jingle company Groove Worx with a new seven-note melody composed by British composer and producer Jem Godfrey. This coincided with the launch of a new jingle package produced by Godfrey in association with Wisebuddah Productions, marking Radio 2's second new package in as many years.
Radio 2 has run several "pop-up" DAB services to cover special events, the first being BBC Radio 2 Eurovision, providing coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest 2014. The station returned in 2015 for coverage of that year's contest. Others include BBC Radio 2 Country covering the C2C: Country to Country festival and BBC Radio 2 50s, a service dedicated to music programmes covering the 1950s.
During 2018, Radio 2 had numerous presenter reshuffles. In May, long-time drivetime host Simon Mayo was joined by evening DJ Jo Whiley in a new format. The move proved unpopular with listeners and by October 2018 Mayo announced his intention to leave the station, later adding that this was so he could help launch the new classical music radio station – Scala Radio – in March 2019, and continue his BBC Radio 5 Live film review programme. Mayo and Whiley's last show together was broadcast on 20 December 2018, while Whiley moved back to her evening slot. with Mayo's final show on Radio 2 broadcast on 21 December. Sara Cox was later announced as the new drivetime host, starting on 14 January 2019.
Additionally, in September 2018, Chris Evans announced that he was leaving The Radio 2 Breakfast Show and the station where he had worked since 2010, to move to Virgin Radio. He was replaced by former BBC Radio 1 DJ Zoe Ball from 14 January 2019 .
The station's audience is now mainly adults over the age of 35 (82% of listeners) although in recent years it has attracted more younger listeners. Its daytime playlist features music from the 1960s to various current chart hits, album and indie music. The station's appeal is broad and deep, with accessible daytime programmes and specialist programmes of particular types or eras of music. In 2009, Radio 2 again won the Music Week Award for National Radio Station of the Year, an award it won for several consecutive years.
Weekday evenings have historically featured specialist music, including jazz, folk music, blues, country, reggae, classic rock, show tunes and biographies and documentaries on musical artists and genres. Previously, this specialist programming ran from 20:00-midnight, but now runs only from 21:00-22:00. Radio 2 hosts both the BBC Concert Orchestra and the BBC Big Band.
"Sounds of the 60s" remains a regular fixture on the Saturday schedule, as does Johnnie Walker's "Sounds of the 70s" on Sundays. On 5 October 2013, these two shows were joined by Sounds of the 80s, which was originally hosted by Sara Cox and broadcast on Friday from 20:00-midnight; in May 2018 Gary Davies took over this show, with Cox was hosting a live 22:00 to midnight slot Monday-Thursday, until she moved to drivetime on 14 January 2019.
Radio 2 does not broadcast complete works of classical music (the domain of Radio 3) or offer in-depth discussion or drama and although some book readings, comedy and arts coverage still remains on the station this is the remit of Radio 4. Jeremy Vine's weekday lunchtime show covers current and consumer affairs informally, a style pioneered by Jimmy Young. Until the launch of Radio 5 in August 1990, Radio 2's medium wave frequencies carried BBC Radio's sports coverage.
The Greenwich time signal (or 'pips') is broadcast at 07:00, 08:00 and 17:00 on weekdays.
BBC Radio 2 moved its studios from Broadcasting House to the adjacent Wogan House in 2006. Although the majority of programming comes from London, some shows are broadcast from other cities around the UK, including Birmingham and Manchester. For many years, the network's overnight presenters, such as Janice Long and Alex Lester, were based in Birmingham, but made the move to London in April 2008.
Radio 2 broadcasts news bulletins on the hour, every hour – 24-hours-a-day (except for Sundays at 20:00) – from a studio in BBC Broadcasting House, with headline updates on the half-hour from 05:30-08:30 on weekdays during the early and main Breakfast Show.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the schedule of shows and who presented them changed significantly. Sara Cox's Drivetime show was extended until 20:00 and the evening show (altering between Jo Whiley and Trevor Nelson each week) was also extended until 23:00, at which the 'specialist programme' took place until midnight. All shows broadcast on a Friday Night and Early Saturday Morning were put forward by one hour. Apart from that, no other major differences were made other than many presenters standing in for the main hosts shows e.g. Angela Scanlon standing in for Steve Wright in the Afternoon and Amol Rajan standing in for Sara Cox's Drivetime show.
These presenters do not have permanent slots on Radio 2 but have stood in relatively recently for shows on the network. Some of those listed below, such as Maria McErlane and Phil Swern, regularly appear on shows as guests but don't present a programme themselves.
In addition to its regular and stand-in presenters, Radio 2 is often joined by guest presenters that host one-off documentaries or short series. Such guests have included Bryan Adams, Tony Bennett, Carla Bruni, Kristian Bush, Michael Grade, Gloria Estefan, Morgan Freeman, Don Henley, Barry Humphries, Sir Elton John, Cyndi Lauper, Hugh Laurie, Barry Manilow, Bette Midler, Ed Miliband, Kylie Minogue, David Mitchell, David Quantick, Suzi Quatro, Anneka Rice, Sir Tim Rice, Ricky Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Sir Rod Stewart, James Taylor and Dame Barbara Windsor.
Many of Radio 2's additional on-air staff (particularly newsreaders) are shared with sister station BBC Radio 6 Music.
Newsreaders and reporters
Pause for Thought
The presenter Sarah Kennedy attracted controversy before she left the station in 2010. In May 1999, she gave a "bizarre" performance while standing in for Terry Wogan, blaming the incident on a lack of sleep the previous night. Her slurred speech throughout her show on 13 August 2007 also made the headlines. She blamed a sore throat and later took a month-long break. It was later reported that Kennedy was recovering from pneumonia, and she returned to work on 10 September. In October 2007, she was reprimanded after joking that she had almost run over a black pedestrian because she could not see him in the dark. The BBC later apologised for the comment. She was also "spoken to" by BBC bosses after praising Enoch Powell during a show in July 2009, describing him as "the best prime minister this country never had".
On 16 October 2008, an episode of The Russell Brand Show, co-hosted by fellow Radio 2 presenter Jonathan Ross was recorded for transmission at a later date. The show included Russell Brand and Ross leaving four prank messages on actor Andrew Sachs' answerphone, including offensive remarks about his granddaughter and use of foul language. The programme was subsequently broadcast on 18 October – partially censored – having passed the various pre-transmission checks from the programme's editors. Initially, the programme only received a negligible number of complaints regarding Ross' bad language; however, the incident was reported a week later by The Mail on Sunday and a public outcry soon ensued. The case was referred to both Ofcom and the BBC Trust, and in the interim, Ross and Brand were both suspended for 12 weeks from all BBC programmes pending investigation. Soon after these announcements, Brand announced his resignation from the BBC, shortly followed by the controller at the time, Lesley Douglas. Ross was suspended from the BBC without pay for 12 weeks.
In July 2009, longtime presenter Malcolm Laycock announced his resignation live on air following a long-running dispute over the content of his show, Sunday Night at 10, and issues regarding his salary.
BBC Radio 2's weekly audience was 15.49 million (from 15.36m last quarter and 15.05m last year) while the station's share of listening was 18.3% (17.5% last quarter and 17.3% last year).