BBC to `move' ageing listeners

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The Independent Online
A DEMOGRAPHIC timebomb is forcing the BBC to push older listeners away from Radio 2 and towards Radios 3 and 4.

A leaked internal BBC report identifies a "demographic imbalance", which means the corporation's radio networks could see audiences collapse in the next 10 years because they rely too much on older listeners.

The 89-page strategy document says: "Our aim will be to move Radio 2's older listeners to Radio 3 for classical music and Radio 4 for speech."

The BBC feels it can move older listeners because "the BBC is so dominant in the listening of over-65s, it is likely that disenfranchised Radio 2 listeners will choose another BBC radio service rather than moving to commercial radio".

The BBC forecasts that its audience share will fall from its present 48 per cent of radio listeners to "between 33 per cent and 40 per cent by 2007" if younger listeners are not brought to Radio 2. This is because of "the BBC's reliance on older listeners who will die during the next 10 years".

Despite the revamp of Radio 1, the BBC is still struggling to attract younger audiences. The report reveals that its share among those aged 15 to 34 has fallen below 20 per cent in London and other big cities.

The BBC has admitted that it has been trying to lower the age of listeners on Radio 2 for three years but has maintained this was not being done at the expense of older listeners. However, the strategy report reveals that the station's older image is still a "major barrier to entry" for the 35-plus listeners.

The dual strategy at Radio 2 of appealing to thirtysomething and sixtysomething audiences means different parts of the schedule appeal to very different audiences. The strategy recommendations can be seen in the current burst of advertising promoting the station's relatively younger draws such as Johnnie Walker and Des Lynam.

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