Radio 1’s Seize Summer

I quite like Radio 1’s new promo trail series – ‘Seize Summer’. Now showing on TV and YouTube pre-rolls etc.

I think brand campaigns like this are a difficult sell for a Public Service Broadcaster. It’s easy to mark them as unnecessary as surely everyone knows about Radio 1 as it is. I don’t entirely disagree, but I think for stations that continually have to renew themselves to attract a young audience it is something that’s important to do.

Also, I think so much of Radio 1’s positioning is around ‘new music’ that actually that can be seen as a negative for some of the audience. Not all young people are into ‘new music’ they’d rather you just banged out 5SOS and The Vamps. Now, that isn’t Radio 1’s job, so something like this reminds them Radio 1 is also the home of fun, for people like them.

The creative is that Radio 1 asked listeners to tweet in suggesting ways they could “Seize Summer”, they then brought it to live.

Behind the scenes:

An example of the execution:

Video on the Radio? Let It Go?

Every year I get a load of emails from students asking for interviews for their dissertations.  It’s usually quite a good barometer about what younger media types think are the core radio issues. This year all of the requests were about radio and visualisation.

Much of the kick of from this concerned Radio 1 – who’ve done a big push into the space with their own material as well as co-opting talent from YouTube to become more mainstream broadcasters on the network.

With a strong push from the BBC, it’s meant commercial stations, particularly Capital and Kiss, have had to catch-up and provide a high quality video-offering.

However all of radio (and we definitely see this at our own Fun Kids) is still somewhat finding its way with what it should produce.

Generally my take on most things is that it needs objectives. You need to know why you’re doing something – what’s its job – and then you can measure whether you’re managing to achieve that.

I think stations are particularly troubled by the new grammar that’s developing, particularly around YouTube. This is both in style – jump cuts, post-video shouts etc – as well as YouTube -specific terminology – subscribes, thumbs up, shares etc. There’s creating good video but there’s also creating good video that works on the particular platforms.

Personally I see YouTube Video as driving awareness to encourage an owned-media action. I want someone to learn about my radio station, be encouraged to sample it, visit my website, find out more about my presenters.

I’m happy for them to consume more videos and even subscribe to my channel, but mainly as a way that could later generate an action that happens on my media.

Another objective many people have is to make money on YouTube’s own platform. A noble aim, but to be honest, if you’re not generating 500k views a video you’re not really going to be making anything worth the effort.

The people who play YouTube well are the YouTubers. They’re the people who’ve developed an act that caters for the YouTube audience and is delivered in a way that generates more subscriptions and more views.

They have learned to do on video what we have learned to do on the radio.

What’s that? Identify a target audience and create content for them. It’s about being consistent, believable, relatable and high quality. It’s also about using the tools within the platform to best position yourself and better support the chance of being successful.

Radio 1 (quite rightly) leads the pack with 1.2m subscribers to its channel. They often generate multiple videos per day but with view counts ranging from a few thousand for a movie review, to 50k for an innuendo bingo, through to 200k for a live lounge on to 500k+ for an executed bit of content like a Greg James parody video.

It’s similar for Capital and their 35k subscribers. A couple of thousand views for their entertainment news in The Crunch, 5-10k for an interview and then 100k+ counts for videos about artists with a strong 13-19 year old following. The success of those aren’t driven by subscription or by being from Capital but through popular acts that YouTube SEO lets your surface easily to fans.

On the other hand, if you look at a native YouTuber like Zoella – an English girl in her early 20s – she has 4.5m subscribers and each of her videos consistently gets 1.5m views, with occasional peaks to 2.5m for collaborations.

This continual success is about consistency and a focused product and being of the platform rather than just putting some ‘content’ on it.

I point at Capital and Radio 1 – but at least they’re learning by developing different types of stuff and putting it out there. I could pick lots of stations – particularly large local and regional stations with woeful video – in volume and quality.

I think for radio to conquer video it needs to know what its trying to do with it and how to balance what they do with the platform their putting it on.

Radio should also look to see what it has that’s unique and how it can best use that.

I think one of my favourite bits of recent video content is Matt Edmondson’s video with Arthur Darvill off of Doctor Who doing a song parody of the Let It Go song from Frozen.

I think it’s something that plays to radio’s strengths by combing two things – Access and Talent.

