Radio 2 told to tune in to listeners over 65

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The Independent Online

BBC Radio 2 has been told it must do more to appeal to older listeners – particularly over-65s. In a major review of the station, the BBC Trust said Britain's biggest network should find a "more varied and challenging selection of programmes", even if this meant losing some of its audience.

The BBC Trust review, which began nine months ago, looked at the performance of Radio 2 and 6 Music and whether they delivered quality and value for money. It said Radio 2 needed to be more "distinctive" and more ambitious in its "non-music" programmes during peak-time.

The station, which recently replaced long-standing favourite Terry Wogan with Chris Evans on its weekday breakfast slot, targets over-35s; 82 per cent of its audience are within that age range while the average age of listers is 50.

The review welcomed the lack of duplication of playlists between Radio 2, 6 Music and the more youth-focused Radio 1. But it said Radio 2 must do "more to target those over 65 years of age". Its sister station, 6 Music, was also told to attract older listeners, particularly those who were more music-savvy.

There had been fears in some quarters that the trust would recommend that the acclaimed digital service 6 Music should be closed, but instead trustees said the corporation should "strengthen" the station's appeal.

6 Music, which has 695,000 listeners, saw the fastest growth among any of the BBC's digital service over the past four years. But the trust pointed out that it reached only 1 per cent of the adult population.

It said the BBC needed to "clarify and strengthen the station's appeal" to attract music enthusiasts who were at present less likely to listen, such as older listeners. But the trust said it should do so without diluting its distinctiveness, which was essentially "celebrating the alternative spirit of popular music".

Station bosses must ensure presenters were not only popular, but had "musical credibility", the review said. Presenters on 6 Music include former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker and Guy Garvey of Elbow, while former Catatonia singer Cerys Matthews is to get a show from April. The trust said that 6 Music must grow its audience without increasing its £6m budget.