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Radio 1 boss: our DJs' picks turn listeners off

Despite being on the front line of the BBC's musical output, Radio 1's DJs do not choose the vast majority of the tracks they play. Now, a top boss at Radio 1 has explained why: because the station would lose listeners.

Radio 1's head of music, George Ergatoudis, has told the NME that producers working at the station, and not its DJs, needed to select tracks to be played during daytime schedules at the station to maintain a "balancing act" of popular music. Producers select several playlists weekly, from which DJs choose most of their music.

"There is a science to programming Radio 1," said Mr Ergatoudis. "We carefully introduce new music mixed in with familiar hits. If we let our daytime DJs have more say in the music they play, we would soon lose the level of control needed to pull off our balancing act. We'd rapidly lose listeners and Radio 1's vital ability to break new music would be diminished considerably."

Current tracks on the station's "A-list", its most influential playlist, include Adele's "Rolling in the Deep", Bruno Mars's "Grenade", and Cee Lo Green's "It's OK". Playlists apply between 4am and 7pm.

Responding to complaints that the station plays little guitar music, Mr Ergatoudis said playlists reflected weekly research concerning the taste of 12 to 30-year-olds, the majority of whom prefer urban music. That reflects current music sales: only three of last year's top 100 best-selling singles were classified as "rock" by the trade publication Music Week; 47 per cent were either hip-hop or R'n'B.

Some have criticised Mr Ergatoudis's commitment to new music. "Bands on their second or third albums miss out, because it's all about new music," said Sean Adams, editor of the website and label, Drowned in Sound. "Our messageboards hardly ever have threads about 'I've just heard this on the radio, it was great'. That noisy minority aren't tuning in any more."

But Mr Ergatoudis defended his methods. "Radio 1 has a challenging task which is to attract huge numbers of young listeners while simultaneously offering a distinctive mix of new music," he said. "Get the balance wrong and... you either become a slick, hit-driven, commercial music station, or... a niche, specialist music station with few listeners."