Access, is the fact that Arthur is in their building. The might of broadcast Radio 1 makes that happen. Talent is the talent to write the parody song, to give Arthur something that’s special that makes the video not just watchable but something that generates delight when watched.

That is not something that’s easy to do. It’s not something that can easily be replicated. It is however something that suits the skills we and our medium have.

I think there’s also an attempt to be more ‘of YouTube’ at the end with traditional YouTuber calls to action of sampling other videos or subscribing, though perhaps there could be a call to teach people when the show’s on the radio etc, especially as it contains a Doctor Who actor it’s likely to get some viral growth in that community.

From a serving subscribers point of view this content (460k views) sits between a 1xtra Fire in the Booth (6k views) and Dan & Phil’s Internet News (10k views). It would be interesting to know if the channel would grow its subscribers further if it just had content like Matt’s rather than being a part of a varied catalogue of all the (albeit great) video content that Radio 1 produces?

Or maybe it doesn’t matter if you don’t think ‘subscribers’ matter. The vast majority of YouTube users don’t really understand the subscribe button and just browse videos – if your objective is to drive brand awareness you’re much better off just optimising the content you make for SEO (resulting in the peaks and troughs you can see with Capital).

Like I say, I think it all comes down to objectives. Why are you doing what you’re doing. And can you measure whether its working or not.



Radio 1 vs Twitter

Some interesting data popped in my Twitter feed today from IPSOS MediaCT – the people that do the fieldwork for RAJAR – all about social network use in the UK.

Here’s their infographic.

I thought it would be interesting to look at Twitter’s demographics and compare them to BBC Radio 1. Warning – methodology clearly different. However, it turns out that they’re very similar.

Looking at reach – Twitter’s got 17% of the UK, Radio 1 has 20%.

Then when you look at which ages make up each of their audiences, here’s how they stack up:

Twitter Radio 1
15-24 38% 32%
25-34 26% 27%
35-44 19% 19%
45-54 10% 13%
55-64 8% 5%

I don’t particularly have a lot to say about it, but thought it was interesting how similar they looked!

Nick Grimshaw’s Q1/2013 RAJAR Performance

I feel bad writing this one. It’s fundamentally unfair to judge a brand new breakfast show, especially one that followed a renowned programme, after just two quarters on the air. That won’t, of course, stop the papers who no doubt will be saying there’s a ‘crisis’ at Radio 1.

There won’t be of course. You don’t re-position a network without some collateral damage. So, what’s happening?

Top line is this:

Q1 2012 Q4 2012 Q1 2013
Adults 15+ Reach (000’s)            7,103            6,691            5,784
Hours (000’s)          25,071          19,573          16,916
Market Share %              10.1                 8.2                 7.1

That’s a year-on-year decline of 1.3m listeners (18.6%) and a quarter-on-quarter drop of 907k (13.6%).

Year-on-years hours have faired worse – down 32.5%. This isn’t really a surprise though. Moyles listeners were older and more passionate – he was the longest serving Radio 1 breakfast presenter after all – that means they’re going to listen longer. You churn them out and it’ll have this sort of effect.

So, who’s gone?

Well, the biggest chunks are the olds! Year-on-year 767k of 35 pluses have disappeared. This is particularly concentrated with the 35s to 55s – this is the group that have loads of commercial and BBC choice. 55 pluses are only down a little. This is one of the problems that Radio 1 faces – these lot are really not going anywhere – these are the ones that keep dragging Radio 1’s average age older.

Of more interest are the 15 to 34s.

In this group the 25 to 35s have taken a significant hit. This was, of course still part of the plan – be younger by getting this lot to disappear too. Year-on-year, the market share in this group has dropped from 25.7% to 17.4%. 300k have disappeared.

There is a smaller decline with the core audience – 15 to 24s. 247k y-o-y (down 11.9%) and  198k q-on-q (9.7%). This is clearly a worry, as that’s the audience they would want the show to attract. But, to be honest, it’s part of the sort of decline you would expect with a new breakfast launch.

Programming-wise, I don’t think this quarter was particularly strong. Personally, I thought the music was all over the place – way to heavy – and the content didn’t really hit the mark.  I think the issue they face is that the stuff that sends away older audiences can also send away the younger ones too.

This quarter’s already much more focused and relevant. The Big Weekend lets them be more poppy and younger – you can hear that with the music and last week’s school tour. The return of Call or Delete allows there to be much more mainstream content in the 8 o’clock hour.

Fundamentally Nick Grimshaw is a good, funny presenter. He does a great job of being target.

However, I think structurally and team-wise they have a significant way to go. I know it sounds like a formatted commercial-radio observation, but whole teams need to be ‘cast’. They need jobs to do, they need to take on a position. How are Matt/Laura/Ian different? They definitely have the potential to be an integral part of the show, but great breakfast shows have well defined characters.

I’d also hope that they were really leaning on music research of 15 to 24s for song choices. I’m not expecting ‘pop’ or ‘hits’ but artist and song choice needs to resonate completely with that audience. With a team of late 20s/early 30s working on it – are they absolutely sure their free plays or records of the week work for the target? It still feels a little too indie when looking at the currents.

Overall though, and this will annoy the haters, the general show strategy has been the right one – they’ve skipped a generation with the host and done things to get rid of the olds. Re-focusing breakfast was essential to stop the whole station drifting older.

So, how has this affected the station as a whole. The chart below shows market share for each of the demos.

Q1 2012 Q4 2012 Q1 2013
Adults 15-24           21.5           20.4           20.2
Adults 25-34           19.4           18.4           15.7
Adults 35-44           10.8             9.7             7.9
Adults 45-54             5.1             4.1             4.3
Adults 55-64             1.3             1.8             1.6
Adults 65+             1.1             0.8             0.7

The 25 to 44s are definitely getting the message and moving away. The market share for these demos has seen rapid decline. Grimshaw at Breakfast and Scott’s move to a different daypart has unsettled many older listeners.

R1 still faces significant trouble with 55+ – they just don’t want to go.

This is where I feel for Ben Cooper and his directive from the Trust to ‘go younger’ – he is clearly doing the things to achieve this, but those 55+ wedded to Radio 1 cannot be shifted and their average hours are still good – keeping the station’s average age up.

15 to 24s have seen a little bit of share decline across the station as a whole. I don’t think this is particularly anything to worry about. But they clearly still need to keep focused on attracting this audience. The research I’d be looking at is whether these station-wide changes have been communicated to non-listeners.

Overall – R1 are carrying out a disruptive, risky strategy. But it’s the right one to achieve their aims. The challenge now is to quickly evolve the breakfast show to make sure it’s firing on all cylinders – and communicate that to the non-listeners.

Over here – some more RAJAR Q1/2013 facts.

The New Radio 1 Breakfast Show

The day has finally come. Chris Moyles has announced his departure from the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. After two hours of fierce twitter discussion, the white smoke finally rose out of Newsbeat (or Broadcast’s website ten minutes earlier) to reveal that Nick Grimshaw has been appointed Radio 1 Breakfast Show Number 15.

I think he’s an excellent choice.

He’s been on the network for a decent amount of time (6 and a half years) and whilst he’s got a late evening show now, he’s been a regular dep on daytime and helmed more mainstream shows like Switch and events coverage too. He’s also someone who’s familar with 15-24s as a T4 host. He’s young, cool, funny and good on the radio – a great position to take over breakfast.

There were some discussions about whether Greg James would get this. I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t. He’s made excellent progress and has only just settled into drivetime, they would be mad to make another change this soon. He’s also someone that’s clearly on the BBC promotion train – with TV roles on BBC Three and music events coverage – all gradually making him a more recognisable chap. A couple more years of all of that, will bring him to the place Grimmy’s at now.

For Nick though, this isn’t going to be an easy time. Moyles was a big ratings success on the Breakfast show. With 7million tuning in each week. Much has been made of Moyles’ appeal to older audiences and whether he’s too old for Radio 1. Really, looking at the numbers he does pretty well with key demos. 58.9% of his audience are 15 to 34, just a smidge higher than the station average at 58.1%.

Looking at it more closely, i’ve taken the reach Moyles gets and compared it to the reach the station gets across all of the demos. What’s a bit more obvious is that his appeal is broad, particularly as a perecentage of the station, with his strongest demo 25s to 54s. Only after those demos comes the core 15 to 24. Now it’s not exactly measuring like for like but if you grouped 35 to 54s together, he’s got more listeners there than in the 15 to 24s or the 25 to 34 groups.

However, all successful stations do suffer from a similar problem – if you’re popular in whatever demo – you’re always going to attract lots of people who you’re not particularly targeting. 2million 15 to 24s still tune into the show each week, representing over 60% of Radio 1’s total 15 to 24 cume.

Radio 1 have clearly spent some time trying to reduce the average age of the audience – the earlier in the year daytime rejig and the alteration of the specialist schedule are all designed to discourage the older end from tuning in. All of this though is a double edge sword for Grimmy. If he does his job and makes the show and the station younger his audience will drop from that headline 7million figure. There’s 1.5million 35 to 44s and 1.3million 45 plusses tuning in at the moment – if half of those disappeared – the show could drop to 5.5m. Of course, he may bring in more 15 to 34s – there are 2.3m who listen to Radio 1 and who don’t listen to the breakfast show at the moment.

In the commercial world though, a change of this scale would be hard to do. Stations make their money based on the amount of hours they can deliver – on demo ones are great – but broader audiences are often good enough too. The monetary pressures are sometimes too great to even make the best strategic decision. By the time that Capital let Tarrant go, they had ended up with two stations in one – the older listeners who only listened at Breakfast – and the on-target ones who listened the rest of the day. The belated swapping with Johnny Vaughan meant short term they made money, but when the swapped, JV dropped significantly, taking three to four years to get back to a market leadership position. They lost the double whammy of the Tarrant premium and the more regular money generated from total hours. When they finally ripped the plaster off, it hurt!

It never got this bad with Chris Moyles. I think one of the excellent things about his show, is that whilst his team may have got older – he rarely did. He continued to reflect a younger lifestyle (single, gamer, mainstream pop fan) whilst still appealing to a wider audience that have grown with him. Plus, when he’s on fire, there’s no better presenter in the UK.

Now, whilst the BBC don’t have the same commercial pressures, they sometimes  have even worse ones – the Daily Mail!

So, when the first figures come out for Grimmy, don’t be distracted by the big number – the smaller ones are much more interesting. All you need to ask is whether he’s helping the station lose older listeners and whether more 15 to 24s are tuning in – not that he’s got less than Moyles’ 7 million.

Marketing Innovation

Market Innovation

One of the disappointing things about doing lots of digital things for radio stations, is that it rarely gets the marketing focus the other elements of a station does. A billboard for a new cash promotion – sure! Money to promote a new listener club? Not normally.

This is often a waste, as it means something’s had time or money spent on it, but it isn’t given the opportunity to shine and do its job. It’s nice to see Radio 1 making a noise about their specialist radio programming, but also linking the message with a recent technical innovation.

Tom tweeted me a screengrab from his phone today (above, left). It’s an SMS from o2 about Radio 1’s specialist shows with a link to R1’s brand new mobile site – something that’s optimised for smartphones (above, right).

It’s clever because o2 lets you SMS their iPhone users (and choose which demographics too) with targeted messages. The medium is perfect for this type of campaign – they’re reaching people who can use their smartphone service with (I imagine) a demographically targeted campaign and thus reducing the advertising wastage.

I’m sure some of you are thinking that this is only great if you have budget. However, a similar concept could be used from data that you yourself have collected from listeners. Stations often get mobile numbers in sign-ups, why not ask what type of phone listeners have? If you did you could SMS them with ads promoting an iPhone, Android or Blackberry app as well as re-enforcing another key station message.

Comparing Radio 1 and Capital’s Music

I really enjoyed the Radio Festival this year, especially the first session where Global Radio boss Ashley Tabor and BBC boss Tim Davie had a bit of a ding dong about Radio 1 and whether it should be more distinctive when compared to commercial radio (and, I guess, Capital FM particularly). Ashley argued that musically Radio 1 in daytime isn’t distinctive enough and that it was very similar to commercial competitors. Ashley’s sentiment is something I agree with (Radio 1 needs to keep being distinctive), but I thought it was worth having a look at the actual numbers to see if his hypothesis is right and compare Radio 1 and Capital airplay.

Luckily, at Folder Media we’ve built a radio intelligence tool, RadioBase, that’s perfect for these sort of things. M’colleague Sam, ran some numbers looking the songs played between 6am to 7pm from the 11th to 17th of October. The data we’ve used to do this is very good, but I don’t promise that it will be entirely perfect. However, i’m more than comfortable to say it’s representative of the majority of both stations output.

So… what do we see?

Well, a quick glance shows that all of Capital’s top 20 most played songs are also all played by Radio 1 in daytime. So, is Ashley is right? Well, numbers can show all kinds of things, so maybe it would be good to start at the beginning…

Over the time period we measured, both stations played a similar number of tracks – Radio 1 with 1068 and Capital with 1081. However – unique songs at Capital is 83 and at Radio 1 its 443, together they share 49 songs.

One of Ashley’s arguments was that it didn’t matter about the number of different tracks played, it was about the volume of airplay that the hits got. In other words you could play a few hundred tracks once, but you might play the top ten most of the time. I thought it might be useful to look at those shared songs – the 49 – and see what percentage of the total number of spins were from those songs.

For Radio 1 these 49 represent 26.3% of their daytime airplay and for Capital they represent 79.4% of its daytime airplay. In other words 73.7% of Radio 1’s daytime airplay has no crossover with Capital whatsoever – to me that makes Radio 1 pretty distinctive.

However, crossover isn’t the entire story, does Ashley have a point about the volume of Radio 1’s output being hit driven?

I looked at Radio 1’s top 30 tunes and they make up 39% of daytime airplay (the other 412 representing 61%). I think it’s an interesting question about whether this rate is too high. If you do the same thing with Capital the figures, the plays of their top 30 songs represent 73% of their output. Yes, it’s much higher – but the two stations are there to do very different jobs.

Overall, Radio 1 is musically a much more distinctive listen and it’s clearly concentrating on songs that one of its main commercial radio competitors isn’t playing. Its definitely creating its own hits and then reaping the benefits of continuing to play those tunes.

Is it mean to press Radio 1 to play more unfamiliar songs or less hits? Or is it already getting the right balance in daytime?

Does Radio 1 Really Need TV Advertising for the Chart?

I like the BBC. I like BBC Radio. I can sort of get over the fact that the national BBC networks spend more than the entire earnings of commercial radio, just on content. I can just about cope with the fact that they have all the best spectrum. I’ve also begrudgingly accepted the cross-media deals BBC Radio offers commercial radio talent. And, you know what, I even feel sorry for the BBC that it faces brickbats from all sides, when generally they do an extremely good job.

However, what I really don’t understand is when it’s in the position it know’s it’s in, it chooses to just take the piss. No, that’s unfair. It has absolutely no concept of its position in the wider radio ecology, instead it just marches forward ignoring whatever it crushes below its elephantine feet.

A small example. There’s a new TV advert for Radio 1 that promotes the Official Chart show. Now, out of all the programmes that Radio 1 can choose to promote on TV, they’ve chosen the only one that commercial radio competes with the BBC on directly, and the only programme that commercial radio actually beats Radio 1 at.

Instead, they could have promoted the excellent specialist takeover on Bank Holiday Monday or suggested that people should try 1Xtra. They could have talked about the new Matt Edmondson Sunday show, Zane Lowe’s excellent, accessible specialist show or the new way to start the weekend with Annie Mac. They could have even talked about new time for the brilliant and public-service Sunday Surgery or the new progamme for teenagers, the 5:19 show, that follows the chart. Instead they talked about a programme that i’d guess the majority of the country already knows about. It’s proably the only programme on the network that’s been in the same slot for over 20 years. Indeed, if you asked someone what channel, what day and what time the official chart is on, i’d assume that a pretty signficant number of people would say Radio 1 and Sunday’s from 4pm.

Now, I of course don’t really know why they have chosen to promote the chart. I’m actually not even convinced that they’re doing it to compete with commercial radio. The sad thing is that they’re probably completely oblivious to it. They’ve looked at their own RAJAR for that timeslot and thought “Hmmm, we really should do something about that, let’s put some more effort into the show, let’s give it some telly, the research shows that listeners don’t think it’s very current, so lets give a mid-week update to make it seem more up to date – lets see what that does”.

They’ve ignored the fact that, even though commercial radio has led the BBC for a few years now, 12 months ago it chose to change it’s formula and make it more up to the minute – it’s now based on downloads and the chart can change during the show. It chose to innovate and push the programming on (all the stuff that commercial radio gets accused of never bothering to try). The BBC have also ignored that it’s the only truly national pop programme that commercial radio does. And they’ve chosen to ignore that commercial radio does it much better with less resources and without even the ‘official’ chart data (which the BBC chooses to purchase exclusively).

Like I say, I like the BBC. I would defend to my last that it should exist and be able to broadcast both mainstream and specialist programmes. However, for the love of God, can they just employ one person in the organisation who can understand the broader radio market and can just whisper to a Controller “you know what, maybe we don’t have to completely take the piss?”

I’m not Murdochian in wanting the BBC to be smaller or just do worthy things and news. I just want them to take their £3bn of public income and, every single day, think:
1. We’re in a really lucky and priviliged position
2. How do we make this [programme] even more distinctive?
3. How can we use our scale and resources to help commercial and non-commercial operators give more value to our licence fee payers?
4. How do we enhance the [radio/tv/online] ecology and add to the whole rather than just think about our own share?

Is that really too much to ask? And can they please choose one other programme to advertise on the telly.

Chris Evans: Getting Up Early for Britain

Apparently there’s a new breakfast show later this morning.

Chris Evans taking over the Radio 2 Breakfast show is the big headline, but what’s fascinating is the knock on it’s going to have to other radio stations and to Radio 2.

Firstly it means a change to a third of daytime on Radio 2. The introduction of Evans means a new Drivetime show – Simon Mayo. This means Breakfast, Afternoons, Drivetime and the Late Show now sits with ex-Radio 1 presenters – Evans (1995 to 1997), Wright (1980 to 1995) and Mayo (1986 to 2001), Mark Radcliffe (1991 to 2004) and Stuart Maconie (1995 to 1997). These were some of Radio 1’s star performers and they were on-air not very long ago.

A significant chunk of this old Radio 1’s audience (today’s 35 pluses) have already moved across to Radio 2, but there’s a significant number that remain with Radio 1.

Radio 1’s line-up change last year was a recognition that the station was starting to trend older and they took the easy decisions to alter the mid-morning/afternoon line-up. What it didn’t do was tackle the main problem – Breakfast. Moyles continues to produce an excellent morning show, the problem is that the show’s seeing declining in listeners under 34 and growth with over 35s.

The arrival of Evans will make many of these listeners, a good deal of which listened to him the first time around, reconsider their morning preset. This bodes well for Evans and will help Radio 1 trend younger, but will likely leave Moyles in a precarious position come July.

Radio 2 have already played a good game to indicate to existing listeners that this won’t be much of a change. It’s important to remember that Evans has spent more time on Radio 2 Drivetime than any other job he’s ever done and he leaves the show with 6million listeners (compared to Wogan’s 8 million at Breakfast). On top of that I don’t expect the new show to change the music at all, it’s also got continuity with Lynn Bowles and a clever hire, in the seemingly universally liked Moira Stewart. Of course it’s also got Chris Evans too.

The show’s also been quite clever in its marketing. Firstly it’s had a very long handover. With an older audience it’s important that people get used to the idea of what’s coming. This has given time for lots of trust earning statements from Wogan, other presenters and from Chris himself. The existing Drivetime show’s also had months of talking about the new Breakfast show. Many of the Drivetime listeners may have other Breakfast choices at the moment, this work will ensure they’ll now have a new one with Chris. Commercial radio always seems to eschew this tactic and surprise listeners (and normally the old presenters) with a brand new line-up one morning – and then wonder why it takes 18 months for them to settle in.

As well as this activity, it also gets a BBC TV ad campaign, kicking off after an episode of Eastenders. We’ll skip over whether it’s appropriate that the BBC runs TV spots for the UK’s most popular breakfast show on the UK’s most popular radio station about the most well known change of presenter ever.

There’s a view that Evans at Breakfast will mean Radio 2’s listeners become even younger. I’m not sure the station’s going to massively drift – it did its main move in the 90s. The interesting threat for commercial radio is that Evans may extend the average listening of 35 to 44s to Radio 2 as they start to consume a breakfast show that they didn’t used to choose.

It also cements an on-going process that’s been happening since the early 90s, when Radio 1 had its ‘big shift’ and in the late 90s when Radio 2 had something similar. Now, for really the first time you have the two BBC mainstream commercial networks side by side – one for under 35s, one for over 35s. Great for the BBC, not so good for commercial operators. The last part of that puzzle will be who Radio 1 picks as the next Breakfast show host or hosts.

What is good about Evans at Breakfast is that it continues to mean that UK radio has some of the best talent on the air and keeps everyone on their toes.

Selling Off Radio 1. Again.

I think the Conservative Central Office press team must have a recurring press release set up. Every two years or so they, or an MP, argure that Radio 1 really should be sold off.

The main argument tends to be along the lines of “it’s not public service enough” and “it’s unfair to the commercial sector”.

Personally, I can think of nothing worse than making Radio 1 a commercial radio station. Simultaneously you’d kill off a massive amount of commercial revenue – as it transferred to Commercial Radio 1 – and you’d also make Radio 1 a more mainstream product as elements that are expensive or do not rate would gradually disappear. This is especially relevant as whoever bought it would be trying to pay back the money they borrowed to buy it. It would, in effect, be a leveraged acqusition – not something well known for producing well-funded creativity.

That’s not to say Radio 1 is perfect. Both it, and Radio 2, are formidable competitors. Quality aside, they have national FM frequencies (commercial radio has no national FM frequencies for pop music) and also national coverage on every UK digital platform. They have large programming budgets (over £25m each) and don’t have to run any of those annoying advertising messages. They also get the benefit of cross-promotion on some of the most popular television stations and websites in the UK. At no cost to the networks.

If you’re a radio station, that’s a pretty good deal.

The BBC, across all of its activities, has to strike a difficult balance. If it’s too popular it’s derided for being too mainstream, if it’s not popular it gets accused of not providing enough value to licence fee payers.

It’s a tough position to be in. But then it does receive over £3bn of our money. So, I don’t shed that many tears.

In the ‘old days’ it was much easier to defend a broad range of BBC output – it was one of few suppliers and could get away with much more. Case in point. Dallas. It was in primetime on BBC1. Nowadays, the idea of an American import in primetime on BBC1 would be unheard of. It’s not that the UK don’t like American serials – quite the opposite – it’s just become an accepted view that that type of programming shouldn’t be on primetime BBC1. The BBC’s role has merely moved on and developed.

I think the same thing needs to happen to the BBC’s populist radio networks.

It isn’t about being un-entertaining. Or worthy. It’s about providing high quality programmes that engage with large numbers of listeners that are not available elsewhere and perhaps would be signficantly reduced if they were to become commercial. What’s a good example? Well, something like Jeremy Vine on Radio 2. It’s a show that combines music, high quality guests and chat and generates significant numbers of listeners. It’s perfect output for the BBC.

I even think something like the Chris Moyles Show is a product that’s differentiated enough to pass my three tests above (high quality, unique and a question mark over being commercially maintainable). Whilst the talent could easily adapt to a new station, I don’t think the show’s format (a speech-intensive, young, breakfast show) would be maintainable. I think if it disappeared there would be some genuine public-service loss. Is it a show that there would be some arguments about whether it’s ‘public service’? Absolutely. But I think it’s worth that discussion.

Should this be independently managed, by Ofcom, or have money allocated like the Arts Council? No. Just like the Dallas example, collectively we should push the BBC to ensure all of its programmes follow a similar set of the suggested rules. Hopefully it would mean that progamming without real value would gradually disappear (yes, Alan Carr on Radio 2, I am talking about you) and programmes that are left work hard to be popular and distinctive.

Some may say that Radios 1 and 2 should be left alone. They’re popular stations that people love and it’s only commercial greed that’s causing all this discussions. And there is, of course, an element of truth in that.

However, what I would say, is that if you maintain the dominant position of Radios 1 and 2 you do so at a price. It is definitely not impossible, but it’s much harder for any innvoation to flourish if the BBC is allowed to continue unchecked. It is a sad thing, for listeners, if new stations (or services) don’t exist because of the budget, marketing and spectrum making them a dominant service – whether the output is quality or not.

There are a number of great initiatives like service licences and the like, but it’s on content that the BBC should be pushed harder. It’s a privilege to have the spectrum, cash and marketing to be able to deliver programmes. Unprompted, the BBC should ensure that every single piece of its output is distinctive